By Maggie Griffin
“So, where do you work?” There’s nothing like saying you’re unemployed to create an awkward silence. Being out of work, whether it’s expected or sudden, affects more than just casual conversation. It can penetrate your mental outlook, as well. It’s discouraging, perhaps a bit humbling, and most definitely unsettling.
If you’re looking for a new work opportunity, you’ve heard all of the platitudes: Take care of yourself. Reach out. Give it time. Network. Stay positive. Be open to new ideas.
Those are all valid bits of advice. They’re also so common and widespread that nobody should bother to repeat them; they are not new discoveries. What job seekers need to know is how to do all those things.
Losing your job is one of the top stressors in life, so don’t just dismiss it. But also, remember that stress can be a positive motivator. It’s ironic how your job can be one of your biggest sources of stress, but once it’s gone, it’s replaced by a stressor that’s just as great: not having a job.
A crucial element in maintaining your emotional health while finding a new job is to never do it alone. Even introverts—maybe especially introverts—need to get out of the house and interact. You can’t do this in a vacuum, and the more you isolate yourself, the more you decrease your chances of staying on top of this challenging situation.
Because employment is often central to our economic survival, find ways to take care of yourself that aren’t expensive. The public library provides a great place to set up shop and get out of the house and also offers free Wi-Fi, quiet study rooms, and more. Industry-related groups (such as AMA) often offer continuing education resources that put you in touch with peers and hiring managers. Reach out to the Chamber of Commerce, the Visitors and Convention Bureau, or other local business-focused resources. Find and attend the meetings (networking abounds, as well as self-education), volunteer to help, and when it comes to encouragement and support, give, rather than just take. It’s amazing that the more involved you become in an organization, the more opportunities will be revealed.
Remember that in every challenge, there is also a gift. The days spent unemployed can be filled with experiences you never used to have time for. Between your research and job hunting, take some time out to explore the community. Discover a few new coffee shops. Find the things visitors look for, like parks, community centers, and free tours. Take your camera and turn each new experience into a story you can share. Get more fresh air. Learn how to do something new.
Find a few people who understand the challenges of being unemployed. Maybe it’s a counselor; maybe it’s a former co-worker; maybe it’s a neighbor, or even an online group. When you can share your feelings without judgment, and when you can vent frustrations, you’ll be better able to cope with the frustrations that are bound to pop up.
Keep a normal life going, as well. Make your bed. Do the dishes. Keep the TV off. Continue doing the important things so that you prove to yourself that a job—or lack of a job—doesn’t define who you are.
Know that this too, shall pass.
Maggie Griffin is a journalist who works in marketing communications. She’s worked with companies as diverse as NASA, Toyota, and ExxonMobil. She’s looking forward to retiring in four years, and will then ease into freelance blogging.