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Divorce as a Career Driver: Positive outlook and experts’ comments

Psychologists warn that career breakdowns often occur after divorces. And no wonder. Going through a divorce or relationship breakdown can be one of the most stressful life events. Studies show that divorce is equivalent to 80 points on the 100-point stress scale. It is considered the second most stressful event after the death of the spouse. Divorce often affects the psyche even more than the imprisonment or death of a loved one.

Yet, for many, divorce becomes a good shake-up and career incentive. In April 2017, Bill Maisey, the Vice President of Marketing of a software development company in Auburn, divorced for the second time. The divorce was painful and messy. A week later, he had already taken up a permanent residence in Hong Kong aiming to run his own startup. “Now I spend 90% of my time on new acquaintances in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Seoul, as well as on meetings with startups, foundations, and officials,” said Bill Maisey. “To drown out the pain and longing, you choose to throw yourself into a new business.”

Anger for Acceleration

A recent survey conducted by OnlineDivorce shows that 59% of Americans try to relieve stress after a divorce by plunging headlong into work. 65% of respondents admitted that it was the breakup that prompted them to make good career changes. For example, to quit a job, change their approaches to work, go back to school, or make some other courageous career decision.

Bill Maisey believes that divorce has a positive effect on work: “It’s like boxing. When I get tired and lose concentration, my coach gently but offensively hits me on the head. It is very sobering, tones, and turns on. Because of anger and resentment, you often become more successful. There is no direct connection, but you notice that you begin to react faster, take on greater risks.”

Willing to Risk

Almost half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce or separation. Every 13 seconds, there is one divorce in the US.

Divorce deprives a person of their comfort and sense of security, but it can also exempt them from previous obligations, contracts, and doubts. For a career (and for an employer), this may seem a considerable advantage. According to information from Ava Miller, coach and business partner of the talent management system company, a person in this situation finds it easier to accept risky offers, long-distance business trips, and tasks that require higher levels of dedication. She states, “Not so long ago, one of our divorced candidates accepted an offer to work in Iraq. No one would have let him go there before, but now he’s the boss of himself.”

A Journey of Self-Discovery

Like any other type of severe stress, a breakup is always a journey of self-discovery or self improvement. Often, after a divorce, a person completely changes their field of professional activity. They become inspired to create, invent, and innovate. Arts and creativity are activities for which life experiences and bare emotions are most beneficial. If you decide to seek professional help, therapists will probably tell you a lot of stories about their clients who discovered their hidden talents, like art, dance, writing, or design, after a divorce.

Some such cases turn into real-life success stories that can inspire other divorcees to keep on pursuing their goals and be brave about facing a new life.

  • For example, Betty Graham, the typist, had to find a way to maintain herself and her children after her divorce. She was good at typing, but often made typos. Then Betty invented “liquid paper,” a correction fluid to correct what was typed. In 1978, she sold her corrector manufacturing company for $47 million (the equivalent of three billion in the current economy).

  • And what about Mary Kay? The unfortunate housewife and mother of three, abandoned by her husband. You probably have heard a lot about her.

  • Joanne Rowling began writing Harry Potter in cafes. After a divorce from her husband, she barely had enough money to feed herself and her child. There wasn’t even enough money left to heat the house during chilly winter evenings. We all know what happened next.

  • Famous writer Elizabeth Gilbert was depressed after her divorce. Her novel, Eat, Pray, Love, which is nothing more than her memoir and her own way of coping with a divorce and complicated feelings, lasted 187 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Beneficial Insensibility

Employers must respond appropriately to the divorces of their employees. According to information from Olivia Stone, head of the psychological service, it is difficult to predict where a person will throw himself – into work or hard-drinking, but there are still some patterns. Neurotic people are more at risk of alcohol abuse than those whose psychological type is closer to schizoid and narcissus. Stone states “The CEOs typically do not tend to fall into heavy drinking, but this often happens with the heads of sales departments or former military personnel.”

According to information from Ethan Scott, chief human resources officer, the superiors, whose employees are getting divorced, should not put too much focus on this by showing undue compassion. Such an action may have the opposite effect. Scott states “As a manager, don’t show a recently divorced employee some indulgence, but rather strive to take this situation beyond the business relationship. If the employee completely lost control of himself, calmly but seriously talk to him/her. Find out how long he or she needs to calm down and pull themselves together.”

A person often escapes from distressing events and emotions by devoting more time towards work and their career. According to information from Fred Kander, Gestalt therapist, and a divorce coach, this type of motivation is very beneficial for employers. But the stress of divorce combined with professional stress can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout. It is essential to leave time for yourself, your emotions, hobbies, and pleasant communication. This, in turn, will undoubtedly bring dividends in the career.

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