While voluntary job changes can be stimulating and ego-boosting, involuntary job changes usually are pretty much of a drag—at least initially. American workers learned this en masse following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on our country.
While Americans enjoyed a pretty good stretch of low unemployment in the late 1990s, the twenty-first century has not started out as fortuitously. The U.S. economy already was faltering before the attacks, which resulted—in addition to mass death and destruction—in widespread layoffs and unemployment.
It's unclear how quickly our economy will recover, but it's a sure bet that many, many people will face the challenges of unemployment for months to come.
And, although the American employment situation has become unexpectedly grim, there have been periods previous to this that have made U.S. workers wary about their job situations. Extensive downsizing occurred in the early and mid-1990s, many of the cuts affecting middle management types, who were then forced to take lower-paying, less skilled jobs.
Even then-U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich advised Americans during that period to rethink the issue of job security and accept that layoffs would occur.
“Job security is a thing of the past,” Reich said. “People are going to have to get used to the idea of involuntary separations—sometimes four, five, or six times during a career.”
Fortunately, the involuntary separation rate has dropped since those mean, lean years of downsizing in the 1990s, but, make no mistake about it, workers are still being unwillingly moved out of jobs, especially in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
Department of Labor statistics indicate that of all displaced workers, those who are in their fifties or older have the most difficult time finding new employment.
It's not easy to leave a job in which you're comfortable. You know the routine, you know your co-workers, and you know where everything is. If you lose that job and are forced to move on, you're likely to suddenly feel that you've gone back to square one. You have to learn a new job in a new company, not to mention ask somebody to show you how to use the copier and point you in the direction of the coffee room.
Being forced to find a new job is nowhere near as comfortable or desirable as polishing up the old resume because you've willingly decided to launch a hunt for the perfect post. Still, losing a job doesn't mean that you're not a good worker, or a good provider, or a good person. Stuff happens, and involuntary unemployment is one rather unpleasant part of that stuff.
The Department of Labor funnels money to states to help pay for retraining for people who have been displaced for their jobs. To find out if you might qualify, check out the Web site of the department's Employment and Training Administration. You'll find it on the Internet at www.wdsc.org.
If you find yourself looking for a new job because you have to, rather than because you want to, don't despair. The following are some tips to remember if you suddenly find yourself without a job.
Work with an outplacement counselor to see what other jobs are available. Many companies provide a counselor to help laid-off employees find another job. If your company doesn't provide this, ask if it will pay for you to hire a counselor privately.
Take advantage of any sort of retraining program your former employer may offer. Many companies will pay for training for employees who are laid off. Some even provide offices for employees to use as a base for job hunting.
Negotiate the best severance package you can get. If your employer needs to downsize, and you're in a fairly high-paying position, he may be willing to give you a nice severance package when you leave.
Network, network, network. Come on, you've been around for a while now, and surely have met lots of folks along the way. Don't hesitate to use your contacts to get an idea for what jobs may be available, to meet other people who may be able to help you, or even to get introductions to people in authority within their companies. Statistics show that more people find jobs through other people than through job ads. Remember that people generally really like to help others when they can.
Don't get discouraged if you don't find another job right away. And don't take the first job that comes along if you know it's not right for you.
Be creative. Remember that traditional jobs, those in which you show up at the office every morning at 8:00, take a quick lunch break, and head for home at 5 or 6 p.m., are not the only kind of employment opportunities out there. Perhaps you have skills that would allow you to work from home, or another location. Maybe you'll decide it's time to start your own business (much more about that in Entrepreneurial Opportunities). Don't trap yourself by limiting your job search to the kinds of job you've always had.
While involuntary job changes can be difficult, most people who undertake them do so successfully. Keep a positive attitude and try to focus on the things in life that mean the most—your family, friends, and place within the community.