Accepting Help After a Job Loss

Q. I got laid off two weeks ago and I am getting calls from my former colleagues asking how I am and inviting me out to lunch, dinner or drinks. I do appreciate them, and their intentions are good, but this is all too much too soon. I need a break. I don’t want to burn bridges, or get anyone mad at me, but how can I ask them to back off for a while? I know I’ll need their help. Just not today.

A. Even though we read about layoffs, plant closings and downsizing every day, job loss is no less traumatic to the person impacted. Most people know people who have lost their jobs, are related to people who have been impacted or have been through job loss and job search themselves.

Employees just starting their careers and those with over twenty years experience can be impacted by job loss; the reactions vary, but many will mirror the stages of grief. The stages can include anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance, and people travel through these stages at their own pace.

Your former colleagues are trying to be supportive, and only you can guide them to provide what you need and when. Some people look to their former colleagues for emotional support, while others seek support from their immediate family, an EAP (Employee Assistance program), outplacement consultant, religious leaders, therapist, or a combination of these.
Having people offer you their support is an enviable position to be in. These people are checking in to make sure you are OK and to offer whatever they can. You can let them know that they are great, and that you want to stay in touch, but your focus and timing are different right now. Rejecting them, as you know is not what you want to do, but based on your own needs, you need to delay.
You might say, “You are the best, and I appreciate the invitations and support. I will take you up on these great offers, just not right now. Let me think about my job search, and the help I know you can offer, and I’ll get back to you so we can get together. I absolutely want to have you help me celebrate when I get a new job.”
You may also decide that there is one person from the group that you are closest to, who can communicate that you are OK and will be in touch with your other colleagues. Just don’t believe you can go through this process alone.
Make sure you are communicating with someone and can talk about the impact the job loss has had. You’ll need to maintain your physical and emotional health to have the energy needed for a successful job search.
There are people who are thrilled to be laid off. Perhaps they had been looking for a job, or were unhappy and needed the impetus to move on. Others welcome the financial package and have more flexibility regarding their employment.
-Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners
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