There’s no two ways about it: Losing your job is hard. Whether it has everything to do with your performance, or nothing at all, it’s still hard. However, if you look at job loss, like any setback from an enlarged perspective, you realize that success in life is measured far less by our opportunities than by how we respond to life’s setbacks and challenges.
Over the last few years, millions of people have found themselves involuntarily out of work too often through no fault of their own. This year, many will again. But whether the reason you lost your job has everything to do with your perceived performance, or absolutely nothing, it’s how you respond in the wake of it that will set you apart from others when it comes to finding a new job.
Below are seven habits to separate you from the pack, move your job application to the top of the pile, and land yourself not only back into a job, but perhaps an even better one than before.
It’s easy to get stuck in the past and what shoulda-woulda-coulda happened, but didn’t. Doing so only perpetuates destructive emotions that fuel anger, self-pity and a sense of powerlessness. Focus on the future, and on what you need to do to set yourself up as well as possible on the job front, in how you are budgeting your money, and in your relationship with those who can help you find a new job. What you focus on expands, so focus on what you want, not on what you don’t.
Don’t let your job status define you
Sure, losing your job is a very personal experience, but don’t take it too personally. Who you are is not what you do. Never was. Never will be. Research have found that the biggest determinant between those who succeed after setbacks of any kind is how they interpret them. People who interpret losing their job as a sign of personal inadequacy or failure are less likely to ‘get back on the horse’ in their job hunt than those who interpret it as an unfortunate circumstance that provided a valuable opportunity to grow in self-awareness, re-evaluate priorities and build resilience. You define who you are, not your job or a company’s decision whether or not to employ you. Don’t take it as a personal rejection against you.
When you’ve lost your job it is all too easy plant yourself on the couch, remote in one hand, beer or bag of chips in the other, and wallow in self-pity. Many do! But mental and emotional resilience requires physical resilience. So be intentional about taking care of YOU and doing whatever it takes to feel strong and fit. (After all, you now have no excuse that you don’t have time for exercise.) Studies have found that exercise builds resilience, leaving you more immune to stress. Get outdoors, go for a run, do something.
Surround yourself with positive people
Emotions are contagious. The people around you impact how you see yourself, your situation and what you do to improve it. Be intentional about who you hang out with and don’t get sucked into the vortex of those who want a marathon pity party. It wastes precious time and energy far better spent getting back into the workforce. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, and avoid those who don’t. Read positive books, watch inspiring movies, and remember that your family will take their cue from you. Let them know that while you may not have chosen your circumstances, you are confident that with time and effort, you will all pull through together, and be all the stronger and wiser for it.
Tap your network
The more people who know what you want, the more who can help you get it. The vast majority of jobs are never advertised. So the adage “Your network is your net worth” is particularly relevant when it comes to finding those jobs that are filled via word of mouth. Reach out to people you know and enlist their support in making any introductions or connections that could help you. Whatever you do, never underestimate the power of your network to open up opportunities and land you that “lucky break” you were hoping for.
Treat finding a job as a job
If you feel the need, and can afford to do it, give yourself a break for a few days or week or two. But assuming you can’t afford a year sailing the world on the Queen Mary, don’t take too long before returning to your familiar routine. Create structure in your day. Sure you have more time on your hands than you had before, but you will be amazed at how little you can do in a day if you aren’t intentional about what you want to get done. Create a job search plan with goals and small manageable steps. Then prioritize, structure your day and treat finding a job as a job.
It’s pretty simple really: extending kindness toward others makes us feel good. It’s not just a nice thing to do something for others – whether helping a neighbor or volunteering in a local soup kitchen – it’s actually a helpful thing to do for ourselves. Yes, scientists have found that acts of kindness produce some of the same “feel good” chemicals in the brain as anti-depressants. In addition, when we give our time to help others, it helps us stop dwelling on our own problems, and makes us realize how much we have to be thankful for. It can also can be an effective way to build your network, and show potential employers you are not sitting idly by waiting for work to come your way. There’s no better mood booster than making a difference for someone else, even when you wish your own life were different than it is.