Let’s face it, losing a job sucks! Recently, I have been chatting with friends who have been affected by organizational changes resulting in being out of work. This situation is all too familiar to millions of people and frequently through no fault of their own. Often it is a result of an economic downturn, restructuring, acquisitions, and cost savings.
A couple of years ago, while on a business trip, I learned my role would be ending. While It was not completely unexpected, as an expat it was overwhelming. Would I have to move back to my home country? Would I have to leave the place I started to build a life? What about my volunteer commitments? This and so much more spun around my head. Thank goodness for re-runs of “How I Met Your Mother.” Upon finding out the news, I spent hours obsessed with the saga of Ted and Robin while indulging in cookies and ice cream. After a few days, (and before my jeans got too tight), I picked myself up and started moving forward. Along the way, I was reminded of some valuable lessons:
1. Feel the feels
Most of us in this situation will experience a range of feelings. Allow yourself to sit in them. You may find yourself grieving. This is natural, after all something that was a significant part of your life has come to an end. Recognising Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s famous five stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance) can help with the coping process.
Breathe. Do yoga. Meditate. Write in a journal. Create a vision board. These actions can help ground and center you and soon enough, you will start having clarity about how to move forward.
2. Your tribe will always be your tribe
Connect with friends and family. Let people know what is going on. Your tribe will rally and embrace you no matter where in the world they are. They will love you, encourage you, help you and still think you are great, even when you don’t. They will drag you out of the house, drink a cup of tea with you over a video call, and make sure you get to that yoga class. As tough as it is, reaching out and talking about it helps.
3. Ask for help
As a fairly independent person, asking for help is uncomfortable. In the spirit of “be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” I reached out to my network and asked for help. One particular situation that continues to stick with me is someone I met at an event and remained connected to. I called him and asked for help. He asked me to call him back the following week so he could think about suitable connections. Sure enough, the next week, he was ready with a list of TEN people that would be valuable to connect with. This blew my mind. He spent time in the following weeks crafting up personalized emails and making introductions. This was a reminder of the human spirit. People want to help – we need to reach out and ask!
4. Create a routine
A routine helps anchor us, while providing structure, instils good habits and keeps us efficient. I designed a new routine by waking up at the same time every morning, did an hour of physical activity, meditated and created a to-do list for the day. A neighbourhood coffee shop became my “office” and when I was not out meeting someone, I would grab a cup of coffee and work on applications, networking requests, learning modules, goals and volunteer projects. I ended my “work day” around the same time every day and would have an evening activity lined-up. This helped keep structure, kept my mind engaged, and ensured I was not isolating myself.
5. Set Goals
It is easy to feel as though your purpose has disappeared. Setting goals and reflecting will provide clarity, focus, motivation and keep you accountable. Examples of goals could be setting up a meeting or two per week, updating your resume, applying to jobs weekly, or volunteering. Goals give you something to work toward and at the end of the week, be sure to take stock of what you accomplished. Reflecting allows you to see progress, be grateful for the support, and gives a foundation to build on.
6. Personal Board of Directors (PBOD)
This concept was introduced to me a few years ago by a member of my own PBOD. This is a trusted group of people who you can turn to for advice, who will share helpful resources and, offer diverse perspectives. As Lisa Barrington explains in her article, Everyone Needs A Personal Board Of Directors, “Your PBOD exists to act as a sounding board, to advise you and to provide you with feedback on your life decisions, opportunities and challenges.” Some roles you may want to consider for your PBOD are: an accountability partner, someone to ask tough questions, a connector, a mentor, and one of your biggest fans. Your PBOD does not have to meet at the same time or be in the same geographical location. I speak with at least one member of my PBOD weekly. It helps keep me on track and pushes me to think differently.
This time can be filled with emotional ups and downs. Take time to play. Laughter and play release endorphins in the brain. As stated on NPR’s podcast “All things considered,” adults play for many important reasons: building community, keeping the mind sharp and keeping close the ones we love.” Explore the city you are in – check out all of the free things you can do. Go on a vacation for a few days. It can help you gain perspective and reconnect you to what is important. According to Dr. Stuart Brown, Founder of National Institute for Play, “What you begin to see when there’s major play deprivation in an otherwise competent adult is that they’re not much fun to be around.” Put yourself out there. Talk to strangers. Say yes. Have adventures.
Yes, this sounds counterintuitive. You are walking into an unknown, what is there to celebrate? It is not every day you get to put life on pause and recalibrate. Be grateful for the downtime – think of it as a gift. Be thankful for the experiences the job gave you. Celebrate the success and the struggles. Embrace the lessons –you will take these with you as you move forward. Practice gratitude for the relationships you formed and the people who helped you.
While this period in life may sting, remember, it is temporary. Take this opportunity to hit the pause button, reflect on what is important, renew and build your network, and set new goals. Trust the process – this journey will add a richness to your life, give you empathy, and will build your resilience. The turbulence might shake you, but space is being created for new opportunities and chances are it will work out better than you thought. Keep moving forward and enjoy all that this time will bring.