Unemployed: The Emotional Toll

Let’s dive right in. You’re growing increasingly isolated from your friends, bills aren’t getting paid in full, savings are a thing of the past, skills are outdated, references are becoming harder to get, and you’re cutting both cable and the land line while eating a lot less healthy foods. Your psyche is becoming more fragile, your swagger like your clothes has long since stopped being trendy, your self-respect betrayed by a conscious decision to hide the weigh scale in the rear of the bathroom cabinet. Yes, there’s a lot of baggage you’re carrying around with this unemployment.

When it first happened, whether you walked away, were laid off or were terminated, you couldn’t have predicted you’d be out of work so long. “Not me”, you asserted with confidence; “I’ll be working soon. In fact, I’m going to actually give myself a little well-deserved break from work before rushing into my next job.” That ‘well-deserved break’ has long since gone from a break to what seems like a permanent reality. Things are different than they used to be when you’d be able to get yourself a job anytime you felt like it.

The television, once a source of entertainment and relaxation is now a diversion. It’s become a way to escape the prevailing thoughts of failure that are more and more prevalent, day in and day out. All the canned laugh tracks in those sitcoms that once got you laughing along now seem less funny as if they mock your idleness. Even the couch that you loved to lounge on no longer provides the comfort it once did, as you feel the guilt of inactivity every time you sit down for more than 20 minutes. So you stand and pace with nowhere to go, nothing to do – except feel so tired you just want to lay down on the couch again.

Being out of work does much more than drain the bank account. In fact, when you first find yourself out of work there are usually financial support systems already put in place to stave off financial hardship such as severance, employment insurance and if need be, government social assistance. The same is not necessarily true however for the emotional and mental strain of being unemployed. It’s this assault on your mental health that often goes unattended to, and failing to recognize the impact on your mental stability that arises from being out of work for a prolonged period of time, or failing to do anything about it can take an emotional toll with life-long implications.

There are for example some people who, having been out of work for an extended period, eventually regain employment and to all accounts have regained mastery over their mental health. The same individuals however may upon having those memories triggered, re-experience the stress without the loss of work. Being called into the office of the boss or an average performance review could set into motion some fears that the person thought they had left behind but in reality have just been dormant. Even hearing of others who are out of work; a relative of a co-worker who is struggling – any such reminder can bring the past crashing back to the present depending on how severe the person experienced their own unemployment.

On the positive side, we change jobs more frequently than in the lives of past generations. No longer is it common for people to retire from the job they started in their 20’s. So with more people experiencing the transition from one job to the next, the stigma of being out of work is not as rampant as it used to be. It’s still personal when it happens to you of course, and this doesn’t diminish or make light of your own experience, but unemployment is an experience that many around you have shared. Talking openly then about your unemployment will have more empathetic ears than in years past. In other words, if you talk about it, you’ll find understanding instead of condemnation.

Another good thing is that because more people are experiencing job loss, there are more supports in your community than in the past to help in the transition from your past job to your next job. There’s employment coaching, mental health counselling, financial planning, debt consolidation and restructuring and more services to help you deal proactively with your specific predicament. Look, you can’t be expected to be an expert in all areas of life. You’re good at what you do, and it stands to reason there are other people who are specialists in their work. Getting professional help to stabilize things at a time when you may not make the best decisions due to the strain you are under is a good move.

There is for many, a natural tendency to cocoon themselves from the world; hide unemployment and its impact from others, deal with it alone and then emerge transformed into something anew. This can work for some people. However, sharing what you’re experiencing could also lead to opportunities, job offers, leads, contacts; all of which could reduce your time out of work. This isn’t a time to let your pride rule the day. If a friend offers to pay for lunch, let them; they may not have any other way to be helpful. You’re going to get through this, and you’re not alone; help is out there.

Trapped In A Dead-End Job

Are you trapped in a job that’s draining your life away? Stuck in a job with no future, no chance for advancement or worse yet, not even some variety in the work you do?

To people on the outside it might seem a simple solution; find something else to do and quit. Ah, if only it were that easy! It’s not like you haven’t thought of this very solution yourself of course, because you have. The real sticking point in the plan is finding what that, ‘something else’ could be.

That’s the difficulty isn’t it? You put in a full day grinding it out, and by the time you check out at the end of your day, you’re beat. Your skills may be confined to doing a certain kind of work; a specific job. You haven’t got a clue how to go about finding something else you’d enjoy doing, you can’t quit outright and start looking because you need the income. You look ahead at the time between the present and the day you can retire, and see a lot of monotonous hours doing the same thing you’ve come to hate. You don’t even want to think about it because it’s so depressing.

Some hard choices are going to have to be made, and you’re the one who has to make them. Before doing anything rash, do two things; determine your financial health and your obligations. Knowing how much money you have saved in bank accounts and any investments is critical to knowing how long you can support yourself if you had no pay coming in. Knowing your mandatory obligations will tell you the length of time you’ll have before exhausting those funds. You should also look for areas you could conserve or cut back on expenses before you quit and when you find them, start now.

So let’s look at your choices. The first choice is both the easiest and at the same time the worst.; do nothing and keep dragging yourself in daily hating both the job and yourself for not doing something about it. Depending on the length of time we’re talking about, can you mentally and physically tough it out? Does the money you receive compensate you enough that you can keep going without breaking or just withering away on the job?

A second choice is to speak with someone in your organization and see if you can be laid off. This could not only answer your prayers but make them happier too. The company might appreciate your years of service but at this point rather have a younger, hungrier person on the job, and one that costs them less. So it could be a win-win, and you’d be able to apply for financial help while you job search; maybe the employer even has some severance package that would get you out quicker and in better financial shape.

You could just quit of course as option number 3. This is usually a move made by people who are desperate, or by those who haven’t thought things through very much. If you quit, you potentially lose all references you worked hard to earn, and you may not qualify for employment insurance because of how you left. Quitting also makes you ineligible for many re-training programs and severance packages. On the other hand, if you are seriously finding the job is killing you, quitting might be the option you choose if just to save yourself.

One of the best things you can take advantage of when you walk away – no matter how you choose to do it – is to get involved in  re-training programs or employment workshops. These help you deal with the stress of unemployment, help you answer those tough questions you’ll face from future employers regarding the circumstances around why you left your last job. You’ll also find help figuring out what potential jobs or careers you could turn to next.

Be advised though, things may have changed significantly since you last looked for work. How are your computer skills? Many jobs now require online applications, emailed resumes, some require you to complete long assessments. Look around for free computer classes either online or in your neighbourhood.

Saving your sanity and being a nicer person to be around for the family might mean a drastic alteration to what you do for a living and for whom you do it. Such changes sometimes require courage and a complete makeover. Are you willing to invest the time and put in the energy to change your life for the better? It’s going to be hard work make no mistake; but the potential benefits might save your life.

There may be another option which is to look at the organization you currently work in and look at advancement, transfers, job sharing or cross-training into another role and split your responsibilities between several jobs. This requires a discussion, succession planning on the part of your employer and some flexibility on your part. If you go this route, don’t just present your problem to the boss, present the benefits the company would realize and make it an attractive alternative.

Look for ways out of the trap you find yourself in, and get yourself prepared now for the big leap you may choose to make. Breaking free may just be the answer and lining up support systems the way to make it happen.

Get Your Attitude Under Control

When you are looking for work, one of the best things you can do is manage the things within your control and your attitude has got to be at the top of this list. I get that job searching is frustrating, rejection happens a lot, and you can feel isolated. I think we all get that.

Bitterness however, is one of the most least desirable personality traits a person can exhibit, and at the very time in your life when you could use the helpfulness of those around you, why alienate yourself? Here’s a newsflash for you; you’re not the only person who has, is or will go through what you are going through right now. You’re not entitled therefore to feel that everybody around you doesn’t understand what you’re going through. Most of us know exactly what you’re going through.

This week I’ve had the opportunity to spend both Monday and Tuesday supervising our drop-in resource area. In this space, people who are out of work and on social assistance can come in, sit down and use a computer, phones, fax and photocopy machines, post letters and all of it free of charge. They can work independently or they can ask whomever is supervising that day for help.

There were three people exhibiting very different attitudes that were in this space just yesterday, and all at the exact time. In my position, I ended up interacting with all three of them, and I hope by sharing my observations you might profit personally or share this with someone you know in the hope that they might benefit.

The first fellow is a regular. He struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. Sometimes like yesterday he’s floating in that zone between full self-consciousness and responsibility and the effects of recent use. In other words, you feel like you are getting into a lucid conversation at one point and then it’s clear his mind is muddled. He was frustrated and his social filters weren’t functioning as evidenced by his inappropriate comment to a man from another culture with a long beard that he’d be happy to give him some razor blades to shave his face. Fortunately, the man didn’t hear him and I re-directed my regular back to his computer. This guy’s bitterness is open, easily recognized and he can be engaged with help offered and he can be leveled with. He knows when he’s out of line in other words.

The 2nd person to contrast the above is someone I only met yesterday. He asked for help initially and I responded as best I could to help him. Unfortunately, the restrictions on our computers set up by our IT department in accordance with our policies wouldn’t allow him to access what he wanted. Now he started muttering about my incompetence and how he himself knows more. He then quickly moved to making further personal attacks, judgements, assumptions, and dismissed me. All of this I might add was done with a calm voice, almost a respectful politeness; if it weren’t for the words themselves.

The chip on this 2nd fellows shoulders is huge. If you can meet his needs, good. If you can’t meet his needs, you’re useless and don’t have the intelligence to match his own. That was the gist of his message. This bitterness he is carrying makes him a person to avoid, to watch certainly but provide the most minimal of direct help with lest a full confrontation be provoked. Best to back away, observe in case there is some escalation or developing problem with someone else.

Finally, a 3rd person who is also unemployed. She is a 20 year-old regular who is on Methadone, doesn’t have her grade 12, doesn’t know what she wants to do work-wise, but is always friendly, open to talking, listening and taking advice. Yesterday she was in working for almost three hours on both her own resume and that of her boyfriends. She’s frustrated with her current situation and doesn’t want to get stuck with a minimum wage job. By asking for a bit of help and being open to a conversation, we’ve agreed to set aside some time and do some short and long-term goal planning over the issues she raised.

Three unemployed people on social assistance. Three very different ways of coping with frustration and interacting with the people around them. One openly venting but harmless, the 2nd less obvious at first glance but far more dangerous, the 3rd staying friendly, open to conversation and trying to be positive.

When out of work or facing any personal challenge for that matter, you can sometimes feel you’ve lost control; you’re a victim of your circumstances. The one thing no one can take away from you unless you let them is your attitude. How do you measure up when times are tough, and your resiliency is being tested. A true measure of a person isn’t always how they behave when times are good but how they behave and act when times are tough.

If you are feeling isolated and abandoned, have the courage to first ask yourself if your actions, gestures and words are in any way contributing to turning off other people from approaching you and giving you any meaningful help. Yes it starts with you so take responsibility for your attitude. Getting fired, laid off or downsized might not be something you can control; but your attitude is your responsibility alone.

Yes You Need To Talk To The Person Who Fired You

Okay so you’ve been fired. Let’s call it what it is even though it stings.

If it’s just happened, your feeling shock and now is not the best time to really talk with your ex-employer because you’re probably more emotional than rational. But you do need to talk to the person soon, say after a week or two when the reality of your situation has sunk in.

And the reason for needing to talk to that disgustingly small-minded idiot who doesn’t know anything about how to run a company? WAIT! Okay maybe you need an additional few days before you have a little chat because you just don’t seem quite ready for that yet!

Now that you’re more in control of your words and your behaviour, let’s look at what’s to be gained from talking with your past employer. It’s not to get your old job back, nor is it to defend yourself against their decision or get them to change the reason you are no longer working there on your Record of Employment form so you can collect Employment Insurance or whatever the benefits are called in your country.

One of the things you are looking to do is move on and move ahead with as little damage to your reputation as you can salvage. In the future, you might find yourself in a position to need a reference from the person who directly supervised you in your last job, and it could be this is the person who sacked you. But be warned, companies and employers often want you to just go away and leave them alone. They are cautious about giving you any feedback or even talking to you because you may be launching action against them for wrongful dismissal.

With respect to a reference, of course you aren’t going to get a hearty endorsement. No, if you were fired because of performance issues, what you are really looking for in this respect is confirmation from your employer to a perspective employer of your work history; first day and last day. Yes you really did work there. Some companies actually have this as a policy now whether you left on bad terms or excellent terms. They just protect themselves from action in the future for either referring on a bad apple or a gem who doesn’t work out in their next job but was hired based in part on their recommendation.

The next thing you should find out is how your termination is going to affect you if you plan on continuing to look for work in the same industry and in the same general area. How well-connected is your employer with other companies? If your boss meets bi-weekly with his peers from other companies, you can guess that one of their discussions may get around to you if you are applying to work somewhere else. And while you can’t be there to defend yourself, you can minimize the damage by having a conversation.

So what would you say? Well for starters, you’d want to assure your former boss you aren’t hoping to win back your job, you’re sorry things didn’t work out and you take responsibility for your actions. This may come to them as a pleasant relief, instead of having you rant and rave about how you were entirely blameless. Next you bring up the subject of needing to find employment to support yourself, and then you ask if the person would be willing to confirm your employment dates. You aren’t looking for a glowing reference, but the sooner you find employment the better things will be for both you and the ex-employer, because people will stop calling them for a reference on you.

Note in the last sentence the appeal for the ex-employer. You get a job and people stop calling them about you and you yourself stop calling. They of course just want you in the rear view mirror, and honestly, that will be good advice for your mental health as well.

And here’s the thing. If your employer chuckles and says anything suggesting they’ve got you right where they want you and they’ll do nothing of the sort and bad mouth you to anyone who will listen, you need this information too. Politely indicate you’re sorry they feel that way and end the call. Now armed with that information, you’ll need to carefully compose a good answer to the anticipated interview question, “Why did you leave your last job?” or, “How would your previous boss describe you?”

If you have had good performance reviews in the past and have copies of these documents at home, you have some ammunition to demonstrate your good performance. In an interview, you may have to acknowledge you were terminated in your last job and briefly state why to demonstrate your honesty and integrity. It’s equally important to pass on what you learned from the experience, and not show your anger or bitterness. Turn the answer back to your strengths and skills and don’t dwell overly on your termination. Be in control of your emotions!

Being sacked is tough; talking to your ex-employer may be tougher. But doing it with dignity shows your maturity, wisdom and if you need a boost to your self-esteem, you can demonstrate to yourself and them how you won’t be baited into over-reacting, and can conduct yourself with class in a sensitive and raw time of your life.

Ever Lost A Job And Been Thankful?

More of us will have lost at least one job over our lifetime due to getting fired, downsized, laid off or replaced in some fashion than ever before. When it happens then, (rather than ‘If’ it happens) you might actually find some positive in the process if you look hard enough.

Now when it first happens it can be pretty raw and painful; like ripping off a band-aid and lots of hairs with it. Did you ever stop to think why we find losing a job so stressful in the first place? It’s more than just the loss of immediate income in order to pay rent and mortgages, although that alone is pretty daunting. It’s the loss of approval, our self-image, the ‘role’ we play as provider for our families, the purpose we have in our lives, the shame perhaps of having to tell our parents, siblings, spouses and children, friends and neighbours. In other words, it’s part of our identity.

On the other hand, losing a job can sometimes allow us to move in other directions, take chances, start self-employment, take some needed mental and physical time off; in short do things that otherwise we would not have had the courage or resolve to do because of the income and job we had that we thought we had to hang on to. Losing a job can actually be liberating. If you hated the commute, the fight for parking, or the drudgery of working with people you had nothing in common with, or were bullied by a co-worker, you might feel so relieved when you realize that they no longer have you to manipulate in the workplace.

So with an open calendar and endless possibilities, you may feel overwhelmed at where to start. If you were forward-thinking, you kept your resume up-to-date, and if not, now is a good time to get down to it and get it ready for quick editing when you see the job you really want to apply to. Now for some folks, the time required to lament the loss of the job is longer than others, and everybody would probably agree that at least a short time should be spent mentally thinking about what just happened. If you were fired, then you really should stop and ask yourself what led to that decision. Saying, “The boss was an idiot” isn’t really all that helpful, and unless you look at things with an objective eye, you might be in danger of repeating any mistakes in behaviour you may have made again in the future.

Even when you are laid-off from a job that would on the surface appear to be entirely beyond your control, it’s important to think about the situation and what led the company to make the decision it did. Could you have done anything to alter the decision to lay you off such as better performance, more return for the employer, a higher or lower profile? If you saw it coming for months and months prior to being given your actual notice of dismissal, could or should you have started networking more and applying for jobs earlier? If you signed up on the Titanic, and you knew there was an iceberg directly in your path, you’d be foolish to just sit on the deck chairs and wait for the collision. So much better to change direction before the impact if possible.

If you talk to some people who have lost jobs in the past, they may be willing now to share with you how it felt at the time, and what steps they took to turn things around and the new opportunities that presented themselves once the old job was gone. Those same people may also tell you that they may not have made a decision to leave on their own, but because someone else fired them, they had the push they needed to change directions, investigate new careers and have since landed in jobs in which they are entirely satisfied. In fact, the loss of a job can make you more appreciative of a new one, a little less judgemental of others who are unemployed, and more compassionate when dealing with people in general. While no one would really wish unemployment on another, it can be very humbling and transformative.

Have you yourself ever lost a job? What was your experience like? Are you in a position now to share that experience so that others can gain hope from your trials and move forward?


When A Job Search Should NOT Be A Priority

Contrary to what you might think, not all unemployed people should be chastised for not looking for work, and in fact the best way to help them to move forward with their lives is actually to give them the permission and approval to explicitly forget it entirely. Huh? Not the kind of advice taxpayers typically want to read about.

Consider however that for many job seekers, a lack of employment is only one of several issues or barriers that they are typically dealing with. For quite a few people, the loss of a job may be the result of getting fired or let go, and WHY they got let go could be for anger on the job inappropriately expressed and manifested in a fight. Or perhaps drug or alcohol use discovered on-the-job. And a third example may be coming to work looking rough, maybe in the same wrinkled clothing, unshaven and with increasing body odour. So what’s going on? To find out, you’ve got to ask some questions.

In the above examples, you’ve got people with anger management issues that don’t know how to vent in socially acceptable ways, an addiction issue and a stable housing issue. Running out to get that next job immediately will only result in a series of jobs with poor performance and repeated failure. A better strategy to effectively move forward may just be to forget the job search for a month and get some stable housing; even if it’s below the standard the person has been used to based on what they can now afford. With stable housing in place, which could take the better part of a month or two to find, that person can focus better on the job search without the distraction of not even having a roof over their head.

An addict may or may not be able to hold down a job, but one of the things that’s going to be critical is ongoing support from some Addictions Counsellor, and possible meetings, be they in groups or 1:1. The person with anger issues might look great on paper and do well in the interview, but have no tolerance for what they consider to be stupid co-workers or Supervisors. Hence they lose patience extremely quickly and react with physical violence, swearing, and don’t know how to deal with their pent-up anger causing them to explode. A walking time bomb on the job if you will is not going to be able to retain a job without some counselling.

If you are dealing with people in these situations, or you recognize yourself, it may be the best advice you can receive to hold off on resuming a job search until you can get these issues and others like them under control. Any phone book, social service agency, medical professional, or an internet search will help you turn up possible sources of help. Remember that seeking out help from others is not a weakness but rather a realization that you have to make some changes; and that’s a strength. Rather than waste precious time trying to keep your not-so-secret problem to yourself, reduce the time it will take to deal with your issues by getting professional help as soon as possible.

Once you’ve got a handle on some of your issues, then you can turn with greater confidence to finding a job and you may be in a better position to actually keep it longer. The end result is a stable job, a steady income, increased self-esteem and greater confidence.

All the best!
Read more at https://myjobadvice.wordpress.com/

Take The Responsibility

Okay so you’re unemployed; what are YOU doing about it?

I was speaking recently with a woman who is currently unemployed and in order to get an idea of her background and current situation, I asked her to share her work history. Well she started to tell me about her last job and mentioned she had been fired, but quickly explained that away by saying she wasn’t very happy there anyway so it was no big deal. Prior to that, she had worked for a company for about 2 years, and coincidently she was fired from there too but the boss was a jerk so it was actually a good thing. The job before that was only a month-long, and it didn’t work out. “Why?” I asked. “They wanted me to wear a hairnet and I wouldn’t do it so they fired me”. Idiots.”

Do you see the same pattern I do? The person I was trying to help couldn’t or wouldn’t take any responsibility for her own actions, which ultimately resulted in her being fired from all three jobs. You’ll have to trust me when I tell you that the details she provided on all three came down to being asked to do reasonable things that she objected to, and therefore left the employer with no options but to terminate her employment.

It is not only a good idea, but absolutely critical that you – yes you the reader – take responsibility for your actions, your words, your thoughts and your decisions. That goes for me too by the way. It goes for anyone and everyone. Everyday we make all kinds of choices; some of those choices are relatively small and some huge. Should we have toast or cereal? Should I wear my hair up or down? Brown casual socks or brown dress socks? Pretty minor decisions without ramifications down the road.

Then too there are the big decisions. Go to work today or goof off? Keep calm with an irate customer or give him a piece of my mind too? Show up on time or show up when it’s convenient for me? It comes down to picking your battles, making decisions that will positively affect your career, choosing to do the things required to keep a job or not. It’s not even about what is common sense. Unfortunately there are all kinds of people out there who grew up with poor role models from which to learn from, and what seems like common sense to them isn’t mainstream common sense. For example I had a guy once tell me that he punched his boss in the face because the boss told him to go home earlier than he had expected; there just wasn’t enough work to keep him for the rest of the day. Seemed like the right thing to do for him but it wasn’t.

All the decisions you make have consequences. Some of those consequences might have a long-lasting impact on your life. Deciding to do something illegal and getting busted will potentially cost you job opportunities for years. How many years? I know of at least a dozen people who are totally qualified to accept employment in various jobs who cannot be hired due to a 25 year or more DUI charge. They get annoyed and say it was something every teenager does, so why should I pay for it now? Again, not taking responsibility for the offence, and quite frankly not taking the responsibility to do something about it over the course of 25 years or more.

So you are out of work. Fine. How motivated are YOU to DO something about it? Take some responsibility for your current situation and get going. Update your resume, practice your interview skills, take a course, start the pardon process, call somebody you are on bad terms with and start mending the relationship, apply for a job, write a cover letter. Maybe you might want to see an Employment Counsellor, a Mental Health Counsellor, an Addicitions Counsellor, a Literacy Tutor, get your grade 12, update your First Aid / CPR certificate, your WHMIS certificate, your computer skills.

An interviewer might look at your resume and ask what you’ve been doing since you were last employed. Think about that question NOW and ask yourself the same question. What am I doing about things NOW? Sitting at home on the couch, feeling sorry for yourself and mopping around criticizing the world and blaming everybody else for your situation isn’t healthy and it sure isn’t going to land you a job. Obviously not all unemployed people fall into this category. Most in fact, take responsibility for their actions and are actively involved in doing what they can to gain employment.

If you haven’t been taking responsibility for your situation of late, pause and think about that. Sure some things are beyond your control. Being laid off because of a shortage of work, being terminated because the company closed up altogether are two examples of things no individual employee can control. Fine. However, there’s a difference in the out-of-work employee who rolls up his or her sleeves and throws themself into a job search, and the employee who wallows day-to-day lamenting being fired by idiots. Responsibility vs. Lack of Responsibility.

By the way, you may have the makings of an exceptionally unique and effective interview answer if you get going and own up to a few things. Consider this reply to the question,

“So what have you been doing in the two years since you last worked?”

“I’m happy to relate that briefly. Initially I was angry, resentful and blamed everybody but myself for losing job after job. Then I decided to take some personal responsibility for my situation and that decision has led to some pretty significant changes. I’ve recently completed the last remaining course I needed to achieve my Legal Administration Diploma. I’ve also been volunteering on a regular basis for the past six months with a Community Legal Clinic, and have updated my First Aid/CPR Certificate. More importantly, I’ve adjusted my attitude, and improved my self-respect and self-confidence. I am now ready to work, take direction and demonstrate my appreciation to an employer who is willing to invest in me and give me the opportunity to support myself financially.”

All the best to you today!

In A Panic? Exhale Deeply

Not everyone reacts identically to the same stimulation, and that’s a good thing. Be it something stressful, joyful, positive, negative, alarming or stimulating, how YOU react to a situation may be different from those around you.

Today I want to talk about reacting to sudden change. Now one thing that many unemployed people have in common is that moment when they were notified that they were being released, fired, terminated, let go, laid-off, retired, put out to pasture etc. If you didn’t see it coming, and there was little if any warning, you may have found yourself having to deal with a sudden change thrust upon you. How did you react both in the short and long-term?

A key element to understand and realize is that when sudden change happens TO YOU, it is something beyond your control. If a company decides it no longer requires your services, that decision is often not yours to make; influence yes, but make…no. So something external happens to you. Now that the external event (the relaying of the decision to let you go) has been delivered, how you receive and respond is what is within your control and power.

In the short-term, good general advice is to remove yourself from the immediate situation in which you might react more with impulse than clarity. You cannot be expected to rationally respond in a logical, well-thought-out manner, and are possibly in danger of saying or worse doing something out of your normal character that could damage your reputation and your image, further alienating others from helping you. Best to minimize your actions, withdraw and then when you have regained your mental balance, emotional and cognitive stability, re-connect and rebuild.

By taking a moment to breathe, you gather precious seconds to absorb information and pause just long enough to determine a response based on how urgent the situation is that you find yourself in. These precious seconds can be useful and prevent you from reacting inappropriately. Let’s assume for a second you’ve been told your position is no longer required. You’re told to pack up a few things and you’ll be walked out of the building. You may be hurt, shocked, angry, embarrassed or frightened. Those that are delivering the news have had time to determine how to relay this, they’ve fought it, or agreed on it, planned out where and when to deliver it, but you have no such luxury of time to yet process it.

In the long-term, you might come to see a decision to release you as something that moved you in a different direction, perhaps the best thing that could have happened to you – but that’s much later. You still might need references from co-workers, Supervisors, Management etc. Best to leave with your dignity intact, your composure and then let out your frustrations and anger outside the workplace. What to do next is material for another day, but how you deal with sudden change that impacts directly on you causing you to experience panic is the theme today.

No one likes being the target of a dismissal, and few enjoy or look forward to delivering that news. An avalanche of feelings dumping on you at once can cause physical changes in your body. You might do anything from cry, to scream, to yell, to go numb, to freeze, to withdraw in shock, to laugh. Everyone is different and a response cannot be assured. My advice when faced with sudden change that brings on panic is to breathe in and exhale deeply a moment or two until you have some measure of control and can extricate yourself from the assault of the moment. Later, when you’ve regained your composure, then it’s time to formulate a response.