Money woes. A sense of rejection. Questions and pressure from family and friends. An uncertain future.
If you’ve recently lost your job, or are afraid that it’s about to happen, this dismal laundry list is all too familiar. And while being forced into unemployment is never easy, the fact that it’s happened in the middle of a terrible recession rife with lay-offs really amps up the stress.
That’s why, according to Richard Bayer, it’s crucial to take care of your mental health. And, if you do the right stress-busting exercises, you’ll also improve your odds of finding a job.
“There are few experiences in modern life more stressful than losing a job, even if the job wasn’t a very good one,” said Bayer, who is chief operating officer of The Five O’Clock Club (www.fiveoclockclub.com), a career coaching network, and author of The Good Person Guidebook: Transforming Your Personal Life.
“It’s all too easy to convince yourself that you’ll never find another one. And besides being a terribly depressing mindset, it can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Here are a few suggestions from The Five O’Clock Club that will help you push through your job hunt stress.
- Realize it’s okay to be “between jobs.” When you have a job it’s easy to tell the world what you do. But when you don’t have a job, explaining what you did becomes a dreaded question. People often resort to a euphemism, “I’m between jobs.” Ironically, many folks don’t really believe they’re between jobs, even though it is absolutely the truth.
“You must learn to ignore the inner voice that in your darkest moments says, ‘I’ll never get a good job again,’” said Bayer. “When you tell people, ‘I’m between jobs,’ you assume they believe you. Believe it yourself. Even if you’ve just been turned down for three jobs, remind yourself that you got three interviews and you can get three more.”
- Stay in touch with colleagues and friends from your former workplace. Of course people don’t stop being friends with people with whom they used to work. But when you’re unemployed, that daily camaraderie is gone. “Let’s get together for drinks one of these days” is now the reality instead of seeing Mark or Helen at the next desk every day.
“That’s why it’s so important that you stay in touch with your work friends,” he says. “Number one, if you lost your job as the result of a layoff, they are probably stressed and worried about keeping their own job; or if they got laid off too, they’re as worried about finding a new one as you are. In either case, they might need a friend like you with whom to talk. Also, having worked with you, they’ll be able to provide you with some positive reinforcement on your down days and remind you of your past achievements.”
- Treat your job search like a job. After many years of catching the 7:35 train or driving the morning commute and putting in eight- or 10-hour days, the lack of that routine can be disorienting. When people are robbed of such routines, they can feel that they’ve been cut loose.
“The best way to overcome the shell shock of losing your daily routine is to create a new one,” said Bayer. “If you’ve been laid off, treat your job search as your new job. After all, between the résumé updating, scanning want ads, and networking, there’s plenty to be done.”
- Exercise regularly and keep a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical exercise and a healthy diet help to reduce tension and stress. If your former routine involved going to the gym and you can still afford it, keep going.
- Despite the worries, take time to enjoy the change of pace. Being freed from the 9-to-5 grind means you finally have time to slow down and take stock of what you really want to achieve in your life. Unemployment can be a time to think about your life and plot course corrections.
- Stay away from negative news and naysayers. Even in good economic times, you don’t have to go far to find negative news about the world’s situation. During a recession, it’s in your face 24/7. If you’re in the job market and are having trouble keeping up your own morale, stay away from the news, especially headlines about massive layoffs and the high unemployment rate.
“In the same vein, stay away from the naysayers, whether they be friends, family, or otherwise, who only reinforce the negative news available to you in your paper and on TV,” said Bayer. “Your ability to stay positive will be a huge factor in maintaining your mental well-being during your job hunt.”
- If you need to vent, vent. If you’re angry, frustrated, feeling betrayed, find people to talk to about what has happened. But remember, there’s only so much your family wants to hear, so it’s best you find a support group where you can discuss your problems with people who are feeling the same pains.
- Look at your unemployment as a business problem. When you had bad days at work, you analyzed whatever problem was plaguing you, marshaled resources and people, and came up with solutions. In the wake of job loss, your emotions — your hurt or anger — might be blocking this kind of response. But a great way to overcome that is to think of getting hired again as a business problem.
You’ve rarely been stumped before, why now? Set your objective: To find a satisfying job that pays the bills. And develop your business strategy for achieving it. Track down the people who are in a position to hire you, position yourself appropriately, offer proposals to meet their needs, and turn interviews into offers. Remember, attitude alone won’t get you there, but if you make sure you are using the right job-search techniques, after a while your unemployment business problem will be solved.
- Celebrate short-term successes. When you get up in the morning, don’t grumble to yourself, “I’m looking for a job again today.” Rather, set up some achievable goals for the day so that you end it with a sense of accomplishment. Write five more targeted letters. Identify 10 more companies to contact.
Make 10 follow-up telephone calls. Set up one or two networking meetings. Just being able to cross these goals off your list at the end of the day is a good feeling. And, of course, they often lead to something even better.
“Some of the activities will pay off — you land a meeting, you get suggestions on good companies and people to contact,” said Bayer. “These are the short-term successes that feed good morale.”
- Keep on top of your game. Just because you don’t go to the office from 9 to 5 like you used to do that’s no excuse to let your skills and knowledge slip. There’s no better time than a job search to make sure you stay current and sharp. Use some of your time to catch up on reading journals and attending meetings of your professional associations. This might also be a good time to volunteer for an association committee in your industry or to help a friend in that person’s business.
“You might consider using the time to take a continuing education course, one that you could never find the time for when you were employed,” said Bayer. “That can be a great selling point when you’re interviewing. Temping or consulting may also help you stay current, and of course, the cash it brings in can help you stay calm and focused. It’s also a great networking opportunity, and if you are successful wherever you end up, you may be offered a permanent paying position.”
- Have fun. You might be laughing at that suggestion. But in the same way that you get burnt out on your job after working non-stop for a month or two, you can get burnt out on your job search. Make yourself walk away from it from time-to-time.
“If you stay positive and make ‘I will persevere’ your motto, you will land a great job, sooner or later,” promised Bayer. “You are employable and this time of transition is exactly that — a transition. Besides, living in a place of hope just feels better than living in a place of despair. Always choose hope. You’ll get to where you want to go just as fast, and the journey will be far more rewarding.”
*** Dottie DeHart is the president of DeHart & Company Public Relations in Hickory, N.C. Her email is DeHartDottie@aol.com
This article is from NPT Weekly, a publication of The NonProfit Times.
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