by Dwain Schenck, Author of RESET
Welcome to the new world of job Insecurity. If you didn’t lose your job during the Great Recession or its aftermath, you know someone who did. I speak with authority because I joined the ranks of millions of workers who had the rug pulled out at a time when the median family net worth dropped a staggering 40 percent and there were no jobs to be found for a 49 year old, well educated senior communications executive and entrepreneur willing to do anything to get back in the workforce.
The emotional side of unemployment is something few people think about or discuss in any job market, but especially true with many people I knew who were let go during this economic downturn. Shame seemed to come with the territory. Most people jumped feet-first into the tactics of finding a job without setting up a strategy to deal with the emotional journey. The problem is, you can find yourself doing all the right things tactically but not making progress (and not understanding why) if you don’t spend the time addressing what is knocking your self-esteem for a loop.
In my first month of unemployment I experienced a sense of fake bliss. It was intoxicating. Everything will be fine, I told myself. I have a solid network of friends and colleagues and whether I liked it or not, it was time to move on. I’ll have a job in less than a month! I had convinced myself that there were opportunities out there for me and companies would be looking for my unique skill set and knowledge. What a miscalculation on my part.
I quickly learned that this was like no recession we had ever lived through before, the worst since the Great Depression. Within several months I started to think I was losing my sanity. I had been shaken to my very core and came to realize that I had connected nearly my entire self-worth to my job title and to what I accomplished as a journalist and communications executive. I didn’t feel like a productive member of society. I had let my family down. My psyche was crushed. That was probably the hardest reality to face in losing my job.
But by seeking the assistance of friends, listening to the wisdom of experts and implementing creative job search best practices I was able to turn things around, get back on my feet and land in a better place. There are essentially three things to focus on while searching for work in an anemic job market like this. Notice I said work. Today we do work. Chances are we’re not going to find the job we had before, but there’s plenty of opportunity and hope to reset your career, start your own business, become a consultant and learn to tap into a constellation of skills—or downsize altogether and hit the golf course.
It’s important to accept we now live in a constant state of reset — it’s more than a one-time event, it’s a mindset, and it comes down to this: we can react and get lost in our fears, or we can act, and live with hope. The first thing a job seeker needs to do is become a student of the process. There is a lot to learn to successfully find work and the clock is always ticking. Looking for work is a full time job if you do it correctly. You don’t know what you don’t know. Searching for work entails educating yourself on how to network, finding resources that could possibly lead to employment, or possibly picking up new skills by enrolling in college courses. You also need some basic training in social media—particularly LinkedIn. You aren’t even on the map (of hiring managers and recruiters) if you’re not on LinkedIn.
Secondly, set realistic expectations for yourself as to how long it is going to take to become re-employed. More than likely it will take longer than you think in finding work again. On average it is taking job seekers well over six months to land a new position. Everybody wants to end the pain and loneliness of the search as quickly as possible, but you have to embrace the process and do the right things in order to get hired or get traction starting your own enterprise. Prepare yourself mentally for the pain, humiliation and rejection that come with the interview process.
And finally, don’t go it alone. Looking for work is a lonely, and at times depressing vigil entailing hours spent at home alone with not much structure, little interaction with others, and even less feedback. Join a job search support group. The meetings provide a forum for each member to establish and report on weekly search objectives; solicit feedback and advice on issues specific to your search. These teams can also provide a forum for exchanging search best practices and most importantly, create a supportive environment that fosters camaraderie that can greatly improve your chances of landing work more quickly.
Whether we like it or not, unemployment shows us what we’re made of. We are starting all over again and that’s just the way it goes. What do we have to offer? That’s what everyone in this new economy has to figure out. The potential rests within each of us, if we only believe in ourselves to make a better life, hit our own reset button and do what it takes to find meaningful work today.