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Losing Your Job in Middle Age

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Losing Your Job in Middle Age

Losing a job in midlife could either be a blessing in disguise or a significant life setback. If you are close to retirement and your company lets you go with a nice healthy redundancy package, this could be your ideal departure scenario.  Alternately, if you are only in your 40s or early 50s and a long way from retirement, the sudden loss of your family income stream can be devastating.

The most immediate impact is of course loss of income. Again the significance of this is dependent on your personal circumstances.  If you have young children and a mortgage then your expenses are invariably high, but if your children have already left home and you are empty nesters, your expenses is likely more manageable. Chances are at this stage of life you have  accumulated enough assets that you will not be eligible for any government unemployment benefits. And, even if you're lucky enough to score a redundancy payout it is likely that it will not see you through retirement. So, the first thing to do is to take stock of your financial position. Carefully weigh your remaining income stream, if any, against your monthly expenses. If there is a significant gap, then:

  • Assess what you can do to reduce your expenses, such as move children into less expensive schooling, sell assets such as the second of car, or investment property, or downsize to cheaper housing. With a little thought it is more than likely there are some actions you can take to reduce your expenses. Remember, this situation is not forever.
  • Work out how long you can sustain your situation with the savings you have in the bank. This will help determine the urgency in regaining your income stream. If you have sufficient assets to sustain your minimum lifestyle for some time, then the easiest thing to do is just keep looking for jobs in your chosen field, and ride out this "flat spot". But this may not be possible if you're savings can only support you for weeks or months. In this case taking any job may be better than none.


Physiological Effects

Losing your job can be difficult for a man to handle. Unhealthy feelings of embarrassment and shame can affect your self-worth. This coupled with the financial burden of losing your income stream can create enormous stress.  It is essential to identify when these stress levels are starting to build and make a conscious effort to manage them. Sustained mental stress will invariably lead to physical problems, such as high blood pressure, heart related issues, ulcers etc.   

A sudden loss of employment for the primary income earner can also put great strain on family and family relationships. Just be aware that not only you that is suffering with this situation, it will also affect your wife and children. This can be a difficult situation and needs to be managed to keep the family unit together.

It important to realise that in this day and age staying employed throughout your working life is no longer an expectation, as it may have been for our parents. This new world economy is volatile and unstable. There is no shame in losing a job!  Always try to be positive, and look at this as an opportunity for change, to do something you've always wanted to do.




What to do?

The worst thing you can do is nothing. Sitting around at home watching TV doesn't pay the bills and it's only going to allow the stress levels to build, and build, and build. Be aware of your feelings, which are something men are not inherently good at, but in life changing situations it is essential, and then try and manage stress as it develops.

Things you can do to manage stress are:

  • Undertake counselling sessions. Counselling no longer has the stigma it used to.  Spending some time with a trained professional counsellor talking through your issues can go a long way to keeping your thought processes clear and healthy. It is generally better to talk through your negative thoughts and feelings with somebody else other than your wife, as she too will be struggling with unemployment situation. And certainly friends don't need to be burdened with your problems.

  • Take up a hobby. Keeping active, more importantly keeping your mind active will go a long way in fighting off the stress demons. Job-hunting is not a really a full-time activity, and neither is gardening and cleaning the house.  It is important to fill your day with meaningful activities to prevent unhealthy thoughts creating stress.

  • Exercise. Whether you exercised independently of your employment, or whether your employment helped maintain your physical condition, is almost certain that being unemployed exposes you to less physical activity than you normally would do. It is extremely important to stay fit and healthy through the stressful times. This helps to not only manage your stress, but also to stay mentally active and prepared when your new job or career does eventually come along.






Regaining an Income Stream

Job Hunting

If the industry in which you worked is still buoyant there may be opportunity to regain employment in the chosen field. So it may just be a matter of keeping an eye on the job market until the right opportunity arises. Brush up your resume and get out there.

However, often a loss of employment comes with loss of opportunity. Employers often downsize and relinquish staff because of general industry conditions, which means there will be no real possibility for you to stay in the same or similar role, in the same industry, in the short to medium term. Some industry cycles (such as the resources industry) are measured in years or decades not months.  So it may not be wise to just wait for the phone to ring, or suitable jobs to start appearing on employment websites.  Unfortunately, it may take some time for you to realise this.



Ongoing training is essential these days to stay relevant in your own field, and short periods of unemployment can be a good opportunity to sharpen and improve your skills. However, when considering retraining for a completely different career path, particularly in midlife, needs to be thought through thoroughly. Most tertiary qualifications come at a high price, often tens of thousands of dollars in 1 to 2 years full-time study. Carefully consider the remaining potential working life you available and assess whether you would get any real benefit of late in life study.  A full-time course will also mean an committing to an extended period of time without an income, although there may be some government assistance to full-time student.


Transfer to another Industry

Certainly is you have developed some great skills in your career. Some of these may be readily transferable to another industry. If so give it a go. However careful thought needs to be given to how you restructure your resume. Job-hunting is very impersonal these days, and no matter how good you are if you can't get past the resume stage you don't have a chance. Consider using the services of companies specialising in developing professional resumes, particularly those people wanting to change career. This may cost a little bit give you a much better chance of getting past the resume reviewer.


 Start a Business

Even if you're not particularly business minded, more than likely some of the skills developed in your career to date have equipped you well enough to start and manage your own business. If you do choose start a business it is always better for it to be in area you have some interest and enjoy, so that you will commit wholeheartedly to making it a success. And of course there's the advantage of not having to work somebody else.  Your effort is your reward.

Starting a business is not necessarily expensive. Not all small businesses are bricks and mortar and hundreds of thousands of dollars of stock. The Internet offers a whole spectrum of new business opportunities with very little start-up cost. If you're a good writer either on technical subjects or general life you can easily start your own blog website. Once you have a reasonable level of traffic you can sell advertising space.  Alternately write short stories and sell your own e-book's online line. The opportunities are endless even for middle-aged people like us.

Whatever option you do choose, try to make the choice sooner rather than later. Its okay to mourn the loss of a career, but don't look back too long before you start looking forward. Life is now and in the future, not the past. Stay focused and you'll find another career. Remember, midlife means you only halfway there, you still got a long way to go, don't waste the rest.


Disclaimer: The content of this article and other articles on this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute professional advice. Please seek advice from a professional in the relevant field, in relation to any specific matter. Refer to the website Terms and Conditions. 


Disclaimer: The content of this article and other articles on this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute professional advice. Please seek advice from a professional in the relevant field, in relation to any specific matter. Refer to the website Terms and Conditions.



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