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What to do when your employer cuts you from the team

Managing job loss in today's market is hard, very hard, so I've put up how to handle losing your job and what to do (and what NOT to do) when you get laid off. In the unpredictable game called today's job market, being a high  player who gives more, stays longer, and works harder than everyone else doesn't necessarily protect you from getting the boot. The bottom line is if the "team" can't afford you, you're going to get cut. As you're sitting in the proverbial locker room with pink slip in hand, reeling from a whirlwind of emotions, you suddenly realize that life as you once knew it has changed--in many cases, quite dramatically.

For most high-achievers, getting laid off is an entirely new experience, and if it's happened to you, you're probably feeling overwhelmed and filled with uncertainty. But unless you're independently wealthy, at some point you're going to have to shake it off and get back in there. For some, that may mean switching to an entirely new "sport." For others, it may mean playing the same game on a different team. But whatever you decide, these five strategies should help you ramp up your new game and make you even better than before.

1. Take some time to recover. Losing a job, particularly one you've had for a long time or one you really liked, can be a difficult injury to overcome. In fact, because work often becomes a major part of our identity, it's common for laid-off workers to feel as if they've lost a big part of themselves. These feelings are normal and mirror the same emotions we often see in grief reactions--denial, anger, and sadness. So if you feel like you need a little time to recover, by all means take it. How will taking time off help you get a job? Think about it. If you start a job search feeling overwhelmed, sad, angry, and bitter, what's the likelihood that anything positive will come from that? And even if you do happen to find a job, those kinds of negative, unresolved feelings are likely to interfere in your productivity and attitude, which could result in another pink slip.

2. Don't live in your past glory. Giving yourself a chance to work through your "injury" is one thing. Wallowing in pity, getting caught up in what-was and what-ifs, or engaging in other self-destructive behaviors (such as drowning yourself in alcohol to ease the pain) is another. What happened happened. If there are lessons to be learned from it, learn them and move on! You lost your job, and that's a bad break. But no matter how glorious those glory days may have been, you can't move forward if you're living in the past. Right now, you need to focus on the present, the future, and the opportunities they hold. That means:

a) do as much networking as possible for job leads (the large majority of jobs are found through networking, not through passive on-line or newspaper job searches), and

b) send out targeted resumes to targeted companies, which means prepare a resume that focuses on a specific career objective, highlighting your most impressive skills, qualifications, and experience, and send it to companies that best match your skills.

3. Don't worry about things you can't control. Worrying about things you can't control not only adds stress to your life (which you certainly don't need right now), it wastes time--time you could be using to find a new job. When clients come to me with worries, I ask them to ask themselves, "Is this something I have control over?" If the answer is no, then what positive purpose does it serve to worry about it? When you're laid-off, it's normal to worry. But it's important to train yourself to accept what you cannot control and focus on what you can. Honestly, if world leaders can't control the economy or the dismal job market, what chances do you have? None. So why stress over it? Your job is to focus on what you can control, which is actually quite a lot.
Control your emotions. Yes, your former employer may be a jerk for letting you go. But being angry at her or him keeps you living in the past, and that's not where you need to be. Also, whatever you do, never badmouth a former employer in a job interview or show any feelings of anger or bitterness over what happened. It will only reflect negatively upon you and reduce your chances of being hired.
Control your energy level. Speaking of emotions, why not turn whatever negative emotions you may be feeling into positive energy? Finding a new job in this job market requires a lot of energy. In fact, you should be tackling your new job search with as much energy as you would tackle a new job because in many respects it is. You need to be organized, efficient, strategic, and set goals for yourself.
Control your attitude. As any coach will tell you, it's all about attitude. A positive attitude increases your chances for success; a negative attitude increases your chances for failure. And that holds true for every aspect of life--sports, school, relationships, and yes, job hunting.
Control your confidence level. You are the same person you were before you were laid off. You have the same strengths and the same positive qualities you've always had, so when you call about jobs and especially when you go into job interviews, pump yourself up and let that confidence show.
Control your destiny. Rather than seeing the lay-off as a negative, reframe it as an opportunity.If you've always wanted to get into a particular line of work, this is your chance. Use whatever spare time you have investing in education or volunteer opportunities that will build and strengthen your resume in that particular field. And when you have enough training and experience to compete in the big league, go for it!

4. Do your homework. In today's job market, if you want to be competitive, you have to do your homework, especially if you get an interview. Find out everything you can about the company before you go in. The more you know about the company and your interviewer, the more impressive you'll be to a prospective employer.

5. Put on your game face. your game face is the "confident swagger you bring out when you are about to get ready to tackle something difficult, or when you are about to take on a challenge. Or when you are getting ready to get down to hard business." Finding a job in today's job market is all of these things. And frankly, it's going to take a lot of perseverance. But with your high octane engine, you're up for it.

Have you had a bad turn? Yes. But in the words of Vince Lombardi, one of the most successful coaches in history, "It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up." You can do this. Just hang in there and keep your head in the game, and when you do get back up, you're going to be better than ever.


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