A job is one of the most important identity cards we carry. It can tell the world what our interests are, how much education we’ve received, the circles in which we move, and, most importantly, it serves as a measure of our self-worth. From shovelling snow to managing a company, our jobs define who we are. They add structure to our days, giving us a reason to get out of bed and practice our social skills with others. And though we may be far removed from our days in kindergarten, jobs still teach us how to get along with different people.
So, when the day inevitably comes that we’re made redundant–and this happens to almost everyone—the effect can be devastating. In an instant, we’ve gone from a future with a steady income to one of uncertainty as we leave the ranks of the employed to march with the jobless.
How are we supposed to go on when we’ve lost one of the most important things in our lives? For starters, we can take a page out of Judaism and treat the loss like a death. When a first-degree relative dies, the family members mourn them for a set period of time. This allows them to embrace the pain for a defined time—seven days—before they start the healing process.
Moving past the initial shock of unemployment is much the same. Give yourself a time frame in which you’ll do nothing but wallow, and then set a schedule of goals for yourself.
The important thing is not to get waylaid from whatever plan you make. The temptation to stay in your pajamas and watch television all day will be strong, but you’ll have to remind yourself what your big picture is—getting back in the job game. Here are a few simple steps:
1. Look at your options. The job market’s probably changed a bit during the time you were employed, so you’ll want to make sure you’re current. Find out what companies are looking for and match that up to your skill set and qualifications. This is also a good time to update your resume as that, too, is probably out of date.
2. Network, network, network. This is something that can’t be relegated to the first week or the fourth, but should rather be an ongoing activity. Call up your friends for lunches, hand out your business card—anything to get your name out there. You know that phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s whom you know”? It’s never been truer than right now.
But be careful about asking for a job outright—you’ll seem needy and that will hurt your chances.
3. Volunteer. Not only is it a good way to fill your time and add to your skill set, but you’re also doing a good thing by giving back. There are so many organizations that are starved for manpower that by helping out for a couple of days a week, you’d impact a lot of people positively.
4. Go shopping. This one might seem counter-intuitive now that your income flow has temporarily halted, but it’s just like updating your resume. You’ll want to look smart and stylish for interviews, because, after all, first impressions are still the ones that matter most.
5. Follow up on your contacts. You’ve put in so much time and effort at this point that the last thing you’ll want to do is give people the impression that you’re a one-shot deal. Call them up after a week, see how they’re doing… and leave it at that. I know that the voice in your head is probably screaming, Job! Ask if there’s a spot open! but play it cool. You want to stay on people’s minds, not in their waste baskets.
Above all, stay positive. That might sound empty and trite, but remember this: thoughts become words; words become actions; actions become habits; and habits become character. You may fall down a few times, but eventually you’ll get to where you’re supposed to.