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Jobseekers' Perspective

Coping With Change

I'm Going Through Changes

Image by Stephen Brace via Flickr

Now wait, you ask. Is this necessarily a job search topic?

What is a person looking for work constantly being bombarded with but change? There is change from a job to joblessness, change from a full work schedule to more free time (sometimes), change from having a paycheck to collecting unemployment benefits or signing up for assistance. There is change in budgeting, spending habits, and in daily activities. More hours might be spent on the computer, writing and perfecting resumes, scouring online job boards, and filling out applications.

Change can be quite difficult to handle, especially if the change is large-scale such as loss of a job or death of a loved one. Any such large change is normally accompanied by a cycle of acceptance, as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross illustrated in her book On Death and Dying. Without going into unnecessary detail, her model includes these 5 stages:

While these were originally observed in the terminally ill population, scientists have found that anyone experiencing a large scale change in their life—positive as well as negative—can go through at least some of these stages. It’s just a natural way that we process what is happening to us.

The magnitude of our reaction to change depends on how large scale the change is and how expected it is—or is not. Our reaction to a layoff that has been foreseen for the past three months may not be as profound as if a supervisor suddenly showed up unannounced with a pink slip in his hand.

Change fosters uncertainty and stress, which in turn can drive fear and negativity. We may find ourselves resisting change or judging others for instigating it. While we may not always have the ability to change the circumstance we are thrust into, we always have the ability to choose how we react.

Several years ago my workplace boosted its security system to include showing our badges to a security monitor at the entrance to our building. As a small-town girl I was unused to needing such measures, and I felt they were unnecessary. So I dug in my heels and refused to show my badge, instead just slipping in with other crowds of people. I didn’t think about how much I was inconveniencing myself for trying this and other strategies, or how necessary it would be for this kind of security to exist. As I look back now I realize how childish and irresponsible my reaction was.

Change is inevitable. The old adage says that the only constant is change. The sooner we can accept, adapt and move on, the better it is for us in our lives and in our mental well-being. Some tools we can use to help us include:

  1. Understand that change is hard! Allow yourself some time to experience the discomfort and uncertainty of change. Don’t rush yourself.
  2. Try to see the big picture. When change is thrust on us, usually the first thing we see is the negative. Change is meant to bring positive results, even if they might be negative for us (as in a layoff). It helps to separate the short-term and long-term effects. A layoff is a great negative for us in the short term, but who is to say that a better job might not loom on the horizon—one that we might miss had we not been searching for it? Perhaps it helps to view such negative changes as course corrections.
  3. Resist the knee-jerk reactions. Some circumstances, particularly those that take us by surprise, force us to react almost upon impulse. Emotion of the moment also makes us act without thinking through the possible consequences, often without knowing the whole story. For example, we see a dreadful car accident and hear cries for help. Our reaction might be to rush in and do whatever we can—even if we do not know what that is. Acting without having all the necessary information could worsen the situation—as it would if our reaction to that accident makes us run into a busy street to try to help.
  4. Rely on your inner strength! I have been told that people are incredibly resilient, and having gone through the layoff process myself I believe it. People don’t know what they have inside them until it’s tested. No one could imagine a human being could pick up a car, but let a mother see her child under one…
  5. And don’t forget your outer strengths!  By this I mean your support network. Keep your family and close friends in the loop. Let them hold you up when you’re feeling tired. They may have a few ideas or contacts of their own to assist you.

I recently heard a story about a child who had been diagnosed with a particularly agressive form of cancer, and a rigorous and painful treatment plan lay ahead. When the doctor counseled the family, he said, “people ask me if they will be the same after this. My answer is no– you will be much stronger. You will be AWESOME!”

Remaining confident and positive in the face of uncertainty can be quite challenging. Those are the times, however, that strengthen us. Like weight training, it is the resistance that makes us strong if we work through it well. The best part to remember is that nothing lasts forever, and we can bounce back if we allow ourselves. In the future we can then assure ourselves that we have what it takes to cope.

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About kimberlyjmyers

I am a workforce development professional in Washington State. I have ten years experience working with dislocated workers, vocationally impaired, and people with disabilities on many levels and backgrounds from offenders to non-English speaking refugees from around the world. The One thing the clients I have worked with all had in common: there was some barrier to employment, and I work diligently every day to identify, address and remove those barriers.

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