Post Job-Loss Career Growth

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But it’s not all doom and gloom. There has been a lot of research in the last few years into the idea of post-traumatic growth which is the process through which people who have lived through extremely challenging times, as a result of their difficulties, have ended up with increased life satisfaction. This approach has been applied more recently to the arena of careers, and a number of scholars have explored the idea of post job-loss career growth.

Post job-loss career growth is a phenomenon in which a redundancy or other forced break in career can eventually result in individuals finding greater job satisfaction and subjective career success than they would have experienced had they remained in their previous role (Zikic & Richardson, 2007).

Eby and Buch (1998) identified three categories of factors that make post job-loss career growth more likely. Within the category of individual characteristics, Eby and Buch found that individuals who were at a mid-career stage, who had not been particularly happy in their previous roles and who stayed active during their job search, were more likely to secure a new job that they found fulfilling.

In terms of an individual’s environment, it helps to have some financial resources at hand to reduce the pressure of having to find work as quickly as possible. The support of friends also aids resilience, as does having flexible family arrangements that allow you to pick and choose from a wider pool of opportunities, such as jobs further afield or roles that entail shift work. Finally, Eby and Buch identified the impact of what they call ‘transition process characteristics’ which incorporate how the job loss was handled, how long the between-jobs period lasts and how successfully the individual resolves their feelings of grief and anger.

So how can we help our clients to experience post job-loss career growth?

Waters and Strauss (2016) had some success with a career coaching intervention which focused on two processes: deliberate rumination and dialectal thinking and which led to some positive outcomes for their unemployed clients. These two processes work together to allow people to think about both the positives and negatives, and they promote positive outcomes through increasing clarity and self-awareness.

  • Dialectal thinking involves looking at an event from multiple perspectives and trying to reconcile opposing or contradictory evidence.
  • Deliberate rumination is a conscious attempt to think about the incident and the consequences, trying to understand it properly.

It’s a more positive and controlled process that you might usually associate with the word rumination. The two processes together can help clients to deal with challenges of unemployment, become more aware of their inner strengths and become open to new career pathways.

One important message within this intervention is the idea that positive and negative emotions can co-exist. Job loss and unemployment are painful and coaches should not try to minimize or ignore the devastating impact that job loss can have; but alongside these negative feelings, people can be encouraged to understand what happened and why it happened, and this can help them to reconcile themselves to the situation. In turn, this can soften the negative feelings and make people feel more confident about facing the future.

That concludes a brief exploration of some of the more genetic aspects of job loss. We will now move on to look at some of the research from three specific types of job loss: redundancy, dismissal and traumatic life events.

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  • References
    • Shepherd, D. A., & Williams, T. A. (2018). Hitting rock bottom after job loss: Bouncing back to create a new positive work identity. Academy of Management Review, 43(1), 28 – 49.
    • Waters, L., & Strauss, G. (2016). Posttraumatic growth during unemployment: A qualitative examination of distress and positive transformation. International Journal of Wellbeing, 6(1).
    • Zikic, J., & Richardson, J. (2007). Unlocking the careers of business professionals following job loss: Sensemaking and career exploration of older workers. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, 24(1), 58 – 73.

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