I am not a therapist. I am a career transition expert who works with professionals after they have experienced a perfect storm of icky stuff in their lives, including job loss, health diagnosis, death in the family, divorce, bad business breakup, or financial collapse – often several of these at once.*
Any one of these life events is disrupting, but when you experience multiple crises simultaneously, it knocks the wind out of you and you see stars.
Often, stress, anxiety, and depression are present as well, which is how I gained my knowledge of how to help professionals through these difficult emotions and situations.
Generally, people don’t call me when things are going well. There are free and inexpensive resources available for professionals who are not in extreme distress.
Many of my clients are already working with therapists before they come to me. They may have a history of anxiety and/or depression, or they may be experiencing it because of their current situation.
During the 12 years I have been doing this work, there have been several times that a client has asked me to talk with their therapist to coordinate support for them.
Divorce and necessary career transition
In one situation, my client had diagnosed clinical depression and anxiety and was working with both a therapist and a psychiatrist for medication. His 20-year marriage was crumbling and having been a freelancer for most of his career, he needed to get a corporate job for the first time in almost that long.
In short, he needed real help and support.
In our sessions together, he would often say I was making many of the same suggestions his therapist had. At a particularly rough patch when he was frequently considering suicide, he asked if I would be willing to talk directly with his therapist.
He filled out the appropriate paperwork and his therapist and I had a productive conversation and mapped out a plan to give him the emotional support and job search strategies he needed to get him the right job for his current needs.
I am pleased to say he got through his crisis and accepted a job with a good title at a salary he was thrilled with.
Once he was in the job, we needed to support him in navigating corporate life and working through impostor syndrome, but that was much easier than the dark days.
Layoff after two decades of service
I had another client who was referred to me by her therapist. She was experiencing very low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression as a result of being laid off. She had been with the company for her whole career, more than 20 years.
Hers was one of those stories we love to hear: the dedicated professional who works her way up from executive assistant to vice president. She loved her work and it was a huge part of her identity. Her company had a major reorganization, the new executive team wanted to bring in their own people, and she was unceremoniously shown the door.
She was devastated.
Really, really angry.
She felt she had given everything to her work and to the company. How could this happen?
Would she be able to get a new job at her age?
Would she be able to be successful at another organization?
Her therapist could help her with the anxiety and depression, but not the job search, which was a major contributor. That is why her therapist suggested she work with me.
Job loss and anxiety and depression
In my new book, This Isn’t Working! Evolving the Way We Work to Decrease Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, I say that anxiety and depression are a natural and expected part of career transition, even if a client has not generally experienced much of this in the past.
Few things will send you into fear and scarcity faster than losing your income stream – whether you have money in the bank or not. I have found that even when clients have savings and receive a good severance package, they still shut down and feel like they can’t spend anything on themselves or my services.
In addition, if someone’s identity is tied closely to performing a specific job function at a specific company, they may not feel like they even know who they are when they lose their job. Their self-esteem may take a big hit. They may feel unemployable, even if they have been employed consecutively since college.
As an experienced career transition expert, I can help clients untangle some of this from the job search side. Working with clients to map a plan for their job search strategy and networking outreach can help alleviate some anxiety because they can see a path forward and envision a positive outcome.
However, a therapist is specifically trained in helping people with anxiety and depression, especially if the person has been experiencing this since childhood. That is their lane, not mine.
Therapists should partner with career coaches
Mass layoffs happen so frequently that we barely even notice them in our news feeds, unless someone close to us was impacted. What I can tell you is that even if the professional is actually relieved, it is still stressful and frequently devastating to experience job loss.
If it’s the first time, the professional may feel completely untethered and lost. They may beat themselves up for how they are feeling, assuming they should be able to roll with the punches.
No. Job loss is really hard and professionals should get whatever help they need – friends, family, career coaches, therapists, and so on.
And working through workplace trauma, including bullying and toxic work environments, is another situation where the therapist could address the emotional trauma and the career coach could identify strategies to make the job more tolerable, or help with exiting the company and finding a new job.
I think there are many compelling reasons for therapists and career coaches to partner. I strongly believe that it would positively impact outcomes and improve our communities.
If you are interested in discussing this, I would love to connect and explore how we could work together.
*This post was originally published on the Mental Health Community blog here.