3 ways to deal with the fear of losing a job


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A pandemic, war in Europe and a looming recession: It feels like it’s just one crisis after another these past few years. And with rising food prices and energy costs, it’s a particularly bad time to be unemployed. So, it’s little wonder that people are increasingly worried about losing their jobs.

But what can you do to counter this fear – and what can help if worse comes to worst?

Things can become difficult when the fear of a possible job loss leads to a negative spiral – and paralyses you. In order to prevent this, it’s best to first deal with what you are actually afraid of.

Christiane Karsch, a coach for professional reorientation, advises asking yourself the following questions: “What exactly triggers the fear in me? What is it that frightens me? Is the fear well-founded or unfounded?”

By clarifying these questions for yourself, you can reduce the size of the fear – and limit its scope.

Reflect on your strengths

It is also helpful to remember how you have mastered past crises, says Antonio Arra, head of the Vocational Psychology Service of Germany’s Federal Employment Agency in Potsdam, Germany. In this way, you can become more aware of your skills and strengths. And from that, you can ask yourself, “How can these strengths help me keep anxiety at bay?”

Reflecting on one’s own skills can also help cushion the blow to your self-esteem when losing a job. And you can shift to building on your own strengths.

Business psychologist Andreas Hemsing also advises creating a sense of achievement outside of work – for example, playing sports or spending time with friends and family.

“It’s important to seek counter-stability there,” says Hemsing. That can include volunteering locally or finding a new hobby.

“The loss of a job and thus of this frame of orientation often also throws the basic structures of life into disarray,” says Hemsing.

A meaningful task and establishing new routines can counteract the fear of losing one’s job and lead to experiencing self-efficacy.

“The workplace is a source of self-worth,” says Uwe Kanning, professor of business psychology at Osnabruck University of Applied Sciences, in Germany. And this is what needs to be built up outside of work.

Seek support from outside

If you realise that your fear of losing your job is well-founded, however, you should do something about it.

“The key is to take action,” advises Hemsing. That can mean updating your resume or starting to explore alternative job opportunities. You can also try to talk with your employer or colleagues, and also explore possibilities for an internal transfer to another job at the same company.

It’s also worth seeking external support ahead of time.

“If unemployment is imminent or has occurred, don’t stay alone with the fear, but seek people to talk things over,” Arra recommends. This can be friends and family who can provide emotional support and offer a change of perspective. And it is also via acquaintances that you can learn out a potential new job. But you can also contact the employment agency directly to assess your own chances on the job market.

Arra advises clarifying the following questions: “What professional skills do I have? What does the job market look like for me? Is this an opportunity to reorient myself professionally?”

In this way, the crisis can also be seen as an opportunity for professional development.

“One characteristic of fear is that it narrows your focus. By seeking advice, for example at the employment agency, and learning about opportunities, the focus is broadened again,” says Arra.

Give yourself a brief pause

Last but not least, you should deal with the details of your employment contract, the notice period, for example. Or the amount of unemployment benefit that can be expected in the event of a job termination. Then there is also the question of when you need to register as unemployed? It may also be worth seeking legal advice.

If you do end up losing your job, however, you should take some time to actually reflect about what happened.

Then, according to Karsch, you could think about the actual reason for the job loss: Is it due to your own mistakes or did the termination have external reasons?

“If you didn’t contribute to it, it shouldn’t undermine your self-worth,” says Kanning from Osnabruck University of Applied Sciences.

If you did, it could be the start of a professional reorientation.

In any case, even then you should be careful not to wallow in self-pity.

“After a sudden unemployment, you can allow yourself a short time to pause,” says Arra. “But the important thing is to then get active again.” – dpa/Charlotte Ruble

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