Stages of Grief – Job Loss

I thought everyone knew about the stages of grief.  When you lose someone you love, you go through five stages of grief.  Well, that’s the theory at least…

Some people go through five, some people skip a stage or two and some people get stuck in one stage and can’t seem to move on.

Why am I talking about this?  Because I see these same stages in people who have lost their job.

They are mourning and everyday I see and hear job candidates who are obviously in a “stage” and need to get through to the “acceptance” part because interviewing in any of the other stages is pointless.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross outlined the stages of grief for those facing their own death as:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

From a job interview perspective, this is what they look/sound like and why it’s not a good idea to go into an interview with any of these attitudes:

Denial – When asked why you left your last job.  The correct response is not – “I was laid off, but I’m sure they will call me back any day now.”

Why should I hire you, you’re not really looking for a job.  You expect to go back to your former employer.

Anger – You can guess where I’m going with this one.  The answer to why you left your last job should not include any four letter words or expressions that would tempt your grandmother to hand you a bar of soap to use to wash out your mouth.  Also any description of your former employer other than glowing is going to be perceived in a negative way.

Bargaining – I don’t see much of this one in the recruiting world.  I don’t doubt it goes on privately.  Most of what I’ve read and heard about the bargaining stage includes talking with a higher power.

Depression – Oh boy!  Nothing screams “don’t hire me” like someone dragging themselves into an interview, staring at their feet, hair not combed, clothing rumpled, mumbling answers to questions and even (yes, I’ve seen this) crying.

Acceptance – Why did you leave your last job?  The company hit a financial rough patch and had to let some people go.  Unfortunately, one of them was me.  But, I understand why they had to do it.   My time there was a great experience, but now I’m ready for a new and different challenge and am looking for my next great employer.

If you don’t recognize where you are emotionally, ask someone who knows you well.  I bet they can pick out a stage almost instantly.  They will have to be a true friend though because it’s a tough thing to tell someone and even tougher to hear.

I’ve seen people get stuck in Anger for years and not understand why they never get a job offer.  I’ve seen others go straight to the Acceptance stage the day after they’ve been laid off.  Everyone is different.  Don’t be too hard on yourself!