I frequently hear clients telling me of their struggles to let people know that they are now unemployed.
Small things like writing an end date on their CV or Linkedin profile, for what is now their old job, are very challenging. Responding to the inevitable questions in networking events “Who are you with?” or “ What do you do?” leaves them feeling profoundly inadequate and nervous. Adjectives they use to describe themselves are “ stupid” and a “loser” .
In the words of Nina Ferrell "No pronouncement about you has value unless you agree with it." But when those thoughts are internal messages coming from YOU – how do you manage your mind to maintain motivation? Fortunately, your reaction to anything is one of the few things you can control and here are just a few strategies to help put these experiences into context:
Reframe the experience:
Examine the facts:
- How many people are unemployed in your country, region or sector? You are one of many I would imagine, so the odds are stacked against everyone. When unemployment levels are at over 9% today there is no stigma to being without a job.
- You are “ stupid” or a “loser” - lets look at this. One dictionary definition of stupid is " marked by a lack of intellectual acuity". What are your educational levels? What has your career and personal experience been to date? How would you describe anyone else, a neighbour or a colleague, with these levels of achievements, either academic, personal or professional? Where on the spectrum would you put “stupid” ? I imagine - nowhere. You are simply between jobs and in transition. Actors call it “ resting”, an excellent phrase.
- Look at those same achievements and understand and acknowledge what you are good at. Keep a log of that list and read and update it regularly.
- Look at your skill sets and identify areas where you could enhance existing skills, or gain new ones: learn a language, do an on-line course, do voluntary work. How you are responding to this “resting” period will be useful later on.
- Use the time to formulate an action plan and set new achievable goals
- When you achieve these goals –acknowledge that success, write it down and reward yourself. Remember this is a numbers game and initiative is better than inertia and action and activity overcome anxiety or angst .
- Keep a log of your job search efforts so you can see in quantifiable terms exactly what you are doing.
- Monitor your progress. Ask for feedback in case you need to do something differently.
- Stay flexible and open minded.
Look at the other challenges in your life and how you dealt with them. The skills that you had then and called upon, are basically unchanged ( unless there are health issues, which should be dealt with separately) and therefore still in your “tool box ” So you should be able to carry on using them.
Which challenges impacted you most?
- How did you deal with them? Can you use those skills again?
- Did you seek support? If so from whom?
- What did you learn about yourself and others?
- How did you inform yourself?
- What made you feel more positive about the future?
- Have you ever supported anyone else through a similar situation?
- What did you say to them?
- Identify and log your negative thoughts and see if they have appeared in your internal dialogue before. If they do, what are they? You will be able to see the ones that reoccur most frequently - check if there’s a pattern, and try to identify the ones that you are most anxious about. Acknowledging the existence of these thoughts is the first step at dealing with them. If you find this difficult, imagine advising a friend or colleague with the similar thoughts. Write down what you would say to him or her.
- Sit down and challenge the negative thoughts that you have identified. You have them written down so examine every thought on that page. Now look at each one rationally. Ask yourself where you would place these thoughts on a “reasonableness scale 1- 10”? What actual evidence is there for and against? If you have a thought " I am never going to work again... ever" spend some time researching economic trends and re-frame your thought in the light of what experts are saying.
Now especially it is really important to look after your physical health and emotional well -being. Eat healthily, exercise and keep an eye on any symptoms of stress. But if you do struggle with anxiety over a long period, please do consider seeking professional career support, consulting a doctor or a counsellor.
But above all remember “There's no failure, only feedback. No mistakes, only outcomes" Thomas Hardman