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Coping with Job Loss and Sudden Career Change Later in life

Maybe there was hope of a long term career, retiring with the gold watch from one employer after years of service.  Maybe the change was expected, maybe it was the sudden loss of funding or a contract.  No matter the circumstances, a career change later in life can present more difficulties and challenging circumstances than earlier in life adjustments. With mortgages, car payments, children, looming college debt, health issues, sudden job loss and getting a new job can be seriously stressful.

Feelings of Grief and Stress

Later in life job loss can cause a lot of grief.

As a young college graduate with few bills or other responsibilities, job loss is no doubt stressful. As an older, experienced worker, with perhaps a marriage, children, a house, a car or two, and community responsibilities, job loss can be a major blow to one's self-esteem, feeling of control and empowerment, not to mention the weighty privilege of supporting one's family.

Starting Over

Stress doesn't end with the start of a new job.

Change can be tough, even if it is a positive change. The relief at earning a living can be dampened with the new realities at hand. Transportation, child care, taking care of home and hearth – a new job will often include new logistical challenges. Starting over at the “bottom” of the ladder, no longer being the “expert” and trying to find one's way around in a new career - coupled with the logistical challenges – provides a recipe for stress and frustration.

How to Cope

Coping Skills

There are many things one can do to help cope with all the new stresses, as well as the old ones. All of the regularly suggested coping skills – eat well, get adequate sleep, try to keep exercising regularly, etc – remain central to keeping one's energy supply as steady as possible. That energy then helps cope with the demands of the new job and schedule.

Planning and Preparation

Prepare and plan as much as possible. Although it seems like more work and stress, getting as many of the “logistics” in place can free up energy to deal with the new situation. Ask for help. Let the family know your new schedule and how and when you might need assistance. Take the time to plan some and do a little more advanced prep work for your week. If it helps, plan meals, lay out your clothes, have your kids lay out their clothes, schedule check-in times with your spouse or kids, research alternative methods of commuting – anything (positive and healthy) that will take potential frustrations away. If the new income stream allows it, see if a housekeeping service, lawn service or other assistance can be used to further alleviate some of the stress.

Be Kind to Yourself

Give yourself a mental break. Support groups, meeting up with former co-workers, counseling, and other such resources can help. It is okay to feel a little less “expert” and a little “lost.” It is okay to decide you don't like your new job. It is okay to feel overwhelmed or frustrated, and it is okay to feel …. whatever you feel. You might feel guilty for feeling somewhat unhappy when you should be appreciative that you have a job, when so many others do not. You might need to have a little more patience with your family and yourself during this transition.

Reward Yourself

Plan a reward. If the situation permits, see if there is some way to reward yourself. Having something to look forward to in the future often helps us cope with today. Small rewards may work as well – a new outfit, a new computer game, a new hobby.... make a little time for enjoyment, and for your family as well.

Overall, it is okay to spend some time grieving, it is good to be appreciative of the new opportunity and it's okay to complain, just a little... extra planning, a few more coping skills, and stress relievers, can help ease the transition into a new career.    

From Victim Advocacy with survivors of abuse and violence, case management with senior citizens and their families, counseling with at-risk youth and their families, to therapy with adults fighting addiction - bereavement, depression, relationship issues, parenting issues, divorce, blended families, disability, career changes, life changes, my professional experience has encountered it all (so to speak). Fitness, health, coping with chronic illness, aging parents, raising children, job loss, job stress,.... and the list goes on!

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