Coping with unemployment is extremely difficult. Being unemployed can be devastating on every level—professionally, psychologically, financially, and emotionally. So much of our identity and our sense of self-worth are wrapped up in our jobs and careers. In many ways, we are what we do, and being unemployed can rock us to the core.
However, you can cope and grow as a person through unemployment. I know that sounds Pollyanna-ish, but it’s true. It’s not easy, though. It takes focus, grit, determination, and a little bit of faith to come through it, but you can do it.
Here are a few tips to help you survive and even thrive through unemployment:
- Stay positive. Don’t let yourself fall into despair. You have to force yourself to remain positive. As corny as it sounds, positive thinking brings about positive results. Your actions and attitude go where your thinking goes, so if you are depressed and grumpy and down-in-the-dumps all the time, that is how you will behave and appear to others. And that’s no good. No one wants to be around a Debbie Downer, let alone help them find a job.
So do whatever you can to keep your spirits up. Make your physical and emotional health a priority. Take walks, eat right, get enough sleep, and do whatever it takes to stave off the stress, anxiety, or despair.
- Stay active and productive. Resist the urge to become a hermit. Opportunities come from other people, so make sure you stay out and about in the world and are engaged with activities and projects that keep you energized, focused, and productive. You never know what chance encounter is going to lead to your next job or your next lead. But it won’t happen if you sit home all day.
- Connect with your network. Again, opportunities come from other people, so make sure everyone you know is aware that you are on the market. They don’t necessarily need to know details of your unemployment, but they do need to know you are looking for a new job. Cast your net wide. Take people to lunch or dinner, have drinks after work or coffee in the afternoon. Get out there and network.
- Learn a new skill/engage in professional development. Make this “downtime” a time of learning. The more skills you have the better off you are and the more marketable you become. This also helps keep you fresh, energized, and valuable in the workplace. It also expands your network by introducing you to new people.
Think about what you did in your last position. Were there skills you needed but never got around to developing? Are there new skills that can make you even more marketable? Think it through and then take action—now is the perfect time.
- Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to keep your skills sharp, learn new skills, meet new people, connect with the community, grow your network, and get more business exposure. Volunteering is also a great way to maintain your self-esteem and lift your spirits. Doing good feels good. It also gives you something to talk about when people ask you what you have been working on.
- Follow your passion. This is a natural time to reflect on what you would really like to do. If you have to start over, maybe this is the time to recreate yourself based on what you love to do. This might be the right time to explore your entrepreneurial side, for example. If so, I recommend The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life by Kimberly Palmer.
- Help others. Reach out and do what you can to help other people who are also looking for work. Even if you don’t have a job you may know someone in a field that could help another person. It’s good karma, and it helps build up your favor bank. Good people help other good people.
Coping with unemployment is undoubtedly one of the most difficult things an adult has to deal with. Of course, none of these tips will help you pay the mortgage or put food on the table immediately. I know that. But by using these strategies your unemployment can be a time of growth and purpose, and you can come out even stronger. It’s worth a shot. Good luck!