A friend recently shared with me how her husband fell into yearlong depression after he was laid off from his finance job during the global economic meltdown in late 2008. He’d worked hard all his life, thrived on the pressures and challenges of his work, and enjoyed the money he earned. Becoming unemployed for the first time in his life in his midforties was a huge kick in the gut, and one he didn’t cope with very well.
There’s no two ways about it: Losing your job is hard. Whether it has everything to do with your performance, or nothing at all, it’s still hard. However, if you look at job loss, like any setback from an enlarged perspective, you realize that success in life is measured far less by our opportunities than by how we respond to life’s setbacks and challenges.
The story of my friend’s husband one I’ve heard many times. The challenge people in that situation face is in how they handle not only the loss of their job, but the many emotions that it can arise. These range from a sense of humiliation, failure and vulnerability, to anxiety, resentment, and self-pity. Sure, losing your job can be a blow to your back pocket, but it’s often an even bigger blow to your ego and self worth.
Over the last few years millions of people have found themselves involuntarily out of work—too often through no fault of their own. This year, many will again. But whether the reason you lost your job has everything to do with your perceived performance, or absolutely nothing, it’s how you respond in the wake of it that will set you apart from others when it comes to finding a new job. When it comes to a successful job hunt, attitude is everything. A proactive and positive mindset will differentiate you from the masses, making all the difference in how “lucky” you get in an unlucky economy. It will even determine whether you one day look back on this time with some measure of gratitude for what you gained from it—whether it was the chance to re-evaluate your life, spend extra time with your family, teach your kids about budgeting, or to simply re-affirm what matters most.
Confucius said that our natures are alike (i.e. no one likes being sacked), it’s our habits are that separate us. Below are 7 habits to separate yourself from the pack, move your job application to the top of the pile, and land yourself not only back into a job, but perhaps an even better one than before.
It’s easy to get stuck in the past and what shoulda-woulda-coulda happened, but didn’t. Doing so only perpetuates destructive emotions that fuel anger, self-pity and powerlessness. Focus on the future, and on what you need to do to set yourself up as well as possible on the job front,in how you are budgeting your money, and in your relationship with those who can help you find a new job. What you focus on expands, so focus on what you want, not on what you don’t.
2/ Don’t let your job status you.
Sure, losing your job is a very personal experience, but don’t take it too personally. Who you are is not what you do. Never was. Never will be. Research by psychologist Marty Seligman found that the biggest determinant between those who succeed after setbacks of any kind is how they interpret them. People who interpret losing their job as a sign of personal inadequacy or failure are less likely to ‘get back on the horse’ in their job hunt than those who interpret it as an unfortunate circumstance that provided a valuable opportunity to grow in self-awareness, re-evaluate priorities and build resilience. You get to define who you are, not your job or a company’s decision whether or not to employ you. Don’t take it as a personal rejection against you. It may well be due to economic forces far beyond your control that you found yourself out of a job. Potential employers will be more attracted to people who have proven their ability to stay positive and confident despite a setback/job loss.
3/ Prioritize self-care.
When you’ve lost your job it is all too easy plant yourself on the couch, remote in one hand, beer or bag of chips in the other, and wallow in self-pity. Many do! But mental and emotional resilience requires physical resilience. So be intentional about taking care of YOU and doing whatever it takes to feel strong and fit. (After all, you now have no excuse that you don’t have time for exercise!) Studies have found that exercise increases stress resilience – it produces neurons that are less responsive to stress hormones. Get outdoors, go for a run, do some gardening, or just do something that lifts your spirits – whether building your kids a cubby house or taking your dog to the beach – and helps to shift the negative emotions that have the potential to keep you from being proactive in your job hunt.