Of all the different career services I’ve provided over the years, the one service I only performed once, and vow to never do again, involved agreeing to serve as an “expert witness” during a divorce proceeding. Several years back, I was called in by an attorney to help prove that a woman’s husband was intentionally dragging his feet in seeking to find work, to reduce his future support payments, and needless to say it wasn’t a pleasant experience I plan to repeat.
On a related note, however, I’d estimate I encounter at least a dozen individuals each year who are dealing with the excruciating challenge of trying to find work either during the process of — or shortly after — a divorce. My heart really goes out to these folks, since it’s hard enough to search for employment without the added challenges, insecurities, and logistics that come into play when your marriage is ending, as well. In fact, according to most of the psychological articles I’ve perused, losing one’s job and ending one’s marriage both hold a “top 5” ranking among the toughest emotional challenges that a person might go through in their lifetime. So if one of these challenges is hard enough, on its own, you’ve certainly got to have some sympathy for anybody who is being forced to deal with both challenges, simultaneously!
And yet, I’ve seen very little in the way of advice for people in these situations. It’s not a topic discussed frequently by the coaching industry, at large, and after doing a quick sweep on the topic, I was only able to turn up a handful of relevant articles — such as the three listed below:
As much as I think the above articles provide some useful guidelines to people in this situation, however, such as advising them to leverage their network and possibly pursue some new training or schooling, they don’t seem to touch on the key questions I find myself getting asked, most commonly, by people in these situations:
• Should I wait until my divorce is finalized before starting to look for work, given the emotional toll involved, or would you recommend I try to tackle both challenges simultaneously?
• Should I mention my divorce to employers when they ask why I’m looking for work or suddenly seeking to get back into the market? Or cite some other reason, instead?
• Do you have any good tips for keeping my confidence high during the process, since I’m really going through a roller-coaster, emotionally?
• Is this a good time to make a major career change, if I’ve been contemplating one, since I’m already in the process of changing many other important aspects of my life?
• Are there any specific resources, books, counselors, or communities focused on dealing with this unique challenge?
While I certainly have my own opinions on each of these questions, and do my best to provide clients with some useful thoughts around them, I’ll admit that this isn’t an area where I can claim extensive experience — or can relate to directly, on a personal front. So I’m throwing this article out there in the hopes that some of you might have some additional wisdom and counsel to offer related to handling career issues during a divorce scenario. Has anybody gone through this process successfully? Any thoughts, tips, or lessons learned you’d share in terms of how best to view and approach one’s career planning efforts, under these circumstances?
P.S. Additionally, if this article has reached anybody out there currently going through a dual divorce and job search scenario, and who might be interested in comparing notes with other folks facing the same challenge, please e-mail me here and let me know. I’ve got at least one client who said she’d be highly interested in chatting with other folks in this situation…