Stephen Ministry Job Loss and Transformation Training Session Outline

St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church

Stephen Ministry Training Session Outline

Presenter: Gary Hunt


To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to die; and a time to heal; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)


  1. Grieving the loss of a job is normal
  2. Understanding the process of grieving is the first step in renewal
  3. Renewal is the first step in transformation
  4. Transformation is a time to dance.

Grieving the Loss of a Job is Normal

Class Exercise: (break in pairs to discuss each question-keep it short 5min per person)

Do you remember your first job?

  • How did that job make you feel?
  • What do you remember most fondly about it?
  • Are your memories more positive or negative?

Think back about your BEST job

  • Why was it so good?
  • What did you bring to that job?
  • Do you find yourself measuring all other jobs against this one?

Did you ever lose a job suddenly?

  • What were your feelings?
  • How did that job loss affect your self confidence?
  • How dies that job loss affect the way you think about work today?

Did you find a shared experience in your stories? Chances are good that many people will have common experiences of fond memories about a first job, and great pride in our best job, and a profound grieving experience over the loss of a job.  All of these feelings are normal. But what is not always common is how we deal with these experiences.

Understanding the Process of Grieving

When you leave a job suddenly, like other traumatic life events, you go through a normal and progressive process of transition. If you understand the grieving process taking place and what to expect at each stage it is less frightening and, eventually, healthy and restorative even if it does not feel that way at the time.

The stages of grieving a job loss are:

1. SHOCK! How could this be happening to me? You feel hit up side the head. Your mind spins with a thousand thoughts at once and even if you are calm on the outside volatility and uncertainty are the controlling factors in your head, heart and stomach. This stage isn’t always that long but it is painful. You know intellectually what is happening, but often feel numb and keep replaying the event over and over in your head.

2. ANGER! Once the reality of what has happened settles in you move to the next stage of the transition—the fine art of being really ‘pissed off’. I use this coarse phrase deliberately to provide all the in-your-face impact that the real life experience brings to us.  During this stage you practice all those little speeches you wish you had had the good sense to blurt out at that moment to let the offending parties have it right between the eyes.

To be honest, this stage has the most potential for fun. Take your list of people and ‘blessed them out royally’ in your head.  Let them have it with both barrels. This is a time to savor. Blessing people out in your head is wonderful therapy.  Do not rush this stage of the process. Let is wash over you. Wallow in the opportunity to rant and rave and vent your frustrations. It is cleansing. It is healthy. It clears your mind of baggage. Get it off your chest and put it behind you. That is the lesson. If you don’t, it will nag at you, distract you, and, prevent you from looking forward constructively.  This stage may take several weeks. I’m not sure whether I just ran out of things to rant about or whether the pull to the next stage started to get stronger for me and my ranting was less satisfying. My wife kept asking, “are you over being pissed off yet?” There is nothing quite so lovingly effective as having your spouse tell you to quit feeling sorry for yourself and get to work on those honey-do chores you may as well get done while you sit around here fussing and moaning.

3. ACCEPTANCE. This stage of the transition is the beginning of your journey back to the peak. You will wake up in the morning and be at peace. You know, I did a really good job at [insert last employer here], and I have no regrets. I am proud of the products we built. I am proud of the people who worked so hard in our team. I have made professional friendships that are lasting and meaningful. [insert name of last employer again] still suks. But, you know what, THAT is no longer my problem. FREEDOM! PEACE! ACCEPTANCE! Trust me you will know when you have arrived at this stage. It is almost as good as sex.

4. TRANSFORMING THE FUTURE. Even though I took a little while to savor acceptance, I still had a few minor rants left which were provoked by communications with my former employer over severance or failing to get any response from resumes sent, but mostly acceptance enabled me to look forward.

Renewal is the First Step toward Transformation

A funny thing happens on the way out of the Anger Stage but before we get to the Transformation stage of this transition. We feel the need to get our resume out and start interviewing for that next job ASAP.  This happens in the transition between stages almost before we are ready for it. In truth it helps push you out of the anger stage and cuts short the savoring acceptance you enjoy. You realize you have to get your act together.  So typically you start polishing your resume and applying for jobs.  This is where you start running into road blocks.

  • The Resume. Writing a resume is not what it used to be.  Today it is electronic.  It is designed to be read by machine not human.  You must learn the new language of key word recognition and specification matching.  You post it online and you wait,—and wait—and wait.
  • Networking. We all have colleagues from our work experiences.  Reaching out to them can be one of the most effective ways to land a new job.  But it forces you to re-tell—over and over—why you are looking for a new job.  There is a whole new language involved in being open, succinct, positive and future oriented to be successful in networking.  It is both a science and art and there is a lot of online resource help with it.
  • Interviewing. In today’s economy getting to interview can be a long time coming, but it will happen if you learn to navigate machine read resume systems and get your credentials in front of the right person at the right time.  In a down market there are many candidates in an employers market.  The secret to a good interview is focusing on the future not the past.  Be positive, honest, and say nothing bad about former employers.  Show how your skills and experience add value meet to the firm’s needs.

  • WAIT!  WAIT!  I’m Not Ready Yet to Interview. When you start to interview that you may not be ready to do it skillfully and confidently at first.  Why did you leave your last job?  You seem overqualified for the job?  Will you accept a lower salary? These are questions you must anticipate.  While interviewing experience is good, be choosey and don’t act desperate even if some days you feel that way.  More often than not, a good interview will boost your ego and keep you focused on the future.  You want to have a “damn, I’m good feeling” feeling from an interview.  When you do, you are on your way to transformation—and it will show!

Transformation is a Time to Dance

What do you want to be when you grow up? Losing a job is painful.  Finding another job is hard.  Finding the right new job is priceless.  Think of it as your full-time job and do your homework to get the best result.  This is time to take stock and re-think career goals, family needs, and your dreams.

  • Do you know that the period of greatest entrepreneurial start-up of new business is in the trough of a market downturn?
  • Remember, most people have several different career paths during their working life—most of which were “stumbled upon” during transitions.
  • Thomas Edison once said he learned nothing from his successes; it was his failures that turned on his best ideas.

The process of defining the future is a clean sheet of paper to make of it as you will.  Sometimes that liberation is frightening and uncertain.  Sometimes it offers a once in a lifetime opportunity.  You can make it your best friend or your worst nightmare.  Just don’t waste it.

How Can a Stephen Minister help?

  • Be a good listener.
  • Help your care receiver thru the stages of transition and how to use them.
  • Use transition stages to help the care receiver assess progress.
  • Anticipate “road blocks” in the stages ahead.
  • Help caregiver frame the situation and guide the support he needs.
  • Create a safe harbor so your care receiver can dream about the future

The Problem with men!

  • We never ask for directions or help.
  • We often have few close male friends we talk to, so we internalize feelings
  • We often get to where we’re going by trial and error.
  • We invest our self-worth in our jobs and see job loss as personal failure.
  • We are competitive and fear falling behind our peers or loss of status.
  • We don’t talk about our feelings or rarely join support groups.
  • Did I mention, we are reluctant to ask for help?

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