Work can often help us to create purpose. It is an integral part of our living system. When that part of us is disrupted it creates uncertainty, worry and anxiety. Getting fired, terminated, made redundant, for whatever reason, can be a life changing experience. Work for many is an anchor, and when that tether is severed, you are cast adrift.
Let’s talk a bit about the concept of a career, it’s not simply one thing. Don Super (a giant in the field of career research) said that a career is the course of events constituting a life. What a powerful concept! With this view in mind we also break it down to roles, where a career is the total assembly of roles we have over our lifetime. This fits with our interconnected, systems view of therapy, where we are part of multiple interconnected systems, such as work, family, community, the environment, and others. We have different roles within the home, in our community, and in our work.
When our work life is disrupted, or we lose our job, it can lead to high levels of personal psychological and physical distress. This can spillover into the other important parts of our life. These troubling work situations can create difficult life situations. You might be feeling burnt out and drained.
A client had recently lost her job. During the initial conversation she said she was feeling fine about it, optimistic, networking, meeting lots of people . . . having some fun! As the conversation progressed, and she seemed to be a bit more comfortable, I asked again how she was feeling. This time she said she wasn’t sleeping, that she kept waking up, usually at the same time 3:30am, and then couldn’t get back to sleep for a couple of hours. When she woke up in these early morning hours she was often perspiring heavily, with her mind “racing a million miles a second”, seemingly overwhelmed with panic.
Another client interview was completely different. A company acquisition meant the client’s workplace was changing fast, new people, new reporting lines, new ways of ways of working. He was having trouble adjusting. He felt he was being left behind, his old work colleagues seemed to be adjusting, yet he couldn’t adapt to the change. He was bitter, angry and you could hear it in his voice and see it in his body.
When these work disruptions happen, they are often out of your control. It’s not surprising you are feeling angry, alone, misjudged and a host of other emotions that are felt in your body and expressed in the mind.
It’s not just job loss. Career stalls are disruptive. It happens, one day your realize you are just going through the motions, you’re on autopilot. The pleasure, sense of comfort, or even possibly the joy you felt when at work—is gone.
Career decisions can be exciting and sometimes overpowering. It can often be helpful just to talk out loud about the choices you face. Sometimes the situation appears so dire you cannot see a clear way forward. Roland was let go after 34 years with the same company. He was beyond distraught, could not find work, and felt he had “failed his family.”
Sarah owned and ran a successful business. She was happy in her work and was respected in her industry. Changing economic conditions, and disruption in her industry, placed her business at risk. Her business model suddenly seemed outmoded, she felt powerless and unable to react effectively. Her senior people revolted and wrestled operational control of the business away from Sarah; she was now on the outside looking in. This was deeply disturbing for her, Sarah didn’t what to do or how to proceed. So she didn’t, she felt she had “collapsed like a dying star.”
My life experience includes 25 years as a business coach, personal and career coach. I’ve seen successful people suddenly feel they have lost control and are directionless.
Yet, new meaning can be created, and new purpose forged. A client was a high-level operations manager who loved her work. She called because things were slipping. She was also the primary care giver for her ailing father, and the stress of managing both roles was becoming too much. We talked about what was important to her and helped her clarify her values. Together we did some job crafting which she then proposed to her manager. She outlined doing reduced hours in a new role, an operations consultant. The company was delighted not to lose her and this freed her to take time to help her father.
You Can Create New Vistas. We have made it easy to take action, getting started is simple and has no obligations on your part, other than picking up the phone, or writing an email. Beach Grove Counselling is here to help.