The first 30 days after a job loss will no doubt be filled with fear, anxiety and impatience. After all, the life you were living just changed instantly. You might hear experts talk of the typical advice they give to people who have lost their jobs, advising them to update their resumes, lean on their network of contacts and even start that hobby they always wanted to try. That's all good advice that works in theory and you should follow it. Here are some tips for getting you through some of the challenges of coping with a job loss that people won't necessarily tell you about.
1. Give yourself some real time to figure out your next step. That may mean weeks, not a few hours! Don't feel compelled to jump right back into the work force. You will feel some shock-the same way you would feel shock after any loss. Take some time to deal with that. When you are ready to jump back in, keep your options open. This might be a good time to explore a new field that you've always wanted to try but never had the time to, start a business, go back to school. Expand your horizons and don't limit your job search to where you live. The job you end up with may often surprise you and be different than what you set out to get.
2. The next job you take may be a transitional one. Whether it's full or part time, embrace it. Every experience is a valuable one and you never know where it may lead. It's OK to freelance or find part-time work to get some cash flow until you find the perfect new position. In fact, you may find that you don't need a full-time job as much as you thought you did to be happy and secure.
3. Look for companies, not jobs, and change the way you apply. Find companies with missions and values that you can get behind. Employers are much more interested in candidates who have a passion for the company that someone who is just looking for a paycheck. Remember, your resume and cover letter are not unique. With the huge number of layoffs today, there are likely to be many more people you have to compete against for a single position. You have to find new skills and new selling points in your abilities to highlight on your resume and your social networking pages.
The job hunt game has changed. Your reputation and your online persona play much more of a role in getting you a new job than your resume or your cover letter ever could. Your profiles on Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn should be spruced up and optimized as much as possible to make you as attractive as you can be to a potential employer. And don't forget Google-people are using it to check up on prospective candidates. Google yourself and see what comes up. You can't really change what's out there, but at least be aware so if it's brought up you can address it.
4. Celebrate-maybe even take a vacation. You probably didn't take time away while you were at your last job-use this period of adjustment to break free. It'll give you a chance to get some perspective. Have drinks or a party and celebrate being laid off. Put a positive spin on this. Enjoy yourself. This will be one of the few times in life that you're unencumbered by work. Read. Sleep. Do all the things you never get to do...believe it or not, you'll miss this time when it's gone.
5. Take care of your health and check in with a doctor. Use your health insurance while you still have it. I bet you haven't been taking care of yourself or haven't had the time. Get a full physical, go to the dentist. You can also explore meditation, acupuncture, or other complimentary therapies that can help you de-stress. Finding your next dream job is an endurance test and requires a lot of energy. Start eating well, do a cleanse, go to the gym-your energy and self-esteem will get a boost and this will be felt by everyone around you, including future employers.
6. Something good will come from this. (I call this The Change Guarantee). Write it down somewhere visible. In the end, this job loss is probably a good thing. Make yourself write a list of 3 things that help you see the upside from this downside. You'll end up better off, no matter what. You may not see it now, but you'll triumph over this job loss in ways you couldn't imagine.
7. Don't rehash the story, blame something or someone for the loss or explain it to everyone ad nauseam. Blame never accomplishes anything. Don't get addicted to your story, why you got fired, how unlucky you are. It will hold you back. There is no shame or embarrassment to be had. Every successful person has lost a job at some stage-welcome to the club. Instead of feeling shame, honor this as just a life change that will make you stronger. You don't need to justify anything to anyone. You don't need to make excuses, or show progress to anyone but yourself. Do what you can, when you can.
8. Your friends and family won't necessarily react the way you expect. When certain people in your life learn of your job loss they'll avoid you like the plague. They are so uncomfortable with the prospect that they avoid speaking to you or about it. Some are jealous, some feel sorry for you, some feel embarrassed because they still have a job, some get worried for their own jobs... it's all about them, not you, so don't worry!
Avoid negative press and fellow unemployed people-stick around optimistic people, not victim circles. Ask yourself, "Who are you not thinking of that can help you?" And, "Who is holding you back?" Is there a partner or even family member that might require you to place a boundary on discussions related to work while you now go through this next phase?
9. Practical things you may not think of:
-Pull all your contacts and catalogue all those loose business cards. You never know. Something may spark an idea. Send them an email.
- Get some blank business cards made with your name, email and contact information.
-There are strict deadlines for Cobra and health insurance. Make sure you're aware of these. Too many people miss them.
-Check out unemployment benefits, regardless of your situation or salary. You never know. There are many people who are eligible who never claim useful benefits.
-Make sure visas and work permits are all in order if applicable.
-See a financial advisor. Even if you can't afford to keep someone on retainer, most mutual funds and banks will give you a free consultation. Free websites like mint.com will help you keep track of finances as well.
-Send a thank you note to your boss and colleagues that you enjoyed working with, and ask them to keep you in mind if they hear of any positions you'd be right for.
-Write down what you are looking for and what your intention is. Make your list. Read it every day. Intention is a very strong force.
10. Always frame things in the positive. Say things like "I'm excited I'm back in the job market, Its given me a chance to really go after a job that I love," as opposed to, "I recently got fired/lost my job."
What you can control during this time of change are the words you use, questions you ask yourself and the stories you tell to others. People who are optimists and have positive beliefs will always get through this change better than others. Do whatever it takes to keep your outlook strong. Always reach for a better thought, even if it feels unnatural.
11. Accept this! Let go of the way life should have gone. Resisting the job loss causes more pain. Sometimes you know why you were fired, sometimes you just don't. Don't waste any time figuring it out. Be mature about anything you feel may have contributed to it. See the difference between reality and illusion. (The reality is you lost your job; the illusion is you'll never find another job.) Take a moment to go inside yourself, get silent and listen to your intuition. Turn that inner microphone on...what do you really want to do next? Not all the answers or actions are outside of you, some are inside. Some of your best ideas will come when you slow down enough and tune in.
12. Looking for a job is now your job. It may take a lot longer to find a new job than you think it will. Many people are running out their unemployment benefits, taking six months or more to find a new job. Perseverance and patience should be your new best friends. You might have to settle for less. We're in a tough economic climate and the dream job you want might not be available for the next few years. Some jobs leave the market and never come back, and you may be facing that reality. Don't get discouraged though. You always have the potential to move up wherever you are. Remember, even in a bad economy, there are always jobs for good people. Don't get caught up in the scarcity cycle that there are no jobs out there.
Change Agent and CEO,