Surviving the Pink Slip
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Surviving the Pink Slip

image Everybody who is fired goes through the same initial stages—disbelief, denial, anger, acceptance, and coping—in much the same manner as patients who are handed a fatal diagnosis or relatives told of the death of a loved one.

As humans, we do much better with change when we ourselves initiate the changes. Men, in particular, are frustrated by loss of control and security, as evidenced by the increased number of workplace shooting sprees that occur after company layoffs.

What to Do First

If you do lose your job, you can successfully channel your anger into positive action. Instead of relishing your newfound days of freedom, take just a few days off to adjust to the change, then immediately start looking for another job.

Experts say you can regain your footing—and work through some disbelief, denial, and anger—by joining support groups to talk about the firing with pals, or a job-hunting or networking group.


Don't be embarrassed or afraid to talk about down periods. Sharing your feelings with someone who cares about you can be a major boost to your emotional well-being.

Experts say that it's important to work through all the stages and not become stuck in one. People who continually rant and fume about the stupidity of their former employer are stuck in the anger stage and won't make much progress.

You may fear being seen as weak and unable to cope. Keep reminding yourself that the firing was most likely due to shrinking budgets and a tight economy, and not the result of your incompetence. It's also particularly difficult for many men to ask for help carrying the financial load and having to cut the high-ticket, enjoyable extras from the family budget. Additionally, many relationships in time of stress are strengthened—or totally dissolved.

Windows of Opportunity

Remember the old saying that "another door opens when one is shut." Once some of the hurt has dissipated, start to ask yourself how you can create a more compelling future.

Do you want to make more money? Be famous? Live out your passion and dreams, create a business, buy a franchise, or perhaps simplify your lifestyle and move to a community that it is less expensive?

Or maybe you just want to find another company and continue doing the same job. Consider these (true) scenarios:

One self-described corporate "slave" in the computer field recognized that the downsizing heading his way would result in elimination of his job. He arranged a deal whereby he could consult part-time. His overall goal was to spend more time with his kids and give up late evenings and weekends at the office. He had a lot of experience doing remodeling and went on to get his contractor's license. He now builds homes, shopping centers, and other structures. In addition to being outdoors all day, he is in complete charge of his own time.

A Texas man had been with his firm for many years when the company announced it was moving east. Rather than uproot his family, he became a freelance human relations and service director for smaller firms in the area where he had always lived.

Tips for Job Hunting

Once you've recovered from the emotional blow of losing your job, it's time to focus your efforts on finding your next job. The first thing you should do is network. Most jobs are filled through word of mouth. Join a trade association, attend meetings, and send notes to everybody you know who can help. Networking is important, but don't overlook the traditional routes: newspaper ads, internet listings, employment agencies, and executive recruiters (head hunters).

Your job hunt should be a 40-hour per week endeavor conducted from your own office—even if the space serves as a bedroom after hours. Here are a few guidelines:

Give yourself some space on the weekends. Participate in activities that give you pleasure. You need the break from thinking depressing thoughts, and you'll be in a better frame of mind if you're able to maintain some degree of normalcy, including doing the things you enjoy.

If you have children, share what's going on with them. While kids are scared of what they don't know or surmise on their own, they will surprise you by their quiet support once they know the truth.

Be good to yourself. Yes, you're depressed . And yes, you're angry. But more importantly, you're still you. You have skills, talents, abilities—all of which will be put to good use very soon. In the meantime, relax.

Be productive. In addition to job hunting, use the time off to clean out the basement, bone up on the local and national sports scene, rent some movies, or spend time with your family. If money is an issue, frequent places that are low cost or free—zoos, public libraries, museums, and movie matinees.

Visit with friends. Socialization is an important part of the recovery process—sitting home alone in the dark is not only counterproductive, but depressing. And a depressed, negative attitude is guaranteed to thwart your job-hunting efforts.

Last reviewed July 2007 by Theodor B. Rais MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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