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Career tip: A few thoughts on dealing with a job loss February 27, 2011

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.

In these tough economic times, the loss of a job is either a constant threat or something that happens that you must surmount. Having been part of a corporate downsizing a decade ago, I can both empathize and give a few thoughts that might be of help (with the aid of the passage of time it is easier and the ideas have been hashed and rehashed numerous times). Job loss use to be a rarity, not only in chemistry, but throughout all walks of life. Companies actually “hired for life” with an intent of a full-career employment. In government service and academia, layoffs or firings were as rare as hen’s teeth, except for the most egregious violations of policies.

But over the past twenty years in industry, and over the past decade in the other two venues, losing a job is something that is increasingly commonplace. Managers now look upon employees as a “cost burden” rather than as an asset. If a company needs to cut costs, the first place to look is at the headcount. If there is a merger or acquisition, employees are thought of as redundant assets.

Governmental budget shortfalls have translated into downsizing in government agencies and within colleges and universities. Tenure no longer is a lifetime guarantee of a position.

With these changes the mindset of chemists affected ought to change, too. But too often it has not. The values learned as we grw up, from more than two decades ago, prevail even though they are antiquated. This results in several emotional responses to losing a job – anger and guilt being the two most prominent ones – that are unwarranted.

Anger at an employer might be justified if the job losses were selective because the question of Why was I targeted? Comes into play. But if there were wholesale layoffs, a but of a certain percentage, or some such thing, then you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being part of a division that is totally removed is just an outgrowth of a specific business decision, not due to you, your work, or its importance to that business.

Guilt is also misplaced. In most cases you did not actively lose the job in most cases. If you had made different decisions or performed at an extremely higher level, you might still have ended up in the same situation. I had an outstanding rating for performance my last year at my former employer. But there was a decision to decrease the business direction and therefore advanced-degree chemists were selectively reduced relative to other employees.

Getting past these two emotions is not easy, but you must keep reminding yourself that they are unnecessary. You must move forward, especially to meet the needs of finding a new position. You cannot undo the job loss. Spending time, energy, and mental focus on it are counterproductive to your own career. Look at the former job as if a door has closed (because it has!). Look at the potential new position as a door opening, when you find it. Put all of your thoughts and efforts into finding that door.



1. Career Workshop Kiel: Workshop für Absolventen und arbeitsuchende … « CareerAd - February 27, 2011

[…] Career tip: A few thoughts on dealing with a job loss … […]

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