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Posti: Put a positive spin on losing your position

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Sunday, May 6, 2012, 10:10 a.m.

Barry was a talented and likeable facilities manager who had been downsized. Two months later, he had made almost no progress toward finding work.

He was slow to create a resume and reluctant to respond to job postings. He had not talked with anyone in his network of contacts, nor had he been invited to a single interview.

What was holding Barry back? A weak resume? The economy? Lack of relevant experience? It was a much more powerful and insidious obstacle: shame.

It is a common challenge for job-seekers, and people rarely talk about it. Losing his job caused Barry to feel worthless, humiliated and rejected. He couldn't muster the strength to phone a friend.

If you are unemployed, this discussion may be resonating. To move beyond it, analyze your former employment situation. Determine whether your termination was, as they often say in the termination meeting, entirely a "business decision" that is "totally unrelated to your job performance."

Was your whole department outsourced to another country? Were you part of the layer of management that was wiped out? Were you performing a function that no longer was needed or was being shifted to another department?

Or, could it be that you were lumped into the downsized group because some aspect of your job performance or workplace behavior was not up to snuff?

In Barry's case, he had to acknowledge that one of the reasons he was chosen was that he was known as the office gossip, which contributed to negativity and loss of productivity around him.

Often, however, a termination is wholly unrelated to an employee's behavior or performance. Even then, some still hold onto the shame of losing their job.

To get beyond that, first be honest with yourself about what was or was not your fault. If you see that your behavior or performance was lacking in some way, resolve to change or improve it now, and put the past behind.

Then make a list of everything that's good about you: accomplishments, working relationships, education, unique capabilities -- everything you can imagine that is positive. Read the list out loud to reinforce its power over your thinking. You will see that you have great worth.

Whether or not your behavior contributed to the termination decision, you need to forgive yourself. Look around: no one else is wagging their finger at you. In fact, most people don't know or don't care that you lost your job. Once you realize that, you are free to let go.

If you know someone who is in this crippling state, be an encourager. Regularly reinforce the many good traits, capabilities and accomplishments this person can offer an employer. Focus on the good things going on in the economy and job market. And simply listen to the person. He or she needs a understanding ear.

As for Barry, he finally worked through his problem and picked up the phone to call a friend. Barry said the conversation was actually enjoyable, so that led to another call, and another. Before long, he found two job opportunities.

He was interviewed for both, and is anticipating an offer from one or both. He says it is a "shame" it took him so long to figure things out.

Chris Posti heads Posti & Associates, a coaching, outplacement and consulting firm in Pittsburgh. Email your questions to her at

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