Where were you the day Lehman’s crashed?
I had spent a long day sequestered in an office building in London. Coming out into the dark evening, I was surprised to see a serious story in the free newspapers handed out at the entrances to the Tubes.
The 158 year old bank, Lehmans had declared bankruptcy and 10 000 financiers, bankers, clerks and support workers who arrived at work on the prestigious Canary Wharf were told they must cease trading and clean out their desks.
Our response to abrupt crisis
Abruptly losing your job and your livelihood is not a disaster but it is certainly a crisis. Some of Lehman’s employees may have taken the first plane out to a sunny beach, but most of them would have sat around the next day wondering what to do. The day after would have been a day of rumination. What went wrong? Could it have been avoided? Who is to blame? And, ultimately, what should they do to retain the same income, status and meaning in life.
Career coaches and people in career crisis
Many career coaches will see erstwhile employees from Lehman’s and may have seen some already.
Proxy career coaches in the form of doctors, bank managers and employment agents will see them sooner. What is the best advice that we can give Lehman employees and all others whose way of life comes to an abrupt, surprising and juddering stop?
What it feels like to be in a career crisis
The first thing we need to remember is being laid off is a rude shock. Having had no preparation for the event,
- Ex-employees do not know what to do
- Ex-employees panic
- Ex-employees want it to be ‘all OK right now!’
Our task as career coach
Ex-employees may have no experience or training in damage control. They may be have no experience in managing their own emotions and attention. This is our task if we are to help them succeed. We must help them to
- Regain emotional equilibrium
- See the solution
- Regain control
What we will achieve as a career coach
We are not, though, going to make it “all OK right now”. Our clients will want us too.
A year ago when Lehman’s crashed, even the pundits thought we might spring back to normal like a new elastic band. But, for most people, the early teens of the 21st century will be a time of enormous transition. A country with a GDP of 1.4tr cannot dole out 1.0tr without having to make some adjustment.
Yet there is a flip side to a bad situation. When your house has burnt down so to speak, there is little point in building one that is exactly like the one before. We build a better one.
Our challenge as a career coach
In the early stages, when our clients want everything to be OK, when they are in the first of the five stages of grief – denial – they will not want to work through the long hard slog of rebuilding. They will want everything to be bounce back. We have to work with them even though they are in no mood to work.
Helping them find any foothold as they work through their grief is important. Listen to them. But also help them keep moving. They have a lot of rebuilding to do and every small step will be important when they emerge from the emotional turmoil further along the line.
The career coaches that we need
Coaches who can do more than say “aha” are needed now. We need coaches who can help people take baby steps while they are overcome with emotion.
6 questions I ask professional career coaches
It is amazing that this is not taught on work psychology degree programmes. These are the first 6 questions that I ask professional career coaches.
- How do we work with people overcome by grief?
- What practical steps can any of us take when our career and life has fallen into an untidy heap?
- How long does it take to rebuild a career mid-stream?
- How soon can we introduce the idea of rebuilding a better career to a client overcome by grief?
- How many people really do rebuild a better career after such a disruption?
- What distinguishes those who begin that project from those who don’t?