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Pam* lost her job on Monday, and she wasn’t sure what to do. Despairing, angry, and cynical, she wasn’t in any mood for chirpy platitudes like, “This just opens to door to your next big opportunity” or “When fate closes a door, it always opens a window somewhere.” No. Pam is a realist, and she didn’t need a cheerleader. At least not that first day. Pam needed some help adjusting her mindset.
Have you just lost a job? Here are the first 5 things to do:
1. Allow yourself time to grieve.
Losing a job is tough. You had co-workers you enjoyed, an office culture you were used to, the security of a place to go every day and a regular paycheck. You are probably in shock, too. Give yourself time to go through the grief cycle. Everyone swings like a pendulum through a range of thoughts, feelings and behaviors after an emotional shock before regaining a bit of equilibrium. Sometimes it takes a few hours. Sometimes a day or two. Give yourself permission to go through it, and don’t try to rush it.
While you can’t wallow and linger in depression and grief, you can’t shut yourself off and refuse to acknowledge the emotions either. They will come back to bite you later.
2. Don’t make any drastic changes in your appearance for 24 hours.
Don’t head to the stylist for a radical new haircut or color. If you usually wear a beard, don’t shave it all off immediately. Don’t get a tattoo. When you make decisions in the throes of emotion, you often wind up regretting it later. In the case of your appearance, you will need every ounce of self esteem and normalcy in the coming weeks. Looking at a stranger in the mirror won’t help.
3. Keep your head in the current time, not in future visions of woe.
“I’m unemployed,” Pam moaned, “I can’t believe it.”
“No, you aren’t,” I stated, “you are getting paid as much today and you were yesterday, and you will be tomorrow, too.”
Pam was lucky. She hadn’t been fired, her company had lost a client. They had given her a 60 day notice. She had some time. But her mind was running through wild, undisciplined halls of terror. It was time to reign it in. The best way to do that was to focus on the reality of today, not the scary stories of her freaked out inner lizard.
Pam was worried about whether other companies would hire her. What would happen if she put her resume out there and received no calls? What would she do after weeks of interviewing and no offers? Pam was so busy wringing her hands over a fire in a back alley with the homeless in her own mind that she couldn’t focus on all she had today.
Today, Pam was fine. She wasn’t homeless, she had food in the fridge, she had a reliable car. Pam had everything she needed for today, and more. She would continue to have those things for at least the next 60 days, because she would have a steady paycheck for at least that long. Yes, it would be wise to stop buying non-essentials. Yes, it would be wise to not make any major purchases until she was settled into a new company. But for today, Pam was doing just fine.
4. Control what you can. Don’t try to control what you can’t.
Pam didn’t have control over whether recruiters would call. She didn’t have control over whether an interviewer would choose her for the job. She didn’t have control over how much a future employer would offer her. However, she did have control over some things.
She could make calls to people she knew and ask for a referral. She could update her profile on Linked In. She could upload her current resume to a few job sites. She had actions to take, and she had control over her own actions.
5. Reverse your needy mindset.
This might be the most important trick of all. It’s remarkably easy to feel anxious about finding a new job when you know you will be losing your current one. However, the desperate clinging energy will end up repelling job possibilities.
If you are in a situation like Pam’s, you don’t have to tell an interviewer that you have lost your job. For all they know, you are one of the several hundred applicants who are just looking for something different. A chance to grow. An opportunity to get away from a difficult boss. An entry point into a different role or job function. There is no need to let them know that the clock is ticking and you have 57 days and counting to find a new position.
Fear is not your friend when it comes to job hunting. Fight it. If you were halfheartedly looking around before this news, start thinking that you are just stepping up your job search. If you weren’t, take it as a bump from fate that will put you on a new track.
You are strong. You are talented. You are imminently desirable as an employee. Act like it.
Have you ever lost a job? Are you dealing with a job loss now? What is your best advice? Share it with us in the comments below!
*Names are part of a composite sketch made of real people and situations, but changed enough to protect privacy.