WHEN an organisation cuts jobs, it is a difficult task to manage — both for the employees who are being let go and the bosses who have to break the news to them.

The hard truth is that many people will have to experience this at least once in their working lives as companies restructure their business and human capital deployment in reaction to the constantly changing social and business landscapes.

People react to job loss in very different ways. In extreme cases, some spiral downwards into deep depression.

On the other end of the spectrum, others are quite happy to exchange their job for a windfall in the form of a generous severance package.

Most of those who experience retrenchment, however, typically go through an emotional upheaval that can begin with denial and end with acceptance. The duration of this cycle can vary widely.

Over the past 18 years and more, I have supported the career transition, or outplacement, of hundreds of individuals.

A recent client, whom I shall refer to as Mr Chan, lost his job as a regional manager in a pharmaceuticals company due to a restructuring exercise.

In helping Mr Chan manage his job loss and discussing the process of moving on in this article, hopefully those who have similarly lost their jobs will be able to learn some lessons from his experience.


It can happen to anyone

Even before he was retrenched, Mr Chan, 56, was familiar with the upheavals that happen when changes take place in the business environment.

In an earlier restructuring exercise, he was promoted to regional head of supply chain at his company after it was bought over by a competitor.

Then, three years ago, the company was acquired by a European pharmaceuticals company and, this time, Mr Chan was not so lucky.

After the ensuing restructuring exercise in April this year, he was asked to leave the company.


Expect to feel angry, worried and betrayed

In describing his feelings when he was told the news about his retrenchment, Mr Chan’s reaction was typical.

He said: “The first thought that came to my mind was ‘Why me?’

“I felt unfairly treated. I panicked and was worried about what I was going to do at my age. At 56, it would be very difficult to get a job.”

Like many employees, Mr Chan had not updated his resumé regularly — in fact, he had not done so for the past 17 years.


Do three key things in the first 48 hours

Mr Chan had a discussion with his family and established a job search and a financial plan. His family was very supportive and understood that job loss was a common occurrence in today’s business world.

He contacted his ex-boss and former colleagues, and called up friends and asked for help to look out for job opportunities.

It is a fact that many people find jobs through their network.


Plan the process of moving ahead

Once the feelings of denial and shock begin to fade, the next phase for people who have lost their jobs is acceptance. They are ready to start the process of moving on.

In Mr Chan’s case, it took him one week to regain his composure. He made the decision to think positively — that this period of “freedom” was a great opportunity to do the things he never had time for when he was employed.

He was intent on reducing his stress level and being happy.


Article by Paul Heng, founder/managing director and executive coach of NeXT Career Consulting Group, Asia. For more information, visit www.nextcareer.net