A study presented in Harvard Business Review (HBR) in April 2019 examined occupational trajectories following a job loss. Some people found a similar job and others changed fields. What factors explain these differences?
In our days, losing your job is no longer an exception. The arrival of new technologies, changing business models, globalization and increased performance requirements can lead to layoffs.
Depending on how ex-employees deal with this difficult time, their occupational trajectory can be radically different. This is reflected in the study by Professors Eliana Crosina and Michael G. Pratt.
Two different trajectories
The researchers studied the professional development of former employees of Lehman Brothers Bank after the institution’s bankruptcy in 2008. Some people found a similar job in a financial institution while other succeeded in completely different fields, even, in some cases, going into business.
The financial capacity, know-how or wealth of the professional network does not appear to have influenced these diverging directions. The two main paths seem to have arisen from the capacity of ex-employees to reflect on what matters the most for them in their previous work and to learn lessons.
According to the study, people who liked their jobs because of the corporate culture and the excellent relationships they had with their colleagues sought positions in the same type of company, with the same type of people. They replicated their work model.
Conversely, people who particularly liked the work because of the skills required of them sought to recreate these conditions, regardless of the field. They transferred their know-how elsewhere and explored new horizons.
Dealing with loss professionally
Regardless of their trajectory, both groups were able to bounce back because they did a good job of dealing with the loss. They stepped back and analyzed what was most important to them in their old job (skills, environment, relationships, etc.) and managed to let go of the rest, to accept not having control over certain elements.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, you may be trying to understand the reason for your job loss, but you need to focus on the aspects you liked about your old job. What elements do you want to replicate? What are you willing to let go? This analysis, consistent with your values, could be beneficial. In an interview, your motivation, decision-making ability and confidence will be more palpable, which are important elements for a recruiter.
Even though, in Quebec, the unemployment rate (5.3% at the beginning of 2019, according to Statistics Canada) increases your chances of quickly finding a job, the trauma of a job loss can remain for a long time. Don’t sweep it under the rug, deal with it by focusing on the positive aspects and use it as a springboard. Your professional life will be enriched.