Unemployment is an emotional roller coaster but you need skill and endurance to stop yourself from sliding into fear and depression. Some tips that’ll help you emerge stronger
You’ve read the writing on the wall and finally The Day of reckoning’s dawned. Filled with trepidation, you enter the inner sanctum only be told you’re being laid off. Of course, the pill’s been honey coated so the bitterness doesn’t hit you right away. But whichever way you look at it, and however tactful and garbled the message, you know it’s time to take your family photographs off the walls and bin your potted bonsais.
Learning that you’re being laid off can be a real shocker, so it’s understandable if all you want to do is crawl under the covers or hop on to the first plane to Timbuktu. But the fact is, as the economy rockets to dizzying heights and eager entrepreneurs and companies surge ahead to makeor breaktheir fortunes, businesses start and fail, expand and cut back. Getting a pink slip in these tumultuous times is commoner than you think, and while some see red, others get decidedly blue.
Recruitment consultant Vikram Sohni says it’s a rare breed who doesn’t respond to an involuntary loss of employment with feelings of anger, sadness or both. “All job losses sting. People who don’t care about their jobs quit. But the ones who do stay on, almost always have an emotional investment in their workplace that causes them pain when they’re asked to leave before they’re ready to,” he says. In fact, psychologists say that the loss of work is much like other losses in life, comparable to the death of a loved one, in that they cause considerable grief and suffering.
More so in India where our parent’s generation, and to some extent ours as well, believed work equaled worship. Much like the brides of yore who married into a family and left the marital home only when they died, more than two generations of workplace stalwarts believed one joined fresh out of college and left the company only after retirement. Their identity was defined by what they did for a living, and a loss of that was too horrifying to even contemplate, evoking emotional reactions ranging from intense disappointment to “I’m going to jump off a bridge.”
The times have changed. Money, job satisfaction, fulfillment, perks and fast track promotions are high on the agenda of Millennials but it still that doesn’t take away the sting loss of unemployment generates. Psychologists say typically “individuals who over-identify with their jobs blame themselves when they’re laid off. They turn this hostility inwards, experiencing it as depression.”
So, what do you the day and weeks after losing your job? Raveena Desai, an auditor had a “lousy” Christmas when she found himself saying bye to colleagues instead of wishing them for the New Year. “Even though I knew the company was planning to outsource the function, it was traumatic. I felt empty and lost.” Thankfully, her husband has a steady job, and money wasn’t a burning issue. After days of mooching around the house, she says she woke up one morning and for the first time, looked at her predicament from her ten-year-old’s eyes. “My son was thrilled. I could actually pick him up from school, play chess and soccer with him, actually hang out with him.” That realization, says Desai, was the catalyst that spurred her on and she sent out resumes with renewed enthusiasm and a month ago, landed a better paying job.
There are some things you can do to manage the fear and depression that strikes when you envision yourselfwoebegone expression, unshaven chin and alljoining the snaking queue at the unemployment office.
Here are some tips that’ll help you help you deal with unexpected unemployment and emerge stronger
Stop comparing yourself to others:
The impact of a job loss varies. It’s likely to hit a 40-year old with a family to take care of much harder than a carefree, 25-year-old who is only biding time before getting married. Even two people in exactly the same situation may react completely differently to the same loss. We’re all unique, and there’s no one right way to handle this transition.
Join a support group:
While you can’t underestimate the value of family and friends, interacting with a group of people who can fully understand what you’re going through, can be an invaluable aid in helping you maintain perspective and a sense of humor during your search.
Talk to your spouse or partner:
You don’t have to act macho and secretive about what you perceive as “your problem”. It’s only right and fair that you share your thoughts, feelings and every aspect of your next career move (travel, change in income and relocation) with your family. In fact, sharing and talking could open up avenues you hadn’t even considered before. Prerna Narayan’s husband Ashok lost his job a couple of years ago around the time their marriage was going through a rocky patch. “We sat up nights talking about other possibilities and for the first time in years Ashok shared aspects of his life I had been blind to,” she says. He’s back at work and their bond is stronger than ever before.
Be upfront about your emotions:
Admitting your anger, fear, and frustrations to your support group and family is the first step towards managing your emotions. Name and claim the enemy instead of trundling though life riddled with a vague but continual sense of anxiety. Only by facing up to your fears can you begin to work on a plan for addressing those issues.
Pessimists who only fan the fires of your insecurities are best avoided. Instead, align yourself with friends, business contacts and colleagues who think more of you than you think of yourself. Their suggestions will inspire, empower, and encourage you to move on in the face of rejection.
Focus on your emotional and physical wellbeing.
Be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up over what you could and should have done to prevent the inevitable is pointless. Get enough sleep, exercise and eat well. Payal Kharbanda worked for 24 years with a multinational before getting the pink slip; after two weeks spent moping about, she started running, a first for her.
Focus on the positive:
While you can’t change events, you can change how you react to them. Instead of focusing on the negatives in your life, focus on the positive side of unemployment, whether it’s the opportunity to spend more time with your children or explore new career directions or simply being able to sleep past 6 a.m. Desai says the time she spent with her son s enriched him beyond measure. “Even though I love my new job, I find it hard to find anything to compare the fun I had with him.”
There’s nothing more depressing than staring at an empty calendar. Schedule your job search activities like making cold calls, revising resumes, calling up old contacts, as you would a regular work day. Visit trade shows, seminars, business meetings, even the library. Keep moving even if curling up on the sofa and watching soaps on TV is all you want to do.