Are you a committed, hardworking professional who was in the midst of projects you cared about when your company announced a change of direction that eliminated your job?
Have you been cast out of your “home” company due to downsizing or reorganizing — through no fault of your own?
Prior to a job shift — or job loss — were you part of a team to which you felt a strong sense of belonging, and whose mission appeared to be fundamental to the health of the organization?
When you took the position from which you were laid off, did you assume (or were you promised) a lengthy tenure that would provide a reliable career track for professional growth and benefits for your financial well-being — only to have those assurances suddenly pulled out from under you?
Have you “jumped ship” in the wake of corporate mergers or acquisitions that signaled your job would soon be history?
Is your work history spotted with layoffs that had nothing to do with your job performance and everything to do with current economic realities in your industry or the speed of change in your field?
Has constant change inured you to a wandering professional life, one in which you believe there is no loyalty between employer and employee, and it’s each person for him/herself?
If any or all of these questions describe your situation, you qualify as a Corporate Refugee. Take heart. There is life after layoff.
The first step is to become educated as to how best to navigate this sea change in your life. Begin by understanding the stages you can expect, and making the most of each one through proactive strategies.
Santa Monica-based eToys.com lays off 700 workers as the biggest blood-letting yet in the dot.com massacre. There’s blood in the streets, mingled with pink slips, as news of business closures continue to pour in. During the mid-1990s, 1 in 16 workers were displaced by downsizing, reorganization, or corporate mergers and acquisitions-and there is every sign that the bursting of the dot.com bubble means more of the same.
Today’s job seekers fear a recession, so they’re jumping right into the job search, but can they give their best if they are hurting emotionally and philosophically? Not according to Santa Monica psychotherapist Ruth Luban.
Feelings of betrayal and loss of a sense of place are crippling, and legitimately so, says Luban, author of the just-released Are You a Corporate Refugee? A Survival Guide for Downsized, Disillusioned and Displaced Workers (Penguin Putnam, 15).
Says a displaced eToys worker who asked not to be named: “I feel ashamed, disappointed, frustrated, sad. I didn’t just lose my income; I’ve lost a place I loved to go each day, people I liked, a way to introduce myself, define myself.”
Luban, whose own parents were Holocaust survivors, sees precipitous job loss as analogous to the experiences of refugees having been uprooted from their home countries.
“Even talented IT professionals who rebound immediately into new jobs–without going through the loss process–experience the emotional underpinnings of the refugee experience, resulting in distrust, disloyalty, reduced productivity, and fatigue,” says Luban, who is also the author of Keeping the Fire: From Burnout to Balance (1996).
Rather, Luban maintains, such “refugees” should use the opportunity of unemployment as a productive exodus to a “new land” of opportunity, where they can emerge better off-and stronger-for what they have been through.
The workbook-style Are You a Corporate Refugee is intended to help on that journey of discovery. It provides specific strategies and targeted resources for every stage of the refugee process. Publishers Weekly called it “a practical and compassionate guide to recovery and renewal that knowingly addresses the larger issues accompanying the experience of losing a job.”
Luban recognizes that leaving the workforce causes not only a loss of income, but also losses of identity, structure, and community. Her step-by-step program addresses these problems and explains how to work through them. Using case studies, first-person accounts, exercises, and informative sidebars, she identifies the five emotional stages of job loss:
* On the Brink
* Letting Go
* In the Wilderness
* Seeing the Beacon
* In the New Land
By working through each of these stages, Luban shows how to move through the emotional upheaval of job loss and return to the workforce with a sense of control and direction.
“The economic shakeout of 2000 has left many corporate refugees to fend for themselves,” says Nick Hall, founder of Startupfailures.com and president of the Silicon Valley Association of Software Entrepreneurs. Hall recommends the corporate refugee approach for those “feeling dazed and confused and not sure what to do next. … It has practical tools and insight to get you going in the right direction…your future.”
Given the likelihood of continuing upheaval in the marketplace, Luban–who has spent the last 25 years developing workshops and treatment programs for people facing life transitions–hopes displaced workers, or those in potentially precarious positions or industries, will embrace the “corporate refugee paradigm” as a means of managing job loss as well as building resilience for future change.
“I feel brutalized by a company I loved,” laments the former eToys employee, “and I am afraid to go back into the workforce. This is like a bad breakup with a guy you really like, and then you never want to date again. I guess this is how you build the calluses.”