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How to Handle Job Loss


When faced with a job loss that has impacted your life and family, conditions are perfect for raging demons of self-doubt. There is a strong desire to fix the past and a tendency to look backwards dwelling on what could have been done to have changed the outcome. This thinking feeds itself with all of the negatives and flaws, both real and imagined, in an attempt to reconcile the reality . . . you are out of a job.

These demons are persistent and demand more and more time until eventually a sort of paralysis sets in. Regardless of your activity level, if you are gripped by self-doubt you are not being effective. The demons will speak for you through your body language, your presentation, your enthusiasm. It need not be.

You can take back control and turn toward your future. The future is the only thing that you can influence. To do it, you must get and remain motivated.

Ten Ways to Get and Remain Motivated

Mourn the loss:

You may think of mourning as a negative concept. Why then is mourning job loss necessary in order to get motivated?

Civilizations since time began have allowed for mourning of loss. It is a special period set aside to cleanse the spirit and bring closure. The secret is in limiting the time.

Choose a period of time and give yourself permission to feel badly about the loss of your job. Gather with friends and family to reflect on the way things were. Examine the good times. Know that they will come again in different form. At the end of your mourning period, close the door on the past. It has no value other than helping define your starting place.

Ask for help:

People are a critical part of getting motivated. I don’t know of a single person who stands well or long on his own. To varying degrees, we all need to be propped and possibly prodded by others to realize our worth and maximize our effectiveness.

Plan for six direct person to person connections a day, minimum. Others provide a mirror in which we examine ourselves and a helping hand when the load becomes too much to bear. Suggestions on resumes, contacts and referrals, encouragement and hope, critique, validation and coaching are but a few things that you can ask for.

For many, this is a huge hurdle to cross in a society that puts a premium on independence. However, independence in a job search can lead to isolation and total breakdown of motivation. I can not emphasize enough the value of a good support network. You must ask and not once but often.

You will find the assistance of others to be uplifting and when you receive, be grateful. It reinforces your own worth and self confidence and is a major component in staying motivated.

Make a decision:

Decisions are invigorating. Think to the time of your last major purchase and what it felt like the instant that you signed on the line. There was a natural tension released in an instant and a rush of good feeling. All doubt was removed. Suddenly things were concrete and real. You saw things in a new light and experienced closure.

Apply this to your attitude, your planning schedule, your relationships, your job search. You will find that you really are empowered. No one can take that away from you. You have the power to decide how you feel today and you have the power to decide to pursue your own motivation.

Develop positive “touch points”:

By “touch point”, I am referring to places, persons and things that result in instant recall of positive feelings. What/who makes you feel good about yourself?

One possible touch point may be a list of your greatest strengths, recognitions and accomplishments. Tape the list to a place you go frequently during the day, your mirror or refrigerator. Refer to it often. Pause for a minute on one specific item. You are conducting positive reinforcement and preparing for the interview where you can recall each of these attributes instantly.

Another may be a trusted friend or confidant, that you respect and whom you know will provide honest input or a caring ear.

Establish a plan:

Action without direction is wasted. It gives the illusion of progress but is transitory. One can easily find themselves back at the starting point with significant and unrecoverable time expended. Unless you know in advance where you are going, you can’t really know when you are there.

It is much better to create a clear objective for your job search, that is a beginning and an end. With those two points as reference, one can strike intermediate points which will lead to the goal. You can measure progress in meaningful milestones and add these to your list of accomplishments to review daily.

Visualize the result:

Use positive imaging and mental pictures to create a sense of hope and outcome. See yourself accepting the new job, managing the project, enjoying the vacation on the income you’ve earned, learning and doing something interesting and stimulating. See yourself as successful in your job search or career and you will find ways to satisfy that desire.

Imaging is a powerful tool for self-realization. If you can not imagine it, the odds are astronomical for you to achieve it. Whereas, an active and vibrant imagination can release the creative juices to find ways over, under, around or through any obstacle in your way. It also places everything that you do or say in a structure and context. This is helpful for keeping a clear sense of direction and purpose in your job search.

Achieve one goal:

Avoid trying to accomplish too many things at one time. Develop your action plan in accordance with your strategy, set priorities, partition the time available and concentrate on bringing each action to conclusion before going on to the next. It is better to complete one action than to spread yourself so thin that there is no measurable progress. The later is a formula for frustration and discouragement.

You will find there is an instant gratification from completion of each activity. Each one is a victory in your search for that ideal job. You will begin to develop a pattern that works for you. Continued and persistent application to the task will yield results. It is simply a matter of time.

Of all of the people I have known, the ones with the least time between positions have been those who were tireless in their pursuit. They were also the happiest and least likely to have wide emotional swings because they were in constant contact with others. They worked and used their networks most effectively.

Celebrate your success:

What do you really enjoy? Set aside break points in the action and create a diversion. Promise your self a reward for that important milestone in your search. When you complete your resume, go to a movie. When you’ve completed your six networking contacts for the day, take time for a walk, play a round of golf, or call a close friend to chat and tell them about your progress.

Rewards do not have to be extravagant. They can be as simple as time out to finish another chapter in that book you have been trying to read. When you do reward yourself make sure that you take the time to say to yourself, “I earned this because I did such a good job in…. (fill in the blank.)”

The point is, reward yourself. Plan incentives and payoffs for a job well done or a major accomplishment. Tape the reward to a visible place or write it in your day planner as a reminder of a promise to be kept. Keeping promises to yourself is as important to your health, well-being and motivation as keeping promises to others.

Give of yourself:

One of the best ways to feel good about yourself and keep motivated is to become involved with others. Volunteer organizations are always short of staff and in need of helping hands. You will feel good knowing that your efforts are going to benefit someone else in need. It will remind you of the gifts that you have and help you to be thankful.

A side benefit of volunteering is that these organizations can be a good place to network. Many companies encourage their executives and employees to provide volunteer service. When working with someone in a service capacity, there are no gatekeepers and access is relatively free. Being outside of the workplace provides a neutral territory where all sorts of issues and questions can be explored.

Visit a friend; spend time with your spouse or children; call an elderly neighbor. That you have more time available, is an opportunity to experience things that may not be possible in the same way when you are working.

Spend time in reflection:

Take time out at regular intervals to evaluate where you are, where you have been and where you are going. Whether your time out is spent in meditation, prayer, quiet time alone, or simply daydreaming, the effect is the same regardless of the form. Endorphins are released in response, and a general feeling of euphoria and well being lifts your spirit.

Reflection and introspection have the benefit of bringing all of the events of your life into focus. It helps to establish real priorities from phony ones and plants your feet on solid ground.


Staying motivated can be a struggle under the best of circumstance. It is even more of a challenge when out of work. Make use of all of the resources available to you so that you can approach every day with the energy and vitality to sustain your job search and return to work as quickly as possible.

By Pat Bowen

Patrick Bowen is a veteran marketing and sales professional with over 20 years experience developing strategies for key account and market penetration. He has held a variety of management roles dealing in business to business marketing of highly technical products from diverse industries. Pat currently works as an independent consultant to small and medium sized companies to organize, motivate, and expand their business and profit potentials. He has also served as a Sysop on CompuServe’s Career Management Forum where he offered advice and encouragement on conducting effective job searches.

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