Job loss is tough. It’s emotionally jarring and can be life altering. It may shake your confidence and it’s sure to turn your daily clock on its head. It becomes easy to feel sorry for yourself, stay up until two o’clock in the morning and sleep well into the afternoon. You might believe you lost your life’s purpose when you have no daily destination. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And it certainly doesn’t have to feel that way for long. Most careers take up more than half of your waking hours; the loss of that daily routine changes your life. What it doesn’t do is change who you are and what makes you great. You still have people – a spouse, children, parents, siblings and friends – around you that care for you and need your emotional support just as much as you need theirs. You’re still a smart, hard worker that can get things done – a job loss can’t take that reality away from you. Don’t lose sight of that as you transition into your new full-time job as an independent contractor tasked with finding yourself the next great position.
Grieve and then relieve. It’s emotionally deflating to get laid off and each of us reacts to a job loss differently. Some people feel a sense of urgency, waking up the next day in full job hunt mode. Others go into a funk for weeks, or longer, before they’re ready to step back into a job search. There is a middle ground to consider. Take time – a couple days maybe – to grieve and emotionally release what’s just happened. Talk it out with others – family, friends or a therapist. Take some long walks or runs – sans iPod – to clear your mind and recharge your battery. Loaf on the couch, a little. And then move forward. Evaluate all walks of your life before delving into what will be an intense job search. Remove stresses that aren’t needed. You, and your spouse if you’re married, should look at your financial budget and find relief points. Suspend or cancel your TV cable package. Downgrade your cell phone plan. Put student loan payments on deferment. Eliminate unnecessary spending that will help stretch your remaining income whether you’re reliant solely on unemployment checks or additionally have your spouse’s income. You might have a hefty emergency fund and you may very well have a spouse making good money. But cutting some expenses will relieve the stresses that come with a lost job and make the job search more fruitful.
Make it a job to find your next job. When employed, you wake up at the same time each day, work while you’re at work and then head home. 40 hours per week – sometimes more, rarely less. Joblessness, however temporary, brings with it a sense of daily upheaval. With nowhere to go, it’s easy to fall into lazy habits. Get up late, make a few calls, send out some resumes and call it a day. It’s important to treat your job of finding new employment much like it’s a full-time gig. Create both long-term and short-term goals. Put a schedule in place with daily tasks so there are targets to aim for. Wake up at the same time each morning but, instead of consulting clients or projecting company budgets, spend the day checking off items from your to-do list. Perfect your resume, email former colleagues a reference letter request and network with those same people about open positions with their current and former employers. Apply for jobs with companies that are great. Instead of submitting 50 applications each day using the same resume and cover letter, slow down and customize each of them to help you stand out. Adjust the language on your resume to closer fit positions you’ll succeed in. Write a cover letter with words that comes from the heart, not from a Microsoft Word template. Remember that networking is just as, if not more, important as submitting job applications. Reconnect with former co-workers to see what they’re doing and let them know you’re seeking new employment. Yes, used LinkedIn to connect with colleagues but also use the telephone and personal email addresses to look less spammy. Use those 8 to 10 hours each day wisely. Don’t take an extended lunch to squeeze in a nap or one extra Game of Thrones episode from your DVR. Don’t call it quits at three o’clock because you’re frustrated or worn out. Take a 15 minute break, grab a cup of coffee and then get back to it. You’re better off spending your days getting back into the job market instead of watching Dr. Phil tell you how to get back into the job market. And even if you didn’t make a dime that day, you can look at your spouse or kids across the dinner table that evening and share with them the things you did to take the next step forward.
Don’t use free time cheaply. After grinding all day, whether at work or while looking for your next position, it’s easy to relax on the couch for three or four hours to watch TV or play the XBox. Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs a little down time. But, just like adults do with their children, limit your own screen time and explore other ways to spend your precious free time. Exercising is an obvious one. There are physiological benefits of exercise which improve sour mood and reduce anxiety – two common ailments that people experiencing a job loss suffer from. Pick up a book, or five. If you’re in a tough financial position there is no reason to go crazy on Amazon or at your local Barnes & Nobles though. Find your local library and spend some of your time reading books for free. It keeps your mind sharp, your creativity flowing and mood up. Be with your love ones and not just physically either. The saying goes something like “a family that plays together, stays together.” When you’re with your family, put down your phone, close your laptop and immerse yourself in their presence. Ask questions and actually listen to their answers. Play board games and eat healthy meals together. And, yes, even have a family movie night once in a while. Your family will be your solace during difficult times. Use the time you’re together to recharge your battery and keep proper perspective on life. The hours you have outside of your full-time job hunt are few. Plan them, to a point, just as you will your workday to get the most out of each day.