If You Lose Your Job, Avoid These 3 Things
Back in 2008, right at the exact time the economy collapsed, my career collapsed. I found myself without a job…no warning, no severance, and quite frankly, no good reason.
As clearly as if it happened 5 minutes ago, I remember sitting there with my mouth gaping open, staring at the messenger of this news, not knowing what to do…I was literally paralyzed while my life flashed before my eyes.
This was the first time in my professional career anything like this had ever happened to me. It was so startling to me! What made it even more bizarre was that I was actually crushing all the goals that had been given to me in the job. How could this happen to me?!?! (If you want more on this story, read HERE)
Over the next few weeks, after telling my wife and kids what happened and realizing how bad our financial situation was about to get, I went through a rollercoaster of emotions. From shock, terror and sadness, to just downright pissed off! Not only was this a terrible thing, but it was at a time in our economy when no jobs were even available.
If you are, or ever have been in this position, your anger is totally normal. If you haven’t ever been through this, be prepared for it anyway.
Here are 3 things you need to avoid after you are fired or “laid off”:
•Never Let Them See You Sweat (or even turn red) – Each day I would wake up at 5am and start scouring the internet for jobs. I applied for everything that could possibly work and then some. My goal was to get at least get 3 interviews per week, but some weeks I was lucky to have any. The prime window after you lose your job is the first 2 months. You will have many jobs you can apply for, and thus a greater chance for interviews. After several weeks of applying and interviewing, I still didn’t have a job offer and I found out why. I was on the phone with a recruiter one day. She was talking with me about a position with a company she represented. After speaking with me for about 30 minutes she said, “Paul, let me tell you something. First, I want you to know that although I am a recruiter, I do not work on behalf of the candidates…rather, I work for the employer. Thus, I have to protect the employer from bad candidates. While I like you and see a very solid resume here, I can’t recommend that they talk with you. The reason is that when you told me about this last position you were in, I could hear all kinds of anger in your voice. My advice to you, Paul, is that if you want a job, you had better deal with that anger and get past it. No one will hire you if you cannot let it go.” This advice from her was solid and she was right. Employers do not want angry employees and they can smell anger a mile away. When you badly need a job, you have to consider that each time you get an interview, you are being granted a chance and getting your life back. Do not blow any of those chances, by talking about how you were wronged. Instead, talk about how you learned from the experiences you had there and how it made you grow (while smiling the entire time). It’s not easy, but it will make a world of a difference. Yes, you were wronged! Yes, it is horribly painful. No, you cannot show it at all if you want a job. Life goes on, C’est la vie…let it go, my friend.
•Don’t Try to Control The Weather – There are things in this world that you can control, such as what time you get up, how many phone calls you make or job applications you fill out, and even which outfit you wear to an interview. On the other hand, there are many things you cannot control and you have to stop trying to do it anyway. Years ago I figured this stress reduction trick out. You see, I was walking around in a world of complete and total anxiety. I was a walking bundle of nerves. My brain wouldn’t stop thinking about all of these things I wanted to have happen in a specific way and at a specific time. One day, after feeling extremely worn out, it dawned on me…I said to myself, “Paul, you are going to die a young man if you keep thinking about so many stressful things…focus on those things that you have direct control over and let the rest go!”. Yes, it would be awesome if the employer you just interviewed with yesterday would make you a job offer today. It’s likely not going to happen and more importantly, it’s outside your powers. Sure, it would be best if the lady with 50 items in her grocery basket wasn’t checking out in the “10 Items or Less” line, but it’s too late, she is. Dwelling on things that you cannot control in this world will make your hair fall out five times faster (trust me, I have a receding hairline to prove it) and it will do you no good. Put your energy and mental focus only into those things which you can directly impact. That should be enough to worry about.
•Don’t Judge Yourself by Your Job! (aka,Your Career Is Not What’s in the Mirror) – Many years ago there was a great skit on Saturday Night Live, that I still use for therapy to this day. Al Franken played the part of Stuart Smalley. His character was the main character in a fake TV show called “Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley”. In his self-help show, and he was always starting the show by looking in the mirror and saying, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me”. After losing your job, you will go through many times where you feel alone and small. If you have go and stand in the unemployment line, it will be a very humbling experience, to say the least. There will likely be many jobs that you are not offered. With all of this in play, it is quite common to feel like you have lost your mojo. You really are good enough and smart enough! You need to make sure that you never mix who you are with what you do for a living. When you think of yourself, taking your career out of the mix completely, you will see that you are a good person who is very talented and capable. Losing your job never changed that. Take a minute to remind yourself of all that you have accomplished and all that you can do, each and every day. If you smile and give yourself this pep talk each day, you will find that your interviews will go better and that job you are looking for will be right around the corner. By the way, when you are feeling low, you should sing a little song I wrote, called “Focus on the Finish Line”.
NOTE: In a previous article I wrote, “Empathize With the Unemployed”, I spoke about some of these emotions and stressors that the unemployed folks go through. It’s so important for us all to be aware of how to cope with things like this, which can be so debilitating. If you know anyone who is unemployed, I hope this article gave you some perspective and that you will offer a pat on the back and maybe an opportunity to help them get back on their feet.
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-Paul Elsass Twitter @paulthoughts