Detaching from a job that you have held for years is very difficult - especially if you did not choose to leave, but instead were given a package and told your services were no longer required.
Dan had been working with the same company for 10 years as a Sales Manager with 15 people reporting to him. He was proud of his position, the company he worked for, and the team he had built over the past 10 years. Reporting to the same VP for 7 years was not always easy, but Dan had come to learn how to manage the relationship and the expectations.
The big change came over a year ago when a new President was appointed and within 6 months the VP Dan reported into was terminated and a new VP took his place. Dan was not surprised. In fact, he welcomed the change, “I wanted to be able to work with this individual even though many of us felt he was hard to get to know – the first three months he asked questions but did not seem to want to engage in conversations about his point of view or his plans for the future. I knew that I was skating on thin ice but had no idea how to connect with him. I will never forget the morning I was to meet with him – the invite did not indicate the reason for the meeting and it was not a regularly scheduled meeting. My gut was telling me something was going down but intellectually I could not believe that they would let me go as I was involved in so many projects. Sales were down over the past quarter; however, the team had identified many new opportunities that looked good for the future.
The meeting was quick and professional and Dan remembers those last few moments in his office of ten years, “I went back to the office, packed up my belongings, and was walked out the door holding my belongings in one box. The box represented ten years of my life. The next few weeks were spent in a haze; one minute I was hyped up about the possibilities for the future and the next I was feeling devastated and depressed. I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride of emotions: anger, shame, and guilt. That one moment of loss defined my days and nights and after 3 months I was still thinking about what I could have done differently to save my job.”
Dan had a hard time telling people that he had lost his job. At social events he would still speak in the present tense about his former employer. He was constantly phoning his former colleagues and team for updates and offering advice to the people that used to report to him. On his resume, he still noted that he was employed by his former company, justifying this with the fact that he was on severance for 9 months; therefore, officially he was still employed with the company. Although he now had a personal email that he used, he kept the name of his former company and his former title in his signature – he could not let go.
It all came to a head when a recruiter explained by doing this he was appearing to be dishonest about his circumstances and future employers would feel he was in some way trying to deceive them.
Dan was not dishonest - he was still in denial and had not detached from his former company and position. As a Career Consultant for many years, I have seen this happen hundreds of times and I have seen how the pain and devastation of losing a position can be debilitating to the point of stopping a person in their tracks. The bottom line - you need to move forward as quickly as possible in order to get to the place of acceptance even if that means “faking it until you make it”.
The following are 9 tips to remember on your job detachment journey:
- The roller coaster ride of emotions is normal: accept that your feelings are very much part of the process of moving forward, but do not let these feelings consume every moment of every day – seek out counseling if you find yourself unable to stop thinking of your past position.
- Career Success is not defined by the company you work for - nor should you allow the moment you lose your job to define how you feel about your career.
- Career success is defined by your past achievements, brand in the marketplace, value proposition, expertise, and skills.
- Understand and focus on the above traits so that you are focusing how you will demonstrate these traits in interviews and in future opportunities.
- Stop playing the movie in your head that has you in a room being let go from your previous position. Instead, place yourself in a room where you are being offered a new position.
- Be honest about your situation with everyone. Remember job loss is very much part of the economic landscape and everyone has been touched by job loss in some way.
- Don’t hide out - find a new community. If you are offered Career Transition services, engage them immediately. If not, research networking groups or professional associations to join.
- Keep active - this maybe a chance to pick up an old hobby, or start a new hobby, workout, volunteer, or reconnect with family and friends.
- Plan your days. Develop a routine that ensures you are moving towards your goal of new employment. The more active you are the less time you will spend thinking of the past.