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Facing up to job loss... and surviving it

You're in despair; you're embarrassed; you are angry enough to wreak major havoc! In fact you're so infuriated that you could cry, simply because you are feeling so sorry for yourself. You try to take it in your stride but it seems too heavy a burden...

Surviving job loss is no mean feat. It generally hits you when you least expect it, and no amount of foresight can ever really prepare you for it. Losing one's job, especially if it was a long-standing employment, can be a major upheaval for someone who considered himself in a 'steady' job and was busy making plans around this stability.

There are a number of factors that hit home hard. For one thing, being unemployed has its financial setbacks, which are obvious to those who depend on their pay packet for sustenance. But apart from the financial aspect of job loss, there is the psychological trauma that needs to be tackled and handled by the individual concerned.

Many people who lose their jobs, generally through no fault of their own, feel betrayed. A company may close its doors due to lack of business, or employees may be laid off after a company restructuring exercise, often described as a polite way of saying 'We can't pay everybody anymore!' or 'We're not making enough money!'

Whatever the reason, after having spent a substantial amount of time, pumped as much energy as you can muster in establishing one's position, it is hard to accept the fact that your effort was after all, futile to an extent. It is hard to acknowledge that you seem to be so unimportant.

Understandably, one feels dismal and a multitude of negative feelings may take over, among others: 'I have failed to sustain my family, I have failed to keep a job, I am useless, I see no hope in the future, I miss my colleagues, I miss my work, I miss my routine, I miss my independence, both financial and personal'.

It is not surprising to learn that job loss is classified as the fifth major stress in life, placing itself immediately after traumatic events, such as major illness, death of a spouse, divorce or going to prison!

These are all very real and justified feelings that someone who has been laid off can experience. Anger is also evident. You may become infuriated with your old boss, at his or her ungratefulness, apparent callousness and indifference to your plight. Anger can also be directed towards colleagues who did not lose their job, and it is here that your resentment peaks at the injustice you have been experiencing throughout. It is important not to allow this negativity to take over, but use it to fuel energy towards fresh goals.

First of all, acknowledge the fact that people lose their jobs every day. It is not the end of the world, and even if you've been in this job for donkey's years, there are still opportunities out there that you can go for and grab.

Losing a job diminishes nothing of what you are as a person - you are certainly not a failure. Whatever the reasons may be for losing your job, the future beckons, and many a time lost opportunities are just another way in which life can lead us along different paths and in different directions, towards new goals, which while still unclear in our minds, can lead to opportunities of a lifetime. Yet, we tend to plod on in our misery, with blinkered perspectives, failing to look beyond our immediate woe at what could be tangible options worth seizing.

Think before you leap straight into another job just for the sake of having one. Most people who do usually end up frustrated and walking out of it because the job was not well matched to either their skills or temperament. Life has thrown this period of forced pause into your life - use it well.

Some tips and food for thought:

• Take stock of what you've achieved so far. Look back at the positive things the job you just lost helped you learn. Make a list of them and weigh them well. You will realise that you are now much richer as a person. If you have gained a skill, made new contacts, learned how to operate a machine or new apparatus, attained yet another referee - these are all pluses that you can depend on in the future. Such achievements are never lost and will enable you to carry on.

• Ask for help to compile a new CV that incorporates all your past experience and accomplishments in the job you just lost. This will help you reframe your capabilities and lead you towards new possibilities.

• Start exploring new job opportunities. Set yourself a target that you can reach - don't aim to have a job by the end of the month, because this isn't something you can guarantee. But you can undertake to utilise all your contacts - let people know that you're eager for a new challenge. You can scour the vacancy adverts on the paper to check what's on the market. You can also contact employment agencies for advice, job opportunities, guidance and recommendations.

• Let the authorities know you are unemployed. From your first day as an unemployed person, you are entitled to an allowance and you will need to visit your local social security office to compile the required paperwork and acquire the necessary information.

• Assume that you will be asked to attend an interview - do you have the right outfit for confidence? Do you need a hair cut or a manicure? Why not treat yourself to a beauty treatment? Right, so you're taking care of the pennies because you just lost a job. Of course you are - but this doesn't mean you have to let yourself go. You are now on the market for a new job, and you must arm yourself against the competition. First impressions do count, and it is important that you get it right the first time round.

• In the meantime, fill your time with useful things to do. You don't have to wake up at six in the morning every day anymore, at least for now. Do have a lie in every so often but don't get into the habit of waking up late every day, or becoming lazy and untidy in your appearance. You have to keep yourself active, and reared up to go - who knows - your dream job may be only one day away!

• It's justified to mourn a lost job, and it's normal - but think of all those times you wished to have a day off to tinker away in your garden, run errands, meet friends, read, knit, walk the dogs, do voluntary work and a myriad other activities. Now is the time to do all this - in this interim period between jobs.

• Count the positive factors of not having to drive to work every day, not having to rush through the shopping, not having to meet that unpleasant colleague who you tried so hard to avoid every single day. Be easier on yourself and count your blessings - yes, there are still blessings in your life if you just look out for them.

• You can also seize the opportunity to train or to do something that is complimentary to your profession. Why not learn something completely new? The Employment and Training Corporation (ETC) is constantly offering a wide range of courses for job seekers. Visit your local council offices and check out what is available.

• Consider the fact that many people who have lost their jobs have managed to take out a new lease in life; they faced their challenge head on - they have changed their outlook and taken that plunge to do something totally new. Why can't you? So you cannot find a full-time job that you like? Why not opt to take on two part-time jobs instead? Why not offer your services on a freelance basis?

• Finally, remember that this depressing nerve-racking interval will pass. In time, you will look back and reminisce about the good times and experiences at your old job. In the meantime, be sure new pastures beckon that promise even better times. You just have to believe in yourself and go for it.

CSB, operators of VacancyCentre.com, has been supporting the local business community with its services since 1987. For further information write to CSB at 185D, Old Bakery Street, Valletta VLT 1455, phone 2123-2224 or 2123-2225, fax 2123-2226, e-mail [email protected] or visit the recruitment portal www.VacancyCentre.com.

© Copyright 2007, Commercial Services Bureau (CSB) Ltd.

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