The cold, hard reality is that the job market is going to take a severe hit. Applications for unemployment benefits have risen significantly. In New York, the volume was so high that the system temporarily crashed. Companies have closed, people are self-quarantined and commerce has screeched to a halt. There is a heightened level of fear and uncertainty. We don’t have a grasp of what will happen next.
It’s becoming clear that executives are going to enact hiring freezes. With lower revenue and lack of profits, companies will need to cut costs, which means massive downsizings.
We are entering a new, uncharted and frightening time period. You have to worry about the health and safety of your family, tightly holding onto your job or frantically trying to find a new one. On top of this stress, you’ll start to look at your brokerage and bank accounts, 401(k) plans and start sweating.
It’s really easy to plummet into despair if you lose your job. You’ll experience anger, fear, anxiety, worry and resentment. This mindset is self-destructive. It will permeate all aspects of your life and erode your self-confidence. It’ll sap your drive and motivation. It’s hard to do, but you need to stop the negative thoughts.
Even if you have a job, each day, you’ll worry whether or not you’re going to be the next one to get the axe. It may not be as bad as losing your job, but you’ll experience feelings of daily terror. Watching others get terminated is painful. You’ll develop survivor’s guilt. There will be constant unrelenting dread awaiting that ominous call from human resources for a meeting.
Here’s what you need to do if you lost your job or are worried that it may happen to you:
If you lost your job, grant yourself the right to process the situation. Use this time to decompress. It’s perfectly normal to mourn the loss of your position. You don’t have to pretend that everything is fine. It’s okay to get angry.
The key is not letting yourself get overwhelmed with grief. We are entering a period that will be like the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the financial crisis. It won’t be easy to find a new job, so you can’t afford to remain bitter and resentful. Those emotions won’t help. In fact, they will hinder your performance when you network with others and interview for a new job. It will also serve to alienate the people around you who want to help.
Keep in mind, it’s not just you. This is happening to millions of other people too. Knowing this won’t change matters, but you can take some comfort in knowing that it’s not your fault. The circumstances are out of your control. There is no black cloud over your head. People aren’t trying to sabotage your career or talking bad about you. I speak and correspond with dozens of people each day that are going through this situation. It’s common, but you may not realize it as everyone always tries to project themselves as doing well—even when they’re not.
You can, however, control what you do about the situation. Start a game plan to bounce back better than before. The first thing is to consider what to do next. It’s worthwhile to stay within the same field if possible. Realistically, don’t get discouraged if you can’t. Given the massive changes in our economy, you may not be able to get a similar job to the one that you previously held.
When you lose your job or are afraid of being fired, the tendency is to withdraw from social engagements. You feel embarrassed and ashamed. Ironically, since we’re working from home—self-distancing and quarantining ourselves—this may not happen as much as it did pre-coronavirus. In this new environment, interacting with people on social media is essential. You want others to know the situation you’re in. If you are out of work, there is no shame to it and you need to inform other people so that they can help you.
Seriously consider how your skills can cross over to other types of jobs. Think of reinventing yourself and trying something new. This may entail earning less than you did before, but sometimes you have to take a temporary step back to move forward. Going back to school to learn something new could be an option for some.
It’s imperative to get started looking for a new job right away. Write down an action plan detailing how you will go about finding a new job. Religiously follow the game plan every single day. There will be days when you feel like giving up hope, but you must keep moving forward.
Update your résumé and LinkedIn profile. Search for other job-related sites that can offer assistance. Tap into your network. Be aggressive and assertive. This is not a time to be timid. Politely and persistently try to leverage every contact you have. It will be awkward and uncomfortable at the beginning, but you need to be brave. Charge boldly forward into action with everything you have. There will always be hurdles and obstacles, but you must not let them stop you.
Fill out online applications and send your résumés to job listings. Be advised that the postings on the aggregated job sites are usually old. Some have already been filled, but the listing hasn’t been removed. Many times, the company already has an internal candidate in mind, but posts the job anyway. Corporate artificial intelligence technology software scans the résumés and the results are not great. If you don’t have the right keywords, your résumé disappears into the corporate black hole. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to not hear back from companies because of the way things poorly work.
In addition to taking action, check in on your mental, emotional and physical condition. You need to keep yourself healthy and strong to get through this time. Don’t feel embarrassed to seek a mental health professional if you feel you need it.
Maintain a regiment of exercise, eating healthily, avoiding drinking and drugs. Keep up your social contacts even if it’s by phone or Facetime.
Try to stay positive and upbeat. Celebrate all of the little accomplishments. Don’t allow yourself any more pity parties.
From a practical standpoint, file for unemployment benefits. Set up a budget and carefully watch your expenditures. Create and cultivate a positive and enthusiastic interviewing technique. Think of all of your wonderful assets, experience and skills that you possess relative to the job you are interviewing for.
Phone and video interviews are the new norm. If you’re uncomfortable with these mediums, make sure you practice extensively before any interview. Role play the interview scenario with someone else to ensure that you come across optimistic and not resentful or frustrated. It always sounds better in your head, so you’ll need a lot of practice to refine your pitch aloud.
Use uplifting and assertive action words and remain positive. For instance, “While I loved my job and enjoyed the respect and admiration from my manager and colleagues, my position—along with many others—was eliminated due to the economy.” Then, pivot by saying, “I view this as a blessing in disguise. I would have remained at the company for a long time if this didn’t happen. Now, I have the time to actively pursue new and exciting opportunities.”
If you have a job, hold onto it. Even if the situation looks dire, don’t leave without another job already lined up. This market will be brutal. Do everything in your power to be indispensable. Make sure that you keep close relations with your boss, colleagues and clients. You want to be the survivor.
While you’re managing your job, you should also discreetly keep an eye open for new opportunities. Don’t do anything obvious that will make you a target for being let go. Show up to work early and stay late. Take on any task you can to prove they absolutely need you. Play the part of a loyal corporate person who will do what it takes to help the company get through this crisis period.
Admittedly, this is an uncomfortable position if you are working hard at the office and also preparing an exit strategy—just in case. Follow the same rules as the recently unemployed. Try to remain positive. Network with people, search for jobs, update your résumé and LinkedIn profile.
Our lives have been turned upside down. It’s easy to come across poorly in the interview process or in your job performance. Feelings of anger, resentment and distrust seep into your interactions with co-workers and during interviewers. The hiring manager picks up on these negative vibes and decides to pass on you. Your boss and co-workers will grow weary of your disposition and you could be slated for termination.
Let’s not pretend that all of this won’t be easy. You will be plagued by self-doubt and worries over whether or not you’ll ever find a new job. The incessant nervousness won’t help matters. It only serves to hinder your advancement. You have to stay steadfast, focused and motivated. Continually work on your attitude and interviewing techniques. Even if you don’t feel like it, play the part to the best of your abilities. These times will pass. It’ll get easier over time and you will, ultimately, prevail.