Job loss can be traumatic. It has serious effects on people’s well-being, and not just the person who lost their job. In my experience coaching people who’ve lost their job, particularly at middle stages of their career, the effects resemble depression. Not to a clinical level, but darn near it. This goes beyond typical career guidance. They need more than a quick career search and a list of jobs to consider.
But having a job isn’t the complete answer. I’ve also worked with many who question, deeply, whether the job they have (and deplore) is their true calling. Sometimes a new job is the answer, but sometimes a deeper review reveals a different story. Oftentimes it’s not the job that’s causing problems, it’s what’s around the job. This can be generalized to “the organization,” or “the culture,” but it usually has to do with the boss. This, too, is beyond the typical call of career guidance.
Add in a global pandemic and things get worse – more unemployed, more general stress and strain for everyone, working or not. As organizations have begun to add employees from the initial lows caused by this pandemic, the competition for jobs, fewer jobs, is driving greater demand for career-related services. And experts agree that not everyone who lost their job due to the pandemic will return once its impact is better under control. A lot of businesses have closed their doors and they won’t reopen. Of greater consequence, the nature and number of jobs in the workforce have been permanently changed by the new normal for work. All of this adds to uncertainty – especially for the unemployed.
Whether out of work or dissatisfied to the point of quitting, what most share is a feeling of being “stuck.” That’s the literal word used. In this context, being “stuck” includes a variety of emotions, but none, positive. Mostly being “stuck” amounts to uncertainty, anxiety, and the lack of energy to pursue a job when they don’t know what job to pursue. Emotions are high with many experiencing feelings of grief, lowered self-confidence, and optimism – sometimes, feelings that border on hopelessness. Our society places so much importance on what people do that to lose your job is, in a very real sense, to lose your status, your identity. Your dignity.
This isn’t the case for everyone. But I’m not alone in experiencing individuals in a desperate state due to loss of employment. And even if it doesn’t come up that frequently, it’s critically important when it does. The typical career guidance counselor isn’t trained to handle situations like this. This is the job of a psychologist trained in emotional and behavioral counseling. While these aren’t clinical cases, they’re deeply affecting.
At minimum, a good coach needs to be able help individuals through a rebuilding process to regain the confidence and skill to carry out a strategy to gain employment. Job-related skills can atrophy over time. Many of these are the same skills necessary to carry out a back to work strategy that would be exhausting to anyone. But this is just about getting to the interview – not the interview itself. That’s another aspect of career counseling that I won’t go into here.