Hey Andrew – I was recently laid off.  I gave 15 years of my life to this company and thought I was a model employee.  I added value with my talents, motivated others with my enthusiasm and had progressed into three higher level management positions.  As a matter of fact my boss cried when she told me the company was ‘reorganizing’ and my job was being eliminated.

It hit me out of left field.  I was surprised – shocked actually – and then started experiencing emotions I never even knew existed.  A combination of anger, denial, hurt, sadness, embarrassment, ego-shattering failure and humiliation, betrayal, frustration, fear and, in some cases rage.

Fortunately, my employer gave me a couple months of severance, but now that this is running out, I realize I need to get my job-seeking mojo happening.   My problem?  I just can’t get into the job-seeking groove.  I’m overwhelmed with insecurity about my age, the quality of my resume, my skills, etc.  I got off to a good start and sent out a half a dozen resumes and I had two interviews with companies but they didn’t lead to a job.   Now I’m finding myself always finding an excuse to do things other than looking for a job.

What can I do to get motivated?

— Down in the Dumps in Denver

Hey DDD –

The first thing you need to realize is that what you are experiencing is completely normal.   Psychologists tell me that the range of emotions you go through when you lose a job is often more difficult than experiences of a divorce or the loss of a loved one.  

Let’s face it: Our jobs are a major part of our lives and we are often identified with what we do for a living.  We also are so used to our daily routines and the habits of our job as well as our work relationships with colleagues, vendors and clients.  The cold, heartless experience of being laid off is a major shock to the system.   Getting used to NOT going to the place you’ve called work for 15 years takes some adjustment.

And on top of that, you are now somehow supposed to sweep all of those difficult emotions under the bed and put on a happy face and find a new job!

There are a lot coping tools that people use to move forward in such a rotten set of circumstances.

Here are five things you can start doing right now.

1.)    Surround yourself with friends.   Friends will let you grieve what you are going through and let you express your emotions in full.  Friends are people you can call at any moment to get some advice, bounce ideas off of, to give you frank and truthful feedback and are people who can you trust are honestly looking out for your best interests.

2.)    Don’t lose your sense of power or control over your life.  Yes, the fates have dealt you a tremendous blow.  Remember, the trauma you are going through is IN your life.  It is not your WHOLE life.  It is important to keep this perspective as you move forward.  You lost a job.  You didn’t lose your skills, your experience, your accomplishments, your expertise.  It might not seem like it, but you do have a lot of power; power to decide your future, power to do something with your life that YOU want to do. You have the control to determine the next direction you want your career to go.  Don’t allow yourself to accept being a victim to serve as an excuse for not moving forward.

3.)    Get out of the house.  Socialize.  Hang out with friends. Go to networking groups.  Call up former colleagues.  Let folks know you are on the market and looking for your next opportunity.  Sign up for a class to learn a new skill.  Make some cold calls to companies you are interested in.  Attend a lecture or a job seeking seminar.  Limit the amount of time you are spending on your computer looking for a job to only 20%.  The rest of the time be engaged and social in your job search.

4.)    Healthy body, healthy mind.  Yes, this is the BEST time to concentrate on your health.  It is a fact doing something physical for only 30 minutes a day will put you in a better mood, will provide you with clarity of thought and will give you an amazing boost of energy. Working out is inexpensive to do and the benefits of becoming healthy are off the charts.  Take regular walks.  Lift weights or do yoga.  Eat well.  Train for a 5k or if you are feeling really ambitious, train for a half or full marathon!   You will see that your getting-healthy goals quickly become aligned with your job-seeking goals.  

5.)    Create your personal vision for the next chapter in your life and go for it.  Many people who are laid off say “I just need a new job!”  However, those that approach this hiccup in their life as an opportunity to create a new vision for themselves are ultimately more happy and more successful in their job search.   Instead of asking yourself “What do I want to do?”  Ask yourself, “What’s my vision for my new job that will allow me to contribute my skills and talents in a way that is going create more meaning in my life?”  It’s a very different question and puts you in the driver’s seat for your future ambitions.  You then can start searching out the types of things that you WANT to do that are relevant to your skills and background but you also will begin searching for companies that reflect your values and the vision you created for yourself.

Remember, there’s a long list of successful people in this world who have been laid off, fired or have experienced failure of some sort.  They’ve learned from the experience and used it as leverage to push themselves up even higher.  Your rebound will require all of the strengths of your personality, your fire-in-the-gut attitude and keeping the bigger perspective that this is part of the adventure of life.   Resilience and determination and motivation will soon follow.

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