Job Loss: Disaster or Opportunity?
We all know how financially devastating job loss is, especially if one doesn’t have a savings account to fall back on. What often remains unstated though is the deep impact losing one’s job can have on a person’s psyche. We tend to treat job loss as purely a financial matter, and ignore the tumult of emotions such a traumatic experience can cause.
What we don’t realize is that many of those bearing the weight of unemployment feel as if they’ve lost their identity and purpose. We tend to describe ourselves not by who we are, but by what we do. Our jobs and professions are how we show that we’re worth something in the world and are capable human beings. When we lose that, what are we left with?
I’ve experienced this loss of identity personally. In October of 2008, I was laid off from my job as a proofreader at Kaplan K12 Learning Services. The blow was devastating. Having studied English in college, holding a job with such a big company gave me a sense of accomplishment, as if all my hard work in school had paid off. When I lost the job, I felt as if I had nothing. Over the next year, my sense of identity slowly drained away. I felt like I was less than a man, and dreaded being asked what I did for a living.
I know I’m not the only one who’s struggled with this.
What then are those who are suffering from job loss to do?
While unemployment is absolutely anguishing, it also presents an unparalleled opportunity. When life gives you lemons and all that. Here’s what I learned during my year of unemployment. I hope this helps you:
1. Recognize the gift of time you’ve been given.
If you’re unemployed, it’s probably been a long while since you haven’t had to answer to someone about what you do with your time. Recognize that you’ve been given a tremendous freedom that you (hopefully) won’t get again. Take advantage of it.
While your day will probably consist of job searching, you have the ability to choose how you schedule your time. No bosses to report to. No coworkers to bug you. Your time is yours. Don’t squander it.
2. Use your time to find and develop your passion.
In the midst of your job search, take the time to find and develop what you love. If you’re lucky enough to already be in a field you love, head to your local unemployment office and ask if they’ll pay for classes to help you develop new skills. So long as such classes will help you develop your career, unemployment will often pay.
If you hope to change fields, experiment. Find free classes to take in your spare time. Explore various art forms. Search the internet for free articles and lessons that will help you hone your craft. You’d be surprised at what’s out there. Who knows? You might even unlock some new talents.
3. Don’t let hopelessness suck up your time.
When I was unemployed, I felt like I was trapped at the bottom of a hole with no hope of escape—ever. I thought that my situation would never improve and that I’d wasted my college degree. There were entire days when I would not leave my house at all. I’d send out resumes just because I felt I had to. But other than robotically applying for jobs, whole days were consumed by video games and TV. After all, what was the point in pursuing anything if it would only end in failure?
Don’t let yourself fall into that same pit. The hopelessness will be there. It will plague you. It will gnaw at your skull. But you have to fight through it, even if you don’t want to, even if you all you want to do is crawl into a ball and cry. Let yourself work through it. Recognize that you are not alone in your struggle.
4. Make your passion a habit.
The best way to force yourself to do something is to make it a habit. Create a strict schedule for yourself. Your priority should be sending out resumes and contacting employers. The rest of the time, develop your marketable skills and find your passions. Set aside time every day to take little steps toward your goals. Not only will this keep you too busy for your mind to focus on despair, but it will also turn these things into habits after a few weeks.