So You’ve Lost Your Job: Now What?

Some practical things that you can do to pick yourself back up.

The coronavirus pandemic has had detrimental effects not only to health and wellbeing, but to businesses and the economy too. Sadly this means that many of us may experience being let go. We know by now that in most cases, a job is about more than just bringing money in – it’s something that you spend a huge chunk of your life doing, and can be really tied up in your identity and sense of self. It can be fulfilling, give us a sense of purpose, provide us with life-long friends, and offer structure to our lives. So when all that goes away, it can cause a lot of stress and negative feelings.

Thie most important thing is that you don’t let it affect your self-worth or self-esteem. This unprecedented time means that many companies are left with no choice but to lay off staff, and it’s mostly to do with numbers, salary, time spent with the company, and whether the role can be done efficiently in a post-virus world. So while there are many factors as to why you may have lost your job, who you are is not one of them.

“Remember that it is not personal,” says Jess Baker, business psychologist and women’s leadership coach. She adds that focusing on your good qualities will help keep spirits up while also actively aiding your job search.

“Re-writing your CV is a good exercise in reminding yourself how great you are,” she says. “Before re-writing your CV, list all of your experience, the qualifications, the challenging situations and relationships you’ve had at work. This is a useful way to remind yourself of projects that you’d forgotten about, or adversity that you survived. Write down some of the words that describe your skills and strengths. Now look at this list and feel proud of yourself for getting through it all. It’s alarming how much we forget about or take for granted.”

This will help you to make sure that when it comes to tidying up your CV, the best of you goes on this page. This, along with some positive affirmations, will help you keep up morale. “You need to proactively feel your self-confidence, so try saying something like” ‘I’m a brilliant woman with lots of skills, and the right company will want to work with me.’ Set this as a daily reminder at 8am on your calendar, so that it pops up to remind you how amazing you are.”

This along with ensuring you’re somewhat financially secure can help you to stay calm after your plans have changed. “Building up debt causes people to experience higher levels of stress. Stress could impact your life in lots of ways – your mental wellbeing, and your physical wellbeing. Making a sensible plan to live within your means will help you avoid this additional stress. By making a plan you will remain in control of the situation, which has a positive impact on your mental and physical health.”

If you budget, you can realistically figure out how long you can stay unemployed for, while factoring in state payment too. This gives you more time to decide what your next step will be. While leaving your job might not be on your terms, it can be a chance to find out what you really want. Whether you can afford a few months off, or need to jump right into a new job, Jess says it’s best to focus on your strengths when searching for your next step.

“Positive psychology research shows that you are more likely to enjoy a job that allows you to work to your strengths and that you are more motivated to do a better job.”

There are other factors to keep in mind too. “Work gives us a sense of status and pride. If you are out of work for a long period you may find your self-esteem is affected. If you’ve been thinking about starting a new business or getting a qualification, it’s quite common for people who have been made redundant to see this as a ‘gift of time’ and use this opportunity to reflect on what they really want. Jess adds that you should ask yourself some specific questions: “1) What do I really want my life to look like in 10 years time? 2) How do I want to feel in 10 years time? 3) Is the answer to #1 going to satisfy my answer to #2? Often we feel under pressure to have the big house and expensive car, when all we really want is to feel calm, happier, less-stressed or a sense of freedom. Matching your emotional goals to your life goals helps to keep things in perspective.”

If you’re on the job hunt but worried about finding something, approach companies who are thriving in the current situation – places like online retailers and utility providers with locally-based call centres. To stand out and be appealing to employers “apply directly to the company if possible, or through the channels they state on their website. Have an up to date LinkedIn profile with a smiley photo and specific keywords to help people find you. Ensure your cover letter or ‘reason for applying’ is specific to that company and mention one thing about the company that demonstrates your interest in them like a recent award, or positive news coverage.”

If you’re worried about a gap in your CV coming across as a negative, try turning it into a positive. Before the interview, review any gaps in your CV and make notes on what you did during that time. “You may find that you developed ‘transferable’ skills,” says Jess.

“So a woman who takes three years out of her career to have children might now be excellent at planning, organising, time-keeping, and confident in a leadership role. A young woman who went travelling after university might have developed more self-confidence, be more resourceful, be an independent thinker, and more inclined to take risks.

“If you have had a mental illness or physical illness, consider how you have overcome that personal challenge, what did you do to stay focused on getting better, what have you learned about your character, such as high levels of resilience, to be in this position, wanting and willing to work.”

When it comes to a gap due to unemployment, Jess stresses that it’s best to be honest. “Consider telling the truth: you were in a vulnerable position and the company had to make a very difficult decision. And then focus the conversation back to you and how keen you are to find work, and how much value you will add to their company. Avoid talking about how you felt at the time, and avoid the details when you first explain this. The interviewer can probe for more information if they want to. Practice explaining the situation before the interview, stick to the facts and then finish with something positive.”

Seeing your worth and being as prepared as possible for the coming months can help you to get through this challenging time. The important thing to remember in this difficult situation is that you are not alone, it is not your fault, and you will move on, likely to bigger and better things.

Pics via Twenty20

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