Losing one’s job is often one of the most traumatic events in any person’s life, and can have an immediate and devastating impact on one’s social, emotional, financial, and family life. Worst of all, it can make a person feel incompetent, angry, confused, and discouraged. These feelings usually lead to inaction – the failure to do anything but mope and feel sorry for one’s self.
This is understandable, especially when you consider how many aspects of our lives are tied up with our working life, even our own sense of personal identity and self esteem. To lose a job is equivalent, psychologically, to experiencing failure and abuse. The result is truly shock. Many of these feelings linger even after a person gets a new job. While there are no magical cures, there are some things you can do if you find yourself in this situation.
Having a combined experience as a clinical psychologist and career counselor, I have worked with literally thousands of individuals in this difficult situation. Here are 7 keys I have found that help people to get through it so that they will have the energy and confidence to take the actions needed in pursuing the next job.
1. Don’t keep it a secret.
Many people actually feel a sense of shame when they lose a job. They feel that others will think less of them and look down on them, so they seclude themselves and try to keep others from finding out. And, indeed, some people will not be supportive. But to get another job, you need support, advice, contacts, and similar opportunities. And most of those opportunities come from the people in your personal and work life.
2. Take a few days to get over the shock, and then GET ACTIVE LOOKING FOR A NEW JOB. DO NOT take an extended vacation.
Too many people feel that they have been through such a rough time that if they had a nice vacation it would help them relax, and then they’d be ready to confidently get into a job search. So they take – not days, but weeks and sometimes months – crucial time, and use it for an extended vacation. In the process, they use up precious resources – time and money – that are now simply lost. And guess what: When they come back, they find that they are in the same lousy position they were before the vacation. But now they have lost that precious time and money.
3. Don’t look back or dwell on the past.
The natural tendency is to think about why you lost your job, to get angry with others, to wonder what you did wrong. Just think of it this way your old company is no longer paying you to worry about them. Every minute you spend thinking about your old company and what happened is a minute robbed from your future. They’re no longer paying you for it. You are donating your time; you are literally giving them free consulting time.
4. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Get help from the professionals.
It’s worth the money to get job search coaching and a professional to help you write your résumé. Most job seekers try to do it all themselves. The average person writes two or maybe three résumés in their entire working life. I don’t say this to brag (because it’s part of my work), but I have written upwards of 10,000 résumés in my professional role as a career counselor. But most people would rather get their résumé and job search advice from a $20 book or a weekly newspaper column, rather than pay me or my colleagues for our time and expertise. We know what is effective and what isn’t. I have seen too many job seekers come to me after spending sometimes a year or more spinning their wheels before seeking the help that would make their job search successful.
5. Be proactive. Don’t wait.
Don’t let Parkinson’s Law determine your actions. Parkinson’s Law, as you may remember, states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. A person on a job search make day’s project out of writing one letter or making one phone. Don’t pamper yourself. Don’t wait to feel confident. Getting a job is a numbers game – the more potential employers you get in front of, the better your chances of getting a job. Do the things you need to do, no matter how you may feel.
6. Take the actions that will get you a job.
Don’t just do busywork and convince yourself that you are working hard to get a job. For example, what do you think is the most effective way to look for a job? Well, most of the research and opinions of the professions indicate that some form of personal contact (for example, personal networking, using recruiters or placement professionals, contacting your school) accounts for approximately 70% of new hires. On the other hand, the Internet accounts for (at best) maybe 10%, and probably below 5%. But guess how most job seekers spend their time? Right – on the Internet. Guess what they avoid most? Right – personal networking. Why? Because sitting at your computer is a lot easier and a lot more pleasant than personal networking.
7. Keep your focus on how you can make a difference to a potential employer.
Too many people who lose their jobs also lose the feeling that they make a difference that their work counts for something. Without knowing or being aware of how you add value to an organization’s success, you can easily drift into feelings of apathy and uselessness. At the point you have lost your job, it is too easy to focus on weaknesses, failure, and rejection. Instead, focus on your strengths and your value.
By Dr. Sander Marcus
Sander Marcus, Ph.D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Certified Professional Resume Writer in Chicago. He has over 3 decades of experience in providing career counseling, aptitude testing, job search coaching, and resume writing to tens of thousands of individuals. He is the co-author of 2 books on academic underachievement, various tests, and numerous articles. He can be contacted here
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