There are two kinds of people when it comes to reacting to a friend, neighbor, or colleague losing their job.
The first person always offers the endearing hug, a couple of light pats on the back and a nice cliché such as, “you’ll land on your feet,” or “it’s for the best.” The second person will always take the less emotional route and will nine times out of 10 exclaim: “how amazing the couch vacation must be,” and “it must be nice to sleep in every day.”
There is one concrete reason that these reactions are commonplace: we are becoming more and more acclimated to those around us losing their jobs. Each week, you hear a similar horrific story – not only personally but also in the news and on television.
It happened to the guy down the street who has the new car sitting in the driveway. It just occurred to your co-worker’s spouse. You received an email asking for help from a long lost acquaintance at a past job who is experiencing a similar event. Downsizing, restructuring and correct-sizing are all different words for the exact same thing (these words tend to differ phonetically and emotionally depending on which side of the desk you sit on).
People around you have lost their jobs and it is happening more often than we like to think to a broader segment of the working population.
As this occurs around us, it is impossible not to be shocked and allow our thoughts to go out to those affected and then our thoughts wander to what would happen to us. “Unbelievable,” we think; “I hope they saved enough money to last until they land their next job.”
Other questions begin to cross our minds: “What about the kids? Will Billy still be able to play on the soccer team?” Those are the easy questions individuals face during a job layoff; now let me ask the more difficult, scary ones. The ones I call the “survival questions.”
“How am I going to put food on the table?”
“Rent is due in two weeks and I didn’t get a severance.”
“I don’t even have money to buy gas for the car.”
“How am I going to buy shoes for my child now that school is starting?”
Those questions are the ones that instill panic and paralyze individuals when they lose a job. I have learned from my own experience, as have many individuals I have worked with over the years, that when the “survival questions” are asked the situation has reached a full blown crisis.
Most likely, you have experienced this nightmare or someone you know has gone through a painful job loss or been fired.
I don’t want to scare you into paranoia, but to fully understand how staggering this issue has become let me share a few statistics. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics more than 20 million people were laid off in 2011. Even more individuals – greater than 1.5 million more – filed first time claims for unemployment in 2011. That number may not be so terrifying, until I add in the 23 million individuals who quit their jobs in 2011 and are now seeking to land the same jobs that you are applying for. More than 43 million people in the U.S. are asking themselves those same hard “survival questions” (and half of that 43 million most likely didn’t even have more than three months to prepare for their job loss).
Let’s not overreact with all the numbers and statistics because preparation, strategic thinking, and intelligent action can see you through a job loss.
A consultant, author, PhD, triathlete, father, and resident of Gilbert, Dr. CK Bray is a career and organizational development expert who has worked with numerous organizations — ranging from Fortune 500 companies to emerging start-ups. He can be reached at ck@DrCKBray.com or find his blog and more at www.DrCKBray.com.