Career Adventure

career development from both sides of the interview table

Finding the humor in job loss

Humor is the instinct for taking pain playfully.

–Max Eastman

Everywhere you go nowadays, it seems someone has lost their job.  Your brother, your cousin, your dry cleaner’s daughter…  The bright side for the unemployed?  The stigma of job loss is dissolving.  Chances are if someone hasn’t experienced it personally, they’ve either known someone, or watched competent peers go through it in their own companies.

So, job loss is less shameful, perhaps.  But is it ever funny?

An article from examines the controversy over recent ads by Monster that use humor to point out that not everyone is in the right job.  Some say that humor in light of the slew of corporate layoffs and ever-increasing unemployment is out-of-step with public sentiment, as so many people are either out of work or grateful to have any job, regardless of how well it may suit them.

Job loss can be difficult, demoralizing, scary.  But dwelling on the negative doesn’t benefit anyone.  So, here are some guidelines:

If you have lost your job… Make all the jokes you want, but don’t focus on mocking either your former employer or yourself.  If you indulge in negative talk about your employer, either seriously or in jest, you may find this tendency sneaking out at inappropriate times.  Like a job interview.  Harboring resentment doesn’t get you anywhere, and if you’re not vigilant, you may reflect it in your body language or tone of voice.  And don’t be too hard on yourself, either.  Your mindset about your own capabilities will affect your effectiveness while networking or interviewing as well.

If you are a “survivor”… Recognize that times around your workplace are tough.  A little laughter can break the tension, but you want to avoid comments about those individuals who did not survive the layoffs, as you don’t know who maintains close relationships with those individuals.  You can lose trust and credibility with your coworkers.  And don’t think that just because someone doesn’t come to the office every day that they don’t hear what’s going on.

If you’re managing survivors… You’re subject to the same rules as above with one additional restriction: no jokes about who will be the “next to go.”  The possibility of further layoffs will be on your team’s mind and interfering with their productivity.  Bringing additional focus on the possibility, even in jest, won’t help them regain focus.

Alright, so a little levity on a Friday is in order.  Want to enjoy some job-loss humor without risking your career?  Thank Dilbert.

Filed under: job hunt, mindset, , , , ,

Don’t let job loss get in the way of job found

Even the most hard-nosed executive harbors some self-doubt — the little voice that questions decisions and pauses in the face of challenge.  And if one thing can turn that little voice into a frenzied chorus of criticism it’s job loss.

It’s been almost two weeks since I found myself on the corporate chopping block.  In the first days, I experienced shock and panic.  Now, my job search and daily activities operate over an undercurrent of malaise.  I have more difficulty focusing.  I notice myself reading and re-reading my correspondence.  My train of thought occasionally derails in Worst Case Scenarioville.  None of these helps me project my very best self to potential employers.

If you’re in a similar boat, it makes sense to spend at  least part of your focus mentally preparing yourself for your job search.  Here’s a few ideas for moving past a layoff into a brighter future:

  • Get it out —  Find a way to purge your feelings about the situation.  Write nasty letters to your former employer that you’ll never send.  Jump up and down and scream a bit.  Hit the gym and run it out of you.  Whatever you need to do.  Spend time destressing each day for the first week or so, and then whenever you feel those doubts and fears sneaking up on you again.
  • Get a goal — My first instinct was to rush out and get a job.  Any job.  Please someone, anyone, just employ me!  But then I realized that rarely do you have the opportunity to devote all of your energies to identifying and pursuing your highest and best use.  What a shame to lose that chance.  Consider where you want to go next.  Type of job.  Type of company.  Geography.  Compensation.  Look at everything, and make a plan.
  • Get moving —  Take control over something that will move you closer to your goal.  Take a class to enhance your skills.  Network with anyone and everyone.  Make sure you spend time each day taking concrete, if small, steps that move you towards your goal.
  • Get comfortable — Understand that a job search takes time, and adjust accordingly.  Trim your budget, get a handle on time management, and accept that this may be your state of being for the foreseeable future.  As long as you’re being productive, allow yourself to take advantage of the positive aspects of unemployment.  Spend more time with friends and family.  Read that fantastic book that’s languished on your nightstand. (Business book?  Even better!)  Balance will help your state of mind.
  • Get your story straight — It’s common to feel shame after a job loss, regardless of the circumstances, but shame doesn’t get anyone a new gig.  Write yourself a “why I’m looking for a new job” spiel that focuses on the positive.  Look in the mirror and repeat out loud until you don’t see any sign of weakness.

Don’t know where to start?  Here, you can have mine:

I’m looking for a new opportunity after being downsized due to economic conditions.  I really enjoyed my time with Company X and had the opportunity to work on some fantastic and challenging projects, and I’m glad that those experiences have prepped me for the next step in my career.  I’ve had the opportunity to really focus on where I can add the most value to my next employer, and this opportunity seems like a great fit.  I’d love to learn more.

Or, you know, something like it.

With some mental prep work and a ready made, positive answer for the inevitable question of why you left your last position, you’ll be able to confidently shift the interviewer’s focus to where it belongs — what a great asset you would be to their company.

Filed under: job hunt, , ,

About Career Adventure

Career Adventure is the blog of Kristi Daeda, a Human Resources and recruiting pro sharing thoughts on career development from both sides of the interview table.

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