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Job Search Paralysis Thanks to Fear of Inability to Prevent Layoff From Next Job
February 17, 2010 3:56 AM   Subscribe

I've been, for a while, what economists would call a discouraged worker; in most ways I gave up trying. Lately, I'm trying to marshal my spirit, resolve and grit together and get back out onto the job market. One of the biggest emotional problems I'm having is a fear of being let go again within a few months of this hypothetical new hire. It's really demotivating me and sapping the energy out of my efforts.

Months ago, the realization first came to me that people were being hired and then laid off months later, and such a circumstance has been a background anxiety in my mind since first hearing of it.

This is probably in part due to my layoff being one that was solely one of economic purpose. At my last employer, I was fairly beloved and consistently received high reviews, but their central office dictated specific layoffs (this number of people in this department in order of least senior) and despite having been there for quite a while, I didn't make that cut.

It had nothing to do with my performance, and I think that THAT is what haunts me ... that you can do a great job, that you can make yourself very valuable to a company, and that such things can end up mattering not one whit. It puts the issue of preventing a future layoff completely out of my hands. I can go into that job determined to be the best employee I can be, make them go, "My God, I'm sure glad we hired Anonymous!", and get my walking papers the next day, with their local management equally as regretful as I.

I don't know how to prevent being traumatized by this again. This was a fucked-up thing to happen me – although one I admit was hardly unique to me – and I don't know how to prevent its reoccurrence, or even what to do to contribute against its reoccurrence -- if one can be great at a job and still have faceless bureaucrats in another city ruin your life, what the hell do you do?

I don't know if I could handle all this again -- or maybe even a worse state of affairs than "all this", since I might only able to rebuild my economic circumstances partially before a new fall would occur. You say "save, save, save"? I'm with you there: I have methodical plans for efficient use of a future paycheck in recreating an emergency fund, but I can't see that fund being able to take another unemployment hit until at the very least a good nine to twelve months of savings goes by. And what with "claim years", I don't know as I'd have much new unemployment coming in after such a future layoff.

How do I get over this fear, so that I can launch myself into my job search with no -- or far less -- trepidation? It's humiliating to admit, but, honestly, I'm just outright batshit scared. The batshit-scaredness is taking up way too much headspace inside my skull, and I'm sick of that -- it's counterproductive and not fun to boot.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Calm down.

Realise that change might actually be useful.

Changing or losing a job no matter how you embrace it, is difficult, time sensitive and more often than not, completely paralyzing. The immediate thing do, much like a person with lots of credit card debt unable to pay, is to take stock.

Inventory your strengths, weakness, abilities and liabilities. By doing some inventory you should be able to figure out at the very least a starting point. Being good at something doesn't necessarily mean you are meant for it.

In a human sense what I am trying to say is to evaluate whether your being good at something equals happiness. As someone who has experienced the highs and devastating lows related to work, the best approach can be to really look at yourself and see what you want, rather than focus on searching for the next job.

Being scared is natural. It comes with age and experience. Getting over the hump per say probably takes more than a askme, but you are definitely not alone. Remember that. Also remember that being scared takes a lot more energy than getting back on the bicycle after a crash.

We all remember what it was like to work for the same company for many years and not have to deal with the same issues presented, however times have changed. I can personally retell a story dear to my heart:

My good friend bob (name changed), somewhat aloof and brilliant at his work, tended to focus on just that. The day layoffs were announced he clung to the fact all his toil (read thousands hours overtime) would save him from the harsh realities. Bob hadn't looked for a job in 10 years. Add to this a disfunctional family history (brother committed suicide) and a genuine introvertness led to panic. What helped him was being part of a group of others that had been laid off. The panic and fear subsided after a couple of months due to the realisation he wasn't the only one in the boat. It changed him.

He now works for a better company with better pay and has no hang ups. It was a difficult period. His steps were singular, but moved in the right direction by understanding that one situation out of many in his life wasn't the end all be all.

The moral of this tale is the microscope you place yourself under may not have the right resolution to provide a way forward. Reset and relax for a moment and gather your thoughts.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 4:47 AM on February 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know how to prevent being traumatized by this again.

I think the first thing you need to do is put what happened to you into perspective. You lost a job you enjoyed and were good at. On the trauma scale, including all of the bad things that happen in this world, where would you rank yourself? Things could be a lot worse, couldn't they?

A layoff is bad but you're a good employee with a good record and likely good references from your last job.

I have methodical plans for efficient use of a future paycheck in recreating an emergency fund, but I can't see that fund being able to take another unemployment hit until at the very least a good nine to twelve months of savings goes by. And what with "claim years", I don't know as I'd have much new unemployment coming in after such a future layoff.

Try to limit how much worrying you do about hypothetical situations which are many steps away from even potentially happening yet. I am someone who suffers with anxiety, and I've got to be really adamant about not letting every scenario in which I could fail bother me. There are a ton of ways that every day isn't going to go well for me but I know that the alternative (passing on every hand dealt to me) is a guaranteed fail.

Good luck. Anxiety's a tough road that you only conquer by actively fighting it every day.
posted by Hiker at 5:39 AM on February 17, 2010


Months ago, the realization first came to me that people were being hired and then laid off months later...

Sure, this happens sometimes. But it's really not very common. It doesn't make sense from the employer's perspective. Hiring people is expensive. New hires in many contexts aren't very productive until they've been trained a while. And so on.

Not to say it can't happen, but you should realize that it's pretty unusual...
posted by Perplexity at 7:09 AM on February 17, 2010


We've surveyed our clients recently, and most of them aren't expecting any more layoffs. What we are seeing is an uptick in temporary hiring, which is usually the precursor to more full-time, direct hiring at some later date.

If you get a temporary assignment, you should expect that it might end at some point. That's the nature of it. On the other hand, it also puts you into a great position if that company does decide they're ready to jump back into hiring people. If you do get hired full time, you shouldn't have to worry about layoffs for a while, particularly if the company had already gone through a few rounds.

In your research of a company, or in your interview you can explore the seasonality of their business and how likely they are to need to cut staff in the immediate future if it puts your mind at ease though.

More broadly, don't let fear or discouragement keep you from trying. You have to keep swinging if you're going to get anywhere.
posted by willnot at 11:35 AM on February 17, 2010


Yes, it does feel crappy to be laid off or fired. For any reason, but especially so when it's completely unrelated to your job performance. So it's normal to feel sad about what happened, and angry at the idiots who did this to you, for a little while, but if it continues and you feel traumatized, I suggest you see a therapist and talk this out. She will help you understand and sort out the realities of the situation and your emotional responses. That can remove the energy-draining emotional burden you're feeling, and you can get on with your life.
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:44 PM on February 17, 2010


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