Tech & Work

5 stages of the layoff experience

It's happened to me twice: laid off when the company I worked for was sold. In one of those cases, it was a voluntary layoff because I didn't want to relocate.

For a career-minded person like me, who is prone to place a great psychological significance into what she does for a living, both layoffs were heavy blows. In both cases, I loved the work I'd been doing and I'd made good friends that I would no longer be seeing on a daily basis. I grieved.

Ruth Luban, author of Are You a Corporate Refugee?: A Survival Guide for Downsized, Disillusioned, and Displaced Workers, makes the same connection to grief. She offers these five stages and how to deal with them:

1. On the Brink - This is when there are rumors of layoffs and there is a period of time when you don't know if you will be one of the positions eliminated or not. Luban recommends that employees concerned about their future resist water cooler gossip and work instead on practical matters, like getting your resume in order. 2. Letting Go - After you get the news of the layoff, it's natural to feel angry and hurt. Luban suggests working through your feelings before jumping back on the career boards, because you don't want to come across as a victim in interviews. But don't allow your healing time to become an unsightly résumé gap. 3. The Wilderness — Once you're ready to start sending those resumes and cover letters again, Luban says it's important to compartmentalize the job search, so that it doesn't dominate every waking hour. "When people aren't looking, that's exactly when the connections and awakenings happen," Luban says. "There's a lot going on internally, and wandering allows for internal breakthroughs — if you stop clutching and driving long enough to remember who you are." 4. Seeing the Beacon - This is the stage at which you begin to identify the career areas and jobs that will make you happy. Luban warns not to settle at this point: "Some people become so fearful of the unknown that they settle for the first thing that comes along." 5. In the New Land - This is the final stage in which you begin your new job. Though she doesn't recommend you turn into an absolute cynic, Luban does say that you shouldn't just "give yourself over" to your new job: "Don't let it own you. Don't allow yourself to place faith in continuity again. Build resilience. Hold your boundaries. Own yourself."


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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