If you’ve lost a job, it’s normal to feel hurt, vulnerable, or angry. But there are many things you can do to take control of the situation and boost your spirits. You can get through this tough time by taking care of yourself, reaching out to others, and rethinking your career goals to rediscover what truly makes you happy.
Our jobs are much more than just the way we make a living. They influence how we see ourselves, as well as the way others see us. Our career gives us structure, purpose, and meaning. That is why job loss and unemployment are among the most stressful events in our lives. But it’s important to get back on the corporate ladder and start the climb again. You may have to start on a middle rung—or in this economy, perhaps even toward the bottom—but you can certainly get back on.
First, create and maintain a positive mindset. When you’ve lost your job, it’s easy to start criticizing or blaming yourself. However, try to avoid putting yourself down. You’ll need your self-confidence intact as you start looking for a new job. Instead of dwelling on your job loss—how unfair it is; how poorly it was handled; things you could have done to prevent it; how much better life would be if it had not happened—try to accept the situation. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get on with the next phase of your life.
You are the master of your thoughts. Starting this minute, recognize that your thoughts are powerful. They can make or break you, elevate or demote you. Challenge every negative thought that goes through your head. Counteract them with positive affirmations. Engage in activities that make you laugh. Harness the power of optimism to springboard you to your desired goal.
Second, create a job search plan. Break big goals into small, manageable steps to avoid getting overwhelmed. Instead of trying to do everything at once, set priorities. If you’re not having luck in your job search, take some time to rethink your goals. Start by making a list of all the things you like about yourself including skills, personality traits, and accomplishments. Write down projects you are proud of, situations where you excelled, and things you are good at. Revisit this list often to remind yourself of your strengths.
Volunteer. Unemployment and job loss can wear on your self-esteem and make you feel useless. Volunteering helps you maintain a sense of value and purpose. And helping others is an instant mood booster. Volunteering can also provide career experience, social support, and networking opportunities.
Focus on the things you can control. You can’t control how quickly a prospective employer calls you back or whether they decide to hire you. Rather than wasting your precious energy on things that are out of your hands, turn your attention to things you can control during your unemployment, such as writing a great cover letter and résumé tailored to a company you want to work for and setting up meetings with your networking contacts. Think about how much better you’ll feel at the end of the day knowing that you took positive action.
Turn to people you trust for support. Share what you are going through with the people you love and trust. Ask for the support you need. Don’t try to shoulder the stress of job loss and unemployment alone. Your natural reaction may be to withdraw out of embarrassment and shame or to resist asking for help out of pride. But avoid the tendency to isolate! It will only make you feel worse.
Join or start a job search club. Other job seekers can be invaluable sources of encouragement, support, and job leads. Tap into this resource by joining or starting a job club. To find a job club in your area, check out your local public library, college and university career centers, professional networking sites, or the classifieds or career section of your local newspaper. Just being around other job seekers can be energizing and motivating, and it can help keep you on track during your job search.
Network, network, network. Whether you realize it or not, you are already networking every day and everywhere you go. Networking is nothing more than getting to know people. You’re networking when you strike up a conversation with the person next to you in line, introduce yourself to other parents at your child’s school, meet a friend of a friend, catch up with a former coworker, or stop to chat with your neighbor. Everyone you meet can potentially help you move your job search forward.
The vast majority of job openings are never advertised; they are filled by word of mouth. That’s why networking is the best way to find a job. Adopting a networking lifestyle—a lifestyle of connecting and helping others in good times and bad—will help you find the right job, make valuable connections in your chosen field, and stay focused and motivated during your job search.
Unfortunately, many job seekers are hesitant to network because they are afraid of being seen as pushy or self-serving. But networking is not about using other people or aggressively promoting yourself. It’s about building relationships. As you look for a new job, these relationships can provide much needed feedback, advice, and support.
Networking is most effective when you have specific employer targets and career goals. It’s hard to get leads with a generic “Let me know if you hear of anything” request. You may think that you’ll have better job luck if you leave yourself open to all the possibilities, but the reality is this openness creates a black hole that sucks all of the networking potential out of the connection.
Asking for specific information, leads, or an interview is much more focused and makes it easier for the networking source to help you. If you’re having trouble focusing your job search, you can initially turn to family members and close friends for help, but avoid contacting more distant people in your network until you have set clear goals.
Advance your skills. In order to stay on the cutting edge while you seek your next career opportunity, get training to fill in any skill gaps. Computer software applications change rapidly, and if you don’t stay “in the know,” your skill set will become obsolete. The changes may be minor, but they carry major implications if you are unaware. When I became unemployed, I was amazed to find out how much certain applications had changed, and I was clueless about how to navigate my way around the newer versions. I quickly corrected that by signing up for some online courses in the comfort of my home and very soon I was up to speed.
Your state of unemployment is a perfect time to sharpen your existing skills and gain new ones. This will help to increase your marketability and present you with new career choices. The competitiveness of the job market has set the stage for “only the strong survive.” Take courses at an accredited college or institution of higher learning to ensure that you are awarded a certificate of completion. Revise your résumé to show your updated skill.
Be prepared to make your case. Make no mistake: Corporate America is still a male-dominated arena. As women, even though we are talented and may possess the same skill sets and competencies as our male counterparts, we are often passed over for certain jobs. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to sharpen our presentation skills. If need be, hire a professional to help you retool your resume or coach you on your interviewing technique. Show prospective employers what you bring to the table. Be confident and bold.
Ladies, we can get back in the game; there is still light at the end of the tunnel. So brush off those traces of discouragement, tap into your inner strength, and arm yourself with the skills you need for your next career move.
I had to do the same and I was successful. Remember that it isn’t important where you start, but where you end. You can hop back on the corporate ladder again and climb high! DW
Sandra Bailey is a public speaker, life coach, and the author of Called to Worship: A Lifestyle of Praise and Overcoming Job Loss: A Spiritual Guide.