Tips to Facing Unemployment Head-On

Today, someone who becomes unemployed is often a victim of economics. Throughout the country, we hear of businesses closing and massive layoffs as companies tighten their belts. I’ve been working with more clients (youth to seniors; all levels and industries) in the last couple years that are faced with this situation; as opposed to proactively searching on their own terms. Virtually not one individual or family has been unaffected by the current job market.

If you are facing imminent unemployment or are now jobless, you are likely feeling discouraged and uncertain about your future. That is absolutely normal and okay. However, you don’t have to behave as a victim. You can take the reins in your own hands and move forward. Here are a few steps to do that:

  1. Accept the reality and confirm that it’s hard. It is important to treat yourself kindly. You are allowed to feel sad, angry, anxious and overwhelmed. These are natural feelings. That said, it’s also important to accept things as they are. For example, I recently had a client I’ll call Mary. Mary’s company was downsizing and she was laid off—never saw it coming. Yes, she felt it was unfair and horrible. She soon realized that nothing she did was going to change her situation with that employer. Her job was not coming back. So, she accepted it. In doing so, she gave herself a starting point and permission to address “Where do I go from here?”
  2. Don’t be hard on yourself. Self-criticism can be a major obstacle for people who are unemployed. Losing a job does NOT make you a loser. It means that you are part of a workforce that is always changing. Write down any negative self-thoughts and challenge them with reality. For example, “I’m a loser” can be challenged with the facts that you received a degree and good performance reviews, and have people who value you; and that you are now in control to gain positive movement. Dwelling on questions like “Why me?”, “Will I find a job?” and similar thoughts will not serve you. When you start to do this, ask yourself, “Is there any productive action this will lead to?” If not, focus on your strategies and action planning toward another goal—for example, acquiring new skills, expanding your network or improving your self-care routine.
  3. Put things in perspective. The broad media coverage of the job market exemplifies that you are not alone. Many are unemployed; it’s one of the highest rates in a long time. However, economies go through ups and downs. Usually a recession is followed by years of growth. Recognize that you will be back to work at some point. All recessions end. Unemployment is a lagging indicator of coming out of that recession. A survey conducted by recently with 112 Central Florida companies (Florida reached a record high average unemployment of 12.2%), revealed that 67% of those companies said they have job openings. president, Roger Lear said, “The greatest news I can give job seekers is that employers are optimistic they are going to hire people in 2010.”
  4. Evaluate your finances. Cut back on unnecessary expenses. If you have a daily latte at the neighborhood coffee shop, brew your coffee at home. Instead of having your weekly evening out at the movies, rent one at home and make pop corn. Food, medicine and regular bills such as mortgage and utility payments are essential expenses. Trim spending as much possible on those that aren’t. Do keep (or create) a budget for job search expenses. This is now your full-time job. Consider and plan for costs associated with producing a résumé or marketing documents, refurbishing your interview wardrobe, gas, car maintenance, mailings, phone, etc. If you have an emergency reserve or slush fund, use it to pay necessary expenses before using credits cards if possible. Reducing any financial risk will also cut back on your stress. Also make sure you proactively negotiate or secure any severance and/or unemployment monies offered to you.
  5. Schedule some fun. In addition to scheduling your job search activities, plug in activities that are fun. Renew an old hobby, take up a fun exercise or sport, read a good book, plan a family outing, cook a new dish, or have lunch with a friend. While you don’t want to take too much time doing nothing, you can think of this time as a sabbatical from your prior job—being able to schedule things that you were not able to do while working. Think of it as a silver lining. Another client of mine was laid off this winter for about six weeks. He told me that it worked out perfectly. He said, “I got to see my younger daughter walk for the first time and spend time with my wife and two children; I could never get that back if I missed it.”
  6. Create a daily plan of action. Your job now is to find a job. Dedicate at least two hours each day to your job search, preferably more. This should include marketing documents, telephone calls, informational interviews, ads and leads, networking meetings/events, researching opportunities, cultivating all contacts and getting your message out there (what you want and what you offer in value relative to that goal). You will run into dead-ends and nos. It’s part of the deal. Be persistent and stick to your plan. It will produce a domino effect and subsequent rewards.
  7. Join a community. No matter how you may feel, this is not the time to retreat or isolate yourself. Get out there and meet people. Practice talking to everyone who will listen about what you want and the value you offer. Make sure you have an online presence. LinkedIn is a crucial business community in today’s workforce. Facebook, Twitter and other sites offer the chance to interact with many others who can help you; and whom you can help. Volunteering can be an excellent activity at this time. My clients have used this time to help others through organizations ranging from church outreach to animal shelters. Volunteering is also an excellent way to expand your network of contacts. Many job seekers have found positions through volunteer contacts.

Being unemployed can be tough. It should not impair your perception of your value nor the countless opportunities that are out there. Focus on making progress each day. You will find that new career fit, and will have learned other great life lessons through the process.

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