Who Bounces Back Best from Job Loss?

I've been there.

I lost two jobs in a row in my 20's.  Neither was really my fault (in one case, I accused a vp of sexual harassment) and in the second, my boss accidentally stepped on the toes of her boss when hiring me.  But there I was, out of my second job in less than six months.

Fortunately, I went on to have success at my next job and this was just a bitter memory.  But why do some people recover from job loss, while others don't?

A new study by Syracuse University provides a deeper understanding of why some people recover after losing their work identity, while others languish and develops interventions that facilitate recovery from job loss, according to newswise.com.

“It can be a devastating loss of identity when someone loses a job they’ve held for decades,” says Trenton Williams, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Whitman School. “For some, the loss might come in the form of an injury, such as a professional athlete, but for others, such as an entrepreneur whose business didn’t succeed, it might signal a failure. We examined two paths that someone in this position could take – a positive and negative journey.”

The pathway a person chooses depends on his or her decision-making orientation, according to the researchers. Some can constructively move forward, engaging in “work identity play” to constructively explore different opportunities and identities, until transitioning to more formal identity construction that helps them settle on a professional identity that is right for them.

Others remain in a deconstructive state, where they cannot get past the perception that the failure of a lost identity means their total failure as a person. (I suffered from that, a little.)  At best, they languish in a deconstructive state and at worst, they become depressed, much like what happens when a person experiences a traumatic loss.

Those who remain in a deconstructive state may continue to do things that harm them.  Trying to prevent future losses, they may find it difficult to take risks and they may be unlikely to try new things. Those who are risk takers are more likely to seek out help and resources and get themselves back on their feet. The key, according to the researchers, is the time spent in each phase of the journey.

“You can experiment and network in a non-targeted way at first and that is very healthy,” says Williams. “But at some point you have to focus and outline a clearer process. And those who have the education and support, as well as the belief that they can take risks, are the most likely to pull themselves up after experiencing a devastating job loss.”



 


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