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Surviving the Emotional Effects of a Job Transition


It happens every day. Someone decides to change careers, suddenly loses a job, or lands an assignment in an entirely new field. During this job transition, however, some powerful emotions can crop up – including fear, overwhelm, depression, guilt and even anger. While this is a natural effect of a job change, not having a plan to manage these emotions can set you up for a career meltdown. Learn how to survive even the most difficult of job transitions with these helpful tips from a career coach.

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From Here to There, When the Job Transition Happens

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Leaving a job or transitioning to a new one, for any reason, can easily become an emotional roller-coater for the unprepared. If the job change came about as a result of a layoff or termination, it’s understandable why an individual would feel upset. Even if the choice is made voluntarily, when the job transition means taking on new responsibilities or switching to a new role, this can also be overwhelming from an emotional standpoint.

How Often Do Job Changes Occur?

The truth is that career transitions happen often in any adult’s life. According to a 2012 US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics’ special report, the average number of jobs in a lifetime is 11.4 jobs for men and 10.7 for women between the ages of 18 to 46 (during the years 1957 to 1964) for the Baby Boomer generation. In 1978 to 2010, these numbers rose in a separate BLS study that showed men held an average of 11.6 jobs and women 11 jobs during their working lifetimes. It’s easy to see how men and women in today’s workforce often have to face the necessity of a job change.

Coping with the Emotional Effects of a Job Change

First of all, if you have recently separated from employment or you are facing a career transition, expect that there will be some very natural emotional responses to happen. Any change can be traumatic, especially if it results in economic or lifestyle challenges. You may be elated one day, and furious the next. You may face change with fear and worry about the future until it keeps you up at night. Just remember that these emotional responses are a part of the human psyche and that they will pass.

Here are some ways to cope when a job transition occurs.

  1. Get a support network around you. No one has to face a career change alone. There are a number of people right in your own network who can help you during this rocky transition. Look to friends, family, mentors, and social networks of your peers to give you support. If you need a shoulder to cry on, call a friend or family member. If you need direction, ask your mentor for guidance. Use social networks to keep active in your field of interest.
  2. Find meaningful tasks to keep productive.  When a person feels productive, oftentimes this can overcome any negative emotional responses that come up. Stay busy by updating your resume and cover letter, creating an online portfolio of your best project work, and spending time organizing your home. Create a schedule that includes plenty of self-care, including eating healthy, getting exercise, and getting enough rest.
  3. Obtain professional direction and encouragement.  If you are new to a job or you are in-between careers, a good way to manage the emotional effects is to seek the services of a professional career coach or counselor. Talking about your feelings and your goals makes them tangible and easier to manage. Make a plan for your life that goes in the right direction for your career and personal values.
  4. Prepare for something better ahead. There is a yellow brick road just waiting out there for everyone. Leave the negative feelings behind once you’ve processed them. Expect that there is a new and exciting career or career achievement just waiting for you. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the positive things that are to come, because they always do.

Tell Us What You Think

How have you been coping with a career transition? Talk to us on Twitter and share your experiences…we want to hear from you! 

Tess C. Taylor
Read more from Tess C.

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Richard Clough

Hi Nicola,

I really enjoyed your thoughtful comment. I took a look at your website and signed up to download The Career Canvas; it looks really impressive from the first few activities I’ve been though. 

It looks like your link to your Career Canvas website somehow got eaten by the system! I recommend other readers of this article to check out The Career Canvas

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