In the span of just two months we have gone from unprecedented lows in unemployment numbers to unprecedented highs. If you got caught up in the whiplash of it all and find yourself among the 20-plus million people who are now out of work, whether temporary, permanent, or temporary-turned-permanent, you are probably grappling with one of the stages of grief sure to follow a job loss right now.
Jobs give us a sense of purpose, structure in our day, a social outlet, not to mention our livelihood. When it’s taken away, you can feel betrayed, angry, unsure of yourself, and with a loss of the identity it provided. That the circumstances of your unemployment are wholly beyond your control offers little comfort and doesn’t pay the bills. Add to that the prospect of trying to find a new job in a decimated job market, and you could spiral into a paralyzing depression.
But, it isn’t hopeless. Many believe the current situation to be short-term, with jobs and the economy sure to bounce back after the pandemic ebbs. Either way, a job loss is tough to swallow. We’ve gathered some good advice for coping with the aftermath of a job loss and figuring out how to get back on the horse.
Feel Your Feelings
After the initial disbelief and numbness, you’ll be assaulted by a tornado of emotions – anger, sadness, fear, disgust, shame, despair, indignation – that will consume most of your energy. Let them cycle through and acknowledge each one. Give yourself permission to take some time to investigate the causes. Use the first few days after your dismissal to sort through the jumble, while focusing on the facts of the situation.
Then move on. Endless naval-gazing will only keep the swirling emotions going, so decide upfront how long you will give yourself to wallow in the emotions. When you’ve reaching that point in time, take action. Doing this helps you to organize your thinking and applies the right perspective, keeping you from falling into a funk you can’t escape.
Your New Job Is Getting a Job
The missing structure a job imposes on your day is further compounded by the current emptiness of your social calendar. With fewer reasons to leave the house, it is critical to manufacture a well-rounded routine that incorporates fitness, social activity, relaxation, and work. The 8 hours you would normally spend at work (even if it was temporarily remote at the time of the job loss) will now be spent finding and preparing for your new job. After you’ve put in your hours brushing up on interview skills and networking on LinkedIn, close the door on that part of your day and spend the remaining hours on online exercise classes, Zoom happy hours, and soaks in the tub.
Establish a schedule and stick to it. You can use an online calendar with alarms and integrations for activity tracking, but if you’re feeling overly digitized these days, you can never go wrong with an old school white board to keep your agenda front and center. Planning and following a schedule will give your life the dimension to keep one day from running unnoticed into the next.
The first day at your new “job” is best spent taking stock of your career to this point. Think about what you have achieved, what jobs you’ve held, what was the most and least satisfying, and which employers made you the happiest. Write down the things you are proud of and what mistakes you’d like to avoid in the future.
Taking what you’ve learned about your past, think about what you want out of your future. Maybe you should consider an adjacent field, or something entirely different. After losing a job, many look at the experience as a fortuitous shove in a different direction they might not have otherwise considered.
This between-jobs time is the best time to alter course if you discover a new desire. Once you’ve decided on a direction, compile a list of qualities you want in future employment. Next to each quality, rate it on a 5-point scale from like-to-have to must-have.
Plan A, B, and C
Given the current situation in the job market, finding a new job might not be as easy as it has been in last decade. Prepare yourself for the worst, but hope for the best.
We recommend laying out three plans to cover your bases. Each plan will include a list of your first-, second-, or third-tier jobs and employers, contingencies, financial requirements, and a timetable for that plan. For example, your goal for Plan A might be to land a labor and delivery nursing position at the top hospital in your area. Contingencies and financial plans will cover what you need to do to make sure you have the means to sustain yourself and will determine how long you can pursue this option before moving to Plan B and Plan C.
Before you can really dig in to any of these plans, you have to address the basics. Aside from the normal updating of your most recent job details and adding new skills, you will likely need to do some customizing to make your resume stand out. If Plan A is for hospital positions and Plan B is for office positions, and Plan C is for a job in a nursing home, you’ll want to highlight different skillsets that make you more suitable to the position you are applying for.
In these times of social distancing, your first pass with recruiters is more likely to be over the phone. In addition to brushing up on the skills for landing the job for an in-person interview, you’ll want to prepare for a telephone interview.
In the Meantime
- Work with a recruiter - With fewer jobs available in the market, working with a recruiter who is closely tied to employers, can save you a lot of legwork. They have access to jobs that may not even be posted publicly yet giving you the edge against other candidates.
- Interim positions fill the gap - You might consider interim work as a contingency in your plans or as a stopgap for your finances. Opportunities are still out there for nurses, directors and C-suite professionals.
- Take a class – Whether you need to learn something new to prepare for a new career or just for the sense of accomplishment, free classes are available through Coursera and the Museum of Modern Art.
Job loss is devastating, there are no two ways about it. But with the right coping techniques, staying future-focused, and applying structure to your job search, you can get back on your feet again. The only way through it is through it, but you will come out on the other side with gainful employment. And, who knows? You might even look back on this as a fortuitous shove that has put you in a better place. Good luck!