JFS Perspectives

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dealing with Job Loss

Losing a job can be traumatic. It’s more than a loss of income, but a tremendous hit to an individual’s pride and sense of self-worth. For most Americans, our identity and self-worth are tightly linked to “what we do” and “where we work.” Our job often defines “who we are.” When that changes unexpectedly, it’s a shock to our very core.

Many of the people we support with employment services at JFS are experiencing a deep sense of loss and diminished self-esteem after being laid off. Whether they have worked for an organization for one year or fifteen years, most clients have been fully invested in that company, as well as their career the entire time. So, when they lose their job, they also lose the normalcy of their daily routine. What do you do if you are not getting up and going to work? How do you fill your time and still feel productive and connected to others? Without the daily interaction with work colleagues, they feel isolated. Usually people who have lost a job turn inward and question their competence, work ethic, communication skills, and other abilities. These self-doubts are completely normal, yet can also limit the person’s ability to find new, meaningful employment.

Stress related to job loss can also exacerbate other concerns, including substance abuse, mental health issues, physical health problems, and financial hardship. Losing a job can literally unravel someone’s life. My goal as the employment case manager is to help clients better manage the stress and fear after job loss and empower them to move forward with resilience.

When working with a client, I find that listening is the most valuable thing I can do because people need to share their feelings and concerns before they can begin to recover. I offer an inclusive space where my clients can discuss their true feelings of loss, confusion, and doubt while being fully heard and seen without judgment. After acknowledging their frustration and sense of loss, I help them focus on their strengths and inherent talents. As they begin to view themselves through new lenses—ones that highlight their value—they start thinking in terms of what they can achieve in the future, rather than remaining stuck in the past. This can-do mindset is key to minimizing their limiting beliefs and taking control of their future by creating a path to new employment.

Our first step in serving someone who is unemployed is to make sure their basic needs are met. That might mean providing rent, transportation assistance, and food, so that they can devote their energies to search, apply, and interview for jobs. I form trusting relationships with clients as we partner together to identify work options, perfect their résumés and cover letters, sharpen interview and negotiation skills, build confidence, and ultimately secure a job that matches their professional goals. We want our clients to return to a path of productivity and self-sufficiency in a job that they enjoy and that challenges them.

My greatest privilege is helping job seekers rebuild their confidence after job loss and guiding them to move forward through career transitions armed with the insight and career tools required to successfully navigate Colorado’s competitive job market. As they regain their self-esteem, landing their next job is much easier.

By Heather Seiden, Family Safety Net Employment Support Case Manager

Heather SeidenHeather Seiden helps clients obtain meaningful employment by partnering with them to identify strengths, define goals, and overcome barriers. She provides one-on-one career coaching on résumés, mock interviews, workplace communication skills, and digital job search tools. She was recently accepted into the prestigious Governor’s Coaching Corps through Skillful, a program for frontline career coaching professionals commissioned by Governor Hickenlooper. Heather has comprehensive career development experience and has worked at JFS since 2014. She earned a B.A. in Communication from the University of Colorado Boulder.


META DESCRIPTION: Heather Seiden, JFS Family Safety Net Employment Support Case Manager, shares tips for dealing with job loss—both emotionally and how to search for a new job.