Landed Out Of Work? Ten Ways To Reset Your Mindset
If you’ve been furloughed or laid off in recent months, you’re in the company of millions. That can be reassuring in one way. But even so, being out of work is hard. Hard on the pocket, hard on the pride, hard on your mental outlook.
Yet, like all setbacks in life, it’s not the event itself that determines your future but how you respond to it.
One of the biggest challenges the recently unemployed face is managing the emotions that job loss can trigger. Humiliation, vulnerability, anxiety, anger, self-pity, hopelessness… even shame. The blow to the back pocket often pales in comparison to the blow to our sense of identity.
Confucius said that while our natures are alike (i.e. few people get a kick from losing their job, even one they didn’t enjoy), it’s our habits are that separate us. Being able to keep a positive mindset can not only differentiate you from the masses, helping you get back to work sooner, but it expands your ability to use this time in a way that will set you up to one day look back on it with a measure of gratitude for what you gained from it.
So if you’ve been feeling demoralized or struggling to ‘get your head in the game’, here’s a few things you can do to make the most of this time, using it to eventually land in a better position, with a richer experience of life, than had you not gone through it.
“Everyone says not to take it personally,” Marcus told me, “but that’s easier said than done.” Marcus (name changed) is a neighbor who was laid off from a small consulting firm he joined in February.
Sure, he knew he was the ‘last one, first to go’ but even so, he found it hard not to take it as a personal slight. As I reminded Marcus, just because you got the ‘pink slip’ and someone else didn’t does not mean you don’t have enormous value to add. So don’t make it mean any more than it does. You were let go. Someone else wasn’t. These decisions are often made very arbitrarily by stressed out, overwhelmed people.
So repeat this to yourself:
My value as a human being is not determined by my job status or salary. It never was. It never will be.
Failure is an event not a person. So is job loss. Those 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 unwanted circumstance that provided a valuable opportunity to grow in self-awareness, re-evaluate priorities and build resilience.
You define who you are. Not your job or someone in a position to hire and fire who (particularly right now) is likely concerned for their own job and struggling to keep their own head above water.
So don’t take your job loss as a personal rejection against you. It’s very likely got very little to do with you! Potential employers will be more attracted to people who have proven their ability to stay positive and confident despite a setback/job loss.
It’s easy to get stuck ruminating over what ‘shoulda-woulda-coulda’ happened… but didn’t. That said, it’s also really important to make sure you dont miss any valuable lessons from this situation. This isn’t about whipping yourself over what you did or failed to do. Beating up on yourself for what you did or failed to do just digs you into a hole of shame or self-pity that serves nothing and no one. However, make sure you also respect the maxim that ‘those who’ve not learnt from the past are doomed to repeat it.’ This may be totally irrelevant, but it might be. For instance:
Like I said, it’s possible you did absolutely nothing to land in your predicament. But maybe there are things you could have done that might have helped avoid it. If so, don’t squander that lesson, but take it with you.
Research shows that people who focus only on the negative aspects of a situation have a constricted peripheral vision compared to those who are focused on the positive aspects. This psychosomatic connection is testament to the importance of being very intentional about where you’re placing your attention.
So once you’ve done your self-audit, be deliberate about putting your attention and energy on your optimal desired future.
Does your resume need upgrading to position you for a role you’d love? Do you need to contact a recruiter? Do you need invest in knowledge or skills to make you as competitive as possible?
And if you’re not sure what your ideal ‘dream job’ would be, consider engaging a career coach or spending time figuring out what that is, I mean how can you land your dream job if you have no clue what it would be? This is the perfect time to reset your ‘life compass’ if you didn’t enjoy the path you were on.
Many jobs are never advertised but are filled through personal recommendations and referrals. In which case, the more people who know what you want, the more who can help you get it. Research shows that it’s our ‘weak ties’ that can open the most doors of opportunity. Yet often we focus most of our time on the ‘strong ties.’ So be sure you reach out to a broad network of people, including those whom you might ordinarily not be in touch with.
Write down a long list. Then start methodically moving through it. And if reaching out to people triggers a fear of rejection, make the conscious decision to rise above that fear and reach out anyway. Sometimes you’ve got to be braver than you want to be. Besides, most people are very happy to help and will be pleased you asked.
When your world’s been knocked off its axis, it’s good to give yourself some time to mentally reset and regain your emotional footing. As I wrote recently,it’s okay not to feel on top the world right now. However, assuming you can’t afford a year off work, it’s important to get back to work at finding work.
Set your alarm, prioritizing morning rituals that start your day strong. Then create a routine to help you make the most of your day (it’s easy to squander hours doing not-very-much if you’re not being intentional). Create a job search plan with goals, actions and accountability deadlines. Then prioritize, structure your day and treat finding a job as a job.
When life has kicked you down, it’s tempting to stay there, curled on the couch, binging on Netflix. But psychological resilience requires physical resilience. Resist the temptation to lay about and get moving instead. This is the perfect time to get in the best shape of your life!
Physical activity helps to process stress, ward off depression and improve both cognitive and immune function. Studies have found that exercising just three times a week can have the equivalent effect as an anti-depressant. So head outside, even if it’s just to walk the dog to start with. Even a happy dog can produce positive ‘emotional contagion’ on a flagging human spirit!
Speaking of emotional contagion, surround yourself people who lift you up, and avoid those who don’t. You know the ones. The ones who just fuel pessimism and pity. And while you might ordinarily have capacity for their dire predictions for the future, right now you need to stand guard on your energy.
You can also harness ‘emotional contagion’ but being a source of it for others. There’s no more powerful way to do that that proactively looking for ways to lift up people around you. It’s well researched that acts of kindness produce ‘feel good’ endorphins. Combine that with opportunities to better appreciate the challenges others are dealing with (perhaps far bigger than your own), and it’s a no brainer to proactively seek out ways to be of service in some way, shape or form. A helping hand not only lifts the recipient, it lifts the helper.
Research shows that when we’re already feeling flat, social media can just make us feel worse. So if scrolling on your social media feeds only serves to waste your time and not lift your spirits, then consider deleting them off your phone. At least for now. Same for any media or sources that aren’t making you feel more positive, purposeful or positive about yourself and your future. (I promise you, you won’t miss anything earth shattering if you stop watching cable news).
Consider picking up a great book. Or if you don’t want to read, download a ‘feel good’ podcast or audio book. If it’s not lifting you up, it’s pulling you down.
Napoleon Hill wrote that, “Every adversity holds the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” What he didn’t mention (but should be added) is that you must actively look for those seeds, water them often, and be patient as they grow… on their timeline, not yours.
So each morning, recommit to making the best of the time you have and show up with the mindset of the kind of person you’d want to work with.
Most of all, keep faith. The most valuable chapters of our lives often don’t get a title until much later.