I believe it to be true that if you don’t use a talent, you will lose it. In high school, I had a good singing voice and used it in school choir, church and music-theater. When I went to college I stopped singing and guess what, today I don’t sing very well at all. This is frustrating because I could once, but now I can’t. Somewhere along the way my vocal chords atrophied.
When you don’t use something, you can lose it and we can have those fears about being laid off and losing our “work and achievement” muscles. We worry: if we aren’t in the middle of the game will we lose “what it takes” to achieve and succeed? While these concerns may be valid there are easy ways to overcome the fear of atrophy:
- Keep your groove. Just because you’re not in the office doesn’t mean you can’t keep your talents working. In overcoming the fear of losing self-esteem, I talked about getting involved in non-profits, etc. to help groups that need your talents. This will also help ensure your mind and skills don’t atrophy. If you’re a great finance person, then volunteer your financial skills, mind and experience to a place or organization that you care about or to a friend who wants to scope a new business. If you take on new projects with the same rigor and energy that you do/did at work, then you won’t lose a step.
- Keep the pace of your work life in your down-time. We fear that without a job we will lose the drive and passion we once had around work. It’s important to establish routines that allow you to keep pace with the rest of the working world. This could mean setting an alarm, scheduling meetings and responding to phone calls, emails, etc. Since the sale of my company last year, I still get up at the same early hour each day as when I did to get in the office early. By continuing to set aggressive and demanding timelines for myself, I still feel engaged. This will also make it easier to step back in the work-world at full speed. Keeping pace will help prevent atrophy.
- Script your story for the future. Often when we’re asked to “describe” ourselves, we fumble around and fall into the trap of reciting jobs and dates that are already on our resumes or profiles. We should take this opportunity to offer points of interest. Now is the time to catalogue and recount our achievements and package them up in a way that we can tell a unique and compelling story of ourselves to others. This takes time and teamwork to do. You will need to be disciplined to write your script (I mean literally write it down), edit, hone and practice on others until you have your story ready to go anytime you are called upon. If you can do this, you will understand that you aren’t atrophying at all.
- Stay with the crowd. If you had a gang at work that got together socially on a regular basis then stay in that crowd and don’t take yourself out of your work social circles. The more you stay up to date with what is going on in your industry through interfacing with others, the more you will feel like you aren’t missing out on what is the latest and the greatest. So much of business is the language of a company or industry, so just by staying in the conversation, your knowledge and understanding will not suffer.
- Find other ways to put points on the board. There is nothing better than being able to point out something successful and meaningful that you have done with your new-found time. It can be helping out with one of the organizations already mentioned, or it may be some other form of self-improvement, or it could be achievement around something family-based. It really doesn’t matter as long as it is something you identified, built a plan to address, executed on and have some successes to point to. Then you can tell others clearly and distinctly what you did and what you achieved. Sounds a lot like work doesn’t it?
Lastly, a note to those who haven’t been laid off but have associates and friends who have: Getting laid off is not like getting the flu. It’s not contagious. Now is the time to lean into those who’ve been laid off with time and caring; don’t back away and avoid them. They need you to be inclusive and welcoming. Just because they lost their job, doesn’t mean that they have to lose a friend and co-worker. They need you now more than ever.
Check back in for more on how to help overcome the other F.E.A.R.s of layoffs. Our fourth and final post on this subject: Overcoming fear of rejection.