When you lose a job, you're told to update your resume, network like heck and redo your budget. But before you can get "business like" about your job search, you have to deal with the emotional challenge of job loss, asserts Siebert.
He advises taking the following steps to work through the emotions of job loss:
- Write about how you feel. In a study conducted by researchers Stephanie Spera, Eric Buhrfiend and James Pennebaker in 1994, men who had lost their jobs found work significantly faster if they wrote about the experience for 30 minutes a day for five consecutive days. Translating upsetting experiences into language not only diffuses intense emotions, but changes the way you view experiences, Siebert says. It helps you develop perspective on your motives, thoughts, feelings and reactions.
- Recapture your self-esteem. Many people succumb to old prejudices about the unemployed when they are laid off. They think, "There must be something wrong with me. I can't hold a job." Such attitudes chip away at your self-esteem, says Siebert. To rebuild self-confidence, he suggests making a list of everything you do well and like about yourself. Describe successful assignments or projects. He advises asking co-workers and managers for letters of appreciation about how great it was to work with you. This collection of samples, credentials and endorsements will help you develop an appreciation for your experience and skills.
- Find the lessons in your loss. Siebert relays this anecdote about bicycle racer Lance Armstrong: When asked whether he'd choose to have cancer or win the Tour de France, the athlete supposedly said he'd take cancer because of what it has taught him about the value of life. "No matter how bad their circumstances, the best survivors ask: 'What can I learn from what has happened to me?'" says Siebert. In the case of job loss, the lesson often has to do with evaluating and restructuring career priorities.
- Practice empathy for difficult situations and people. Why is this important? "The ability to understand how others act, think and live is a high-level skill," says Siebert. Moreover, it's a skill that will help you gain employment. "No one is going to hire you because you need a job," adds Siebert. You are going to get that offer because the employer believes you can solve his problems, and the ability to empathize makes you more aware of and sensitive to the problems of others. Once you have recovered from the emotional aspects of job loss, you can direct your energy to searching for work. When you go on interviews, you'll be more relaxed, in control and self-confident.
Louise didn't work out her emotions about her layoff on paper. But she did reach out to friends, family and colleagues to regain confidence and reassess her strengths, weaknesses and desires.
"It was particularly hard when employers asked me about being laid off," she says. "I said: 'It was distressful, but it also propelled me to acquire new skills and broaden my horizons.'"