Perhaps you are reading this because you have lost your job or someone close to you has been laid off. If that's the case, the first thing you should be certain of is that no one needs to go through this trial alone. Others care about the pain you are experiencing and want to help you get on your feet again.
When you lose a job, for whatever reason, it hits you hard. Your self-worth, identity and direction are challenged. You begin to ask yourself who you really are and what is your value. Do others really care? Does God? Everything you do gets filtered through these lenses. As a result, you may not be the easiest person to be around at times.
It is tempting just to run away and hide. As hard as it is to face yourself, it is even more difficult to retell the story of your job loss to others. But resist this urge to escape. Being open about what happened is the first step in dealing with loss. Surprisingly, others are likely to play an important role in the healing you need.
Communicate right at the start what you want from others. Let them know what you are feeling and don’t be ashamed of it. If you do this at the beginning, it will go a long way toward heading off misunderstandings and hurt feelings. A strong network of relationships will be vital to keeping you encouraged and focused. Family, church and work contacts will help you feel that you are not in this alone. You are going through a process that is different for each person, and those who know you best will be sensitive to that.
Even more important, keep your communication channel open to God. That means daily prayer and, yes, venting honestly about what you are thinking and feeling. He can handle your frustrations, fears and disappointments better than anyone.
Losing a job is one of the most humbling experiences one can have. It cures a person of any egocentrism in a very short time. When your professional title, job responsibilities, meetings and calendar are taken away, who is left standing? That is the person whom your friends and family will now encounter — the person God knew all along.
As disquieting as it is, unemployment offers you a window of opportunity that you would normally not have. When we are working hard at a job, whatever it may be, all our time and energy go into just keeping up. Once we lose our position, we suddenly have time and energy to spare. Most folks don’t know what to do with it. They stall out, and their emotions turn to fear, worry and anger. Although this is normal, eventually you must realize that you have a window into your life you did not have before.
This is the hour to ask, What do I want my life to be like from here on? What gifts has God given me that I didn’t have an opportunity to exercise before? What was stopping me from doing what I really wanted to do? What am I learning about myself through this job loss that I didn’t know (or didn’t want to know) before? What do I really want to do with my life?
Once you land your next job, this window will close. You will again be busy with your work responsibilities and day-to-day cares. You won’t see your life quite this way again. As hard as it is to lose your job, it’s harder to find genuine opportunities to take stock of who you are and where you want to go. After a job loss, you are motivated to see clearly and honestly — perhaps for the first time in years.
Your assignment right now isn’t merely to search for financial security in a new job. Rather, it’s to once again discover who you are, ascertain what God has created you to do, then find freedom and a renewed sense of purpose in doing it. People wonder how they get stuck in ruts along the way, why they have lost their sense of passion, or why they are secretly bored. Perhaps your job loss is God’s way of helping you find a better path.
Once you've taken stock and chosen a direction, it's time to get moving. But — there's no sugarcoating it — looking for a job can be one of the most challenging experiences you'll ever endure. It demands mental discipline, emotional resilience and even physical stamina. You'll have days when you are feeling encouraged and hopeful; you'll also have times when you think it's impossible even to get an interview.
Looking for a job means having a strategy, and the earlier you define one the better. Here are a few tips:
Start with prayer. Remember, God knows where He can best use you and when. If you don't immediately anchor yourself to God, you will find yourself drifting into worry, anxiety and fear instead.
Ask for feedback about your skills, abilities, talents and gifts. It may have been a while since you took inventory. Now is the time and opportunity to update it and reflect it in your resume and job applications. Ask for help in getting your resume to stand out.
Put a network together. Let others know that you are looking. Social networking Internet sites like LinkedIn® and Facebook,® if used with discretion, can help you connect online with folks in your profession and field of interest. Register with job boards like Monster® and CareerBuilder.® Have plenty of up-to-date resumes on hand and even some business-sized cards with your personal information on them. Even if your friends and business contacts don't immediately know of any leads, they may run into someone who does. You'll be glad they have your information.
Maintain a positive attitude. This can be difficult when you encounter repeated frustrations. Remember that the general statistics need not apply to you. You are one person looking for one job. Think about some volunteering. It demonstrates an upbeat attitude, a willingness to learn and contribute, and it can also be another source of networking.
Don't forget temporary assignments. Register with several established temp agencies. This can be an extra source of income and another possible networking pool.
Once you get an opportunity to interview, keep these things in mind:
Do your homework. Know something about the organization you are interviewing with. If you don't, the interviewer will pick up on that, and it will hurt your chances of getting the job.
Understand their culture. This is key to making or breaking a hire. As in families, unspoken rules are very powerful and are present in every organization or company, so it's a good idea to know some of them. Talk to people who work there or once did. Also know the dress code, whatever it may be, and present yourself accordingly.
Come prepared with several specific questions about the position, organization and culture. In a sense, you are also interviewing the company. You both want to know if the fit is the best one possible.
Be yourself. Nobody likes surprises after the sale. Remember that the "real you" will eventually be revealed, so it may as well be right at the beginning. Honesty and genuineness actually help you go into the job with more confidence. If you think being unemployed is bad, imagine landing a position that you are unqualified for and having that fact come to the surface.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
While the job search continues, you can improve your situation by taking some additional actions at home.
Draw up an interim budget for the rough times you're going through. Decide how you can minimize expenses so that any savings or unemployment benefits will stretch farther. All the usual tips for frugal living apply, but now is the time to take it to another level. Make it a game (you'll find it's actually fun!) to reduce your expenditures in some areas (such as entertainment) to near zero by doing things that are free. You'll discover that there's real freedom in jumping off the consumer bandwagon, even if only until you get a new job.
Establish a daily routine that includes not only your job search but time with friends and family, temporary employment, volunteer work, exercise or whatever else you need to keep a balanced and active life. Don't sit at home if it just makes you depressed.
If you were laid off from work in a time when countless others in your area are similarly unemployed, consider the fact that someone in your town is even more miserable and desperate than you are! With some of your free time, give of yourself in a way you never could before. Does an elderly shut-in need her lawn mowed? Or a single mom need free baby-sitting?
If you're a Christian, you might want to spend extra time in the Bible—something that will be harder when you return to a full-time job. For example, try reading and praying over Matthew 6:25-34 ("Do not be anxious about your life …") until you're actually ready to believe and live it!
If you can't seem to shake feelings of hopelessness or depression, connect with a reputable counselor or your doctor. Don't be ashamed if they prescribe some kind of medication on a temporary basis. If it helps you to feel and function better, then it is worth it, both for you and your family.
Q: I believe that God will take care of my family's needs. But still, after losing my job, I'm downright afraid. New job opportunities seem scarce. Will He really provide for us?
A: Looking for a job in a tight economy is truly a test of faith's ability to overcome fear. In Genesis 50:24, Joseph promised his brothers that God would take care of them. He was able to make this promise because of the challenges that God had seen him through before.
Q: I was one of the more skilled, veteran workers at our company, but still they "let me go." Is it true that employee loyalty doesn't mean much anymore? Would it have been better to keep changing jobs than to stay with one employer for years?
A: The what-ifs can drive us crazy! Your combination of skill and loyalty is likely to be viewed as a very strong asset when you apply for another job.
Q: Along with my job, I lost the benefit of group health insurance. I can't possibly pay for a private plan when I have no income. What can I do to protect my family?
A: It may be helpful to assume the role of "steward" rather than "protector" over one's family. Everything belongs to God, and we can trust Him to reassign necessary resources at the time they are most needed. Family (including church family) and friends may be moved to assist you in this time of need. Also, organizations such as Samaritan Ministries (samaritanministries.org) offer an alternative way to meet medical needs.
Q: It's been many years since I had to hunt for a job. The classifieds in the newspaper don't offer much, and the online job listings seem to be mostly for high-tech positions. So where do I look?
A: Seek God's guidance daily, and be open to answers coming from unexpected sources, not just from traditional or popular avenues. Keep in mind that you need only one opportunity, not an array of them, to demonstrate your talents.
Q: My wife was supportive when I first lost my job, but mostly she just seems worried, so I feel pretty alone. Aside from trying to chase down a few leads each day and do some volunteering, how can I keep busy?
A: Coming together often in prayer may be the best way to face anxiety as a couple. Helping with cleaning, laundry and meal preparation will also be appreciated.
Q: There aren't many jobs in my area of expertise. Even at mid-life, should I be trying to go back to school, change vocations, etc.?
A: That depends on the Lord's leading in your life. If He is calling you to a new line of work, He will provide the means. But be sure to consider how your current expertise can be applied to other work settings.
Q: We live close to extended family and don't want to move across the country just to get another job. Neither does our daughter, who will be a senior in high school next year. Should we consider a move anyway?
A: Try to be as open as possible. There are increasing opportunities to work from home via the telephone and Internet. If a job move is an absolute necessity, consider the possibility of one parent remaining behind to oversee the home sale and completion of the school year.
Q: I have a lot of skills and experience to offer, but even when I apply for an opening that fits me perfectly, I can't seem to get an interview. Is age discrimination still a big factor in the job market? If so, how do I overcome it?
A: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination and is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Contact the Department of Labor (866-4USA-DOL) for more information. Seek honest feedback from others regarding additional factors that may be keeping you from getting, or succeeding in, an interview.
Q: Is it sometimes better to have one's own small business than to look for another large employer? If I decide to do that, how do I get started?
A: There are always risks involved whether you own a business or work for a large organization. The important thing to consider is where and how you can best utilize your experience, gifts and talents. If you feel ready both mentally and financially to operate your own business, you can go to places online like the U.S. Small Business Administration/small business planner section for help in getting started.
Q: My husband just recently lost his job, but already he is deeply depressed about his attempts to find work. How can I help him get through this time? What does he need from me?
A: The best place to start is by simply asking him what he needs from you. Remember that these needs may change frequently depending on his state of mind and mood. He may need a good sounding board one day. Several days later he may not want to talk at all. A week later he may want lots of advice and encouragement. This can be frustrating unless you are prepared for it and realize that it is not unusual.Regardless, continue to pray for both of you. This job transition is a process of unknown duration, and prayer will keep you focused and anchored along the way.
Q: I have several friends and extended family members who have recently become unemployed. Besides fear, what other emotions and thoughts are they wrestling with? What can I say to support them?
A: Chances are they will be dealing with some combination of anger, resentment, shame and confusion. Insecurity will well up. Personal identity will be questioned as well as self-worth. "How can I support you?" is probably the best way to approach them, as this will vary according to situation and daily emotions.
Q: What are some tangible ways that I or my church should consider being of help?
A: Be sure you are part of a church fellowship where people's needs are openly known and addressed. As a group, decide how to help a struggling person or family pay the bills while unemployed. We are commanded by God to carry one another's burdens.
Q: If networking is an important part of finding a job, what hope is there for a person like me who isn't very good at that?
A: This is where online networking resources like LinkedIn® and Facebook® can be such a help, if used wisely. They are easy to join, and they can connect you with dozens or even hundreds of others who may be able to help, all from the comfort of your own home. Also, networking is another way in which your family and church members can come alongside of you to help. Why should you be watching out for contacts and opportunities alone when so many brothers and sisters could be doing it with you?
Q: I know I was doing valuable work for my company, but by laying me off they've in effect told me I'm not worth anything. I can't help feeling really angry. Is that wrong?
A: Not necessarily, but it's important that you move beyond the anger, forgive anyone whom you hold responsible and look to God for His new direction. As the apostle Paul said, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28, emphasis added).
Q: Losing a job is degrading enough without having to apply for unemployment insurance benefits and let the government oversee my new job search. Should I do it anyway?
A: Think of unemployment insurance as a financial safety net that your own taxpayer money has helped to fund. Tap into it for the sake of your family and your financial stress level. It will help take care of at least some of your expenses while you are looking for your next job opportunity.
Q: I'm a single adult without family nearby to lean on, so I'm dealing with a job loss pretty much alone. Any advice?
A: If you are a Christian, get into a church group where people actually care for one another as Scripture demands. You do have a family, and it's up to them to walk through this valley with you. Also, try getting together with others who lost their jobs at the same time you did.