Career Advice

Is Unemployment Fear Getting The Best of You? 10 Tips To Get Over It

In this slump, more jobs have been lost from the economy than at any other time on record. Broad chunks of once stable industries including automotive and publishing have simply vanished. Some estimates of the ‘real’ unemployment rate run between 18% and 20%.

The numbers mean that one in five people have been disrupted. The old way of making a living is gone and it’s time to find a new thing. While it may be that the big picture involves seismic economic shifts, when they happen in your backyard, it’s demoralizing and debilitating.

What does it mean that another 500,000 people gave up on the prospect of looking for work?

Mostly, it means that not having a job is frightening. The economic consequences of job loss include credit, relationship and self-esteem damage. The job is the primary source of personal identity in our culture. Having to figure out who you are each day is really hard work. Changing jobs makes it harder still.

Any job change involves facing your fears.

Last week, we talked about making a list of your worst career mistakes as a way of coming to terms with one kind of fear: that your job hunt will end up as a failure because of your past. Understanding that most of us lead lives with less than extraordinary job accomplishments is key to putting that particular anxiety to bed.

The other uncertainties and ambiguities of career change are not so easy to combat directly. Feelings of worthlessness, self-pity, lethargy, situational depression, even terror are an integral part of big changes for most of us. People who don’t experience these forms of fear are often sociopaths. In other words, these feelings are normal.

It’s also normal to let these feelings overwhelm and paralyze you. Many job hunt counselors suggest that you can’t really be effective in a job hunt for 90 days after you lost your job. The real question isn’t whether they will creep up but what to do when they do.

Fear is a normal part of learning and accomplishment. Almost any definition of courage alludes to the fact that being courageous means getting stuff done when you’re afraid. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s the willingness to keep moving in spite of the fear.

When fears, uncertainties and ambiguities are unfamiliar, they can seem larger. So, the best recipe for success involves creating a context in which the fears become more familiar. Looking for work requires the development of routines and patterns that you may not have in place. By establishing your own order and predictability, you can make friends with your fears and harness them.

Here are ten things you can do to create a routine that will harness your anxieties:

  1. Morning Routine: Wake up at the same time each morning, weekends included. Do the same three things in the same order each day. Brush your teeth, take a shower get dressed. Have coffee, plan the day, take a shower. It doesn’t matter what. Pick three and repeat.
  2. First Call of The Day: Always make a call to a friend at the same time each day. Make it the first work thing that you do. Talk about the weather, the family or your job hunt. Make friendship a high priority.
  3. Bedtime Ritual: Take 30 minutes to get ready for bed. Do the same things in the same order. Go to bed early enough to get eight hours (no more). Do things that help you unwind so that when you hit the pillow, you are ready to sleep.
  4. Good Night’s Sleep: Getting a good night’s sleep is key to being an effective job hunter. Make your bed an oasis. Make the rule that you don’t look for work when you’re in bed. If you wish to worry, get out of bed, write the worries down and then get back to sleep.
  5. Log Your Work: Looking for work involves chasing wild geese. Keep track of who you’ve talked to, which companies received your resume, interviews completed and phone calls made. When you’re feeling like you haven’t made progress, the documentation will really help.
  6. Measure Your Progress: Set goals and standards for each day’s work. Setting and keeping objectives will help you maintain the sense that you are moving forward. Set reasonable goals for repeated daily actions. Over the course of six weeks, 7 resumes sent, 10 phone calls made (at least leaving a message) and 3 phone calls completed (actually talking to someone about your work) is a good standard.
  7. Spiritual Practice: Pray, meditate, go to church, read inspirational books, listen to a motivational tape, visualize success, visit natural beauty. Whatever your spiritual discipline, set aside at least thirty minutes each day to get in touch with the larger forces that influence your life.
  8. Exercise: Another half hour commitment. Moving your body will move your mind. Walk, run, lift or ride.
  9. Diet: Avoid sugars and high fructose corn syrup. These are the dangerous food chemicals that play with your mood. Job changes often produce a few extra pounds around the middle. Watch for emotional eating.
  10. Media Consumption: The economic news is dismal. The world is falling apart. The end is near. You don’t need so much of this right now. Ration your news consumption to 15 minutes per day. Listen to music instead.

The only trouble with a list like this is that no one can do it all, all at once. Find one thing on the list that you aren’t doing and start there. Get good at that one thing for a couple of weeks. Then add another item from the list.

Remember, it’s normal to be scared and to have the fear prevent you from getting stuff done. Building small personal routines in these ten areas can help to build a foundation for progress. Good luck.