Navigating Unemployment - Managing your Emotions

By Freddie Rohner, iHire
Figure standing in front of twisting and turning roads

In this current job market, with unemployment rates consistently above 7% and job seekers taking longer than ever to land jobs, it is very easy to become despondent and depressed, or simply give up on your job search altogether. Don’t ignore these emotions; work through them and move past the trauma of getting laid off or being mired in an extended period of unemployment. Then it will be much easier to stay positive, develop a game plan for your job search, and find your next great position.

1. Work Through Your Emotions: There are several ways to do this. Some people choose to write about their unemployment experience, utilizing prose and poetry as an outlet for the many emotions that come with losing a job. Other professionals choose to form a small support group with fellow job seekers. This will give you a chance to discuss the emotions surrounding your termination and will also provide an opportunity to network with people in the same situation as yourself who may have contacts in other companies that can help in your job search.

2. Stay Positive: A lot of unemployed job seekers complain of losing their sense of identity and self-worth. One way to combat this is to count your blessings and write down the things you do well and the successes you’ve had throughout your career. Not only will this help rebuild your self-esteem, but it will also be a valuable resource in preparing for interviews. Use your free time to do activities you find stimulating and rewarding. Return to your favorite hobby or discover a new pastime that piques your interest. Do something to take your mind off of the stress of looking for a new job. By doing something positive and enjoyable, you can revitalize yourself and stay enthusiastic.

3. Develop a Game Plan and Keep Your Options Open: The old adage, “Make finding a job your job” definitely holds true, but it takes more than pulling 8 hour days in front of the computer screen searching for any job postings within a 100-mile radius. Nowadays, job seekers need to utilize their networks and contacts from past jobs to find their next opportunity. The best thing to do is to come up with a game plan or a general schedule and stick to it. Don’t sleep in as if you’re on an extended vacation. Get up and get going every morning, visit friends for lunch (and do some networking at the same time), and drop in on places where you might like to work to inquire about any openings that might be available. Even though job searches are much less personal in this technical age, the personal touch still counts.

4. Keep Active: Join a professional group/association, participate in social media, take classes, webinars, conferences, or workshops, volunteer at a local organization, contribute to industry blogs, or attend alumni events. Not only will this get your name out there and provide you with networking opportunities, it will also ensure that your expertise remains current and your skills don’t languish while you’re out of work.

5. Get Creative: Sometimes a little creativity is the best thing to jumpstart your job search. Al Siebert shares a couple of great stories in his article, “Resiliency Skills for Handling the Emotional Side of Job Loss and Job Search” – one about a young man answering a newspaper ad for an office assistant during the depression and another about a group of environmental scientists who had recently been laid off by the state:

“When the young man showed up at the business he found a long line of job applicants ahead of him. Sizing up the situation, he went to the nearest Western Union office and had the following telegram delivered to the employment interviewer: ‘Don't hire anyone until you talk to the red-headed kid at the end of the line.’ Shortly after the telegram was delivered the interviewer came out of his office with the telegram clutched in his hand. He found the red-headed sender of the message and took him into the office. The interviewer said, ‘You are exactly the sort of assistant we need here,’ and hired him.”

“Four environmental specialists with a state agency had their jobs eliminated even though their work was mandated by the federal government. In a problem-solving session, a few of them saw that their work had to be done by someone even if the state had to hire a consulting firm to do it. The solution? They formed a consulting firm and obtained the contract at a higher rate of pay for them all!”

Now, neither of these situations are very common, but the point is a good one: by “thinking outside of the box” you can find ways to improve your situation, keep your current job, or identify a better opportunity and get back to work much more quickly.

Being unemployed is never easy. It can be a devastating blow to the ego, a strain on relationships, and a huge cause of stress. Don’t take it personally. Almost every professional finds themselves out of work at some point in their career and it’s important to be thankful for the things you have and surround yourself with positive, supportive people. The best advice during this tough time is really the simplest too. Don’t despair, keep your spirits up, keep working toward the goal of getting a new job, develop a plan or schedule to provide structure for your day, and get creative in order to find your next great opportunity.



Al Siebert— Resiliency Skills for Handling the Emotional Side of Job Loss and Job Search

New York State Department of Labor— Job Search Guide: Strategies for Professionals

Todd A. Ritter— Ways to Rebound Following a Job Loss

Chad Brooks— Record Unemployment Fuels Depression & Loss of Identity

Marty Nemko— Procrastinating Your Job Search? 5 Custom Solutions

Skip Freeman— The One TRUE Measurement of Your Job Search Progress

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