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Even though organizations have been aggressively cost cutting for the past year, when employees are called into their Human Resource department and given the bad news, it’s always a shock. “Why me? I was doing a great job.”
It’s natural to be overwhelmed with negative emotions - fear, worry, depression and anger, psychiatrist Judith Orloff says. She is the author of Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Harmony Books). Orloff is also an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA.
Psychologists report that losing a job is, for many people, as serious emotionally as dealing with death and divorce. The details of the termination, however, are ultimately not important; the reality is that feeling sorry for yourself is a wasted emotion. The primary goal ought to be finding another position as quickly as possible.
Orloff stresses that it’s very important to avoid negative emotions. They can “crush your confidence and paralyze you,” she said. In fact, there are techniques that can help you deal with negative feelings so that they don’t stand in the way.
Orloff offers the following tips that can help focus energy on the job hunt:
Fight anxiety by harnessing neurochemicals. Sounds complicated, but simple aerobic exercise such as brisk walking markedly reduces anxiety by increasing serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Orloff calls them "feel good" neurotransmitters.
Neutralize depression by choosing stimuli. Get out of the house and work out the day so that all energy is channelled into the job search. It’s also important to be around upbeat, positive people who are motivating influences. Avoid doom-and-gloomers who only see a bleak future.
Change self-loathing into self-promotion. Rather than dwell on the reasons for the layoff, concentrate on the positive aspects of the job experience – what was learned and how it can be translated into an asset for a potential employer. On job interviews, one of the first questions asked will be, “Tell me the reasons for being laid off?” Think carefully about your response. It could be the clincher answer that lands a job quickly.
Anger is counterproductive. It’s very common to be angry about a termination and to feel like a victim. “Why me?” “What did I do wrong?” It’s important to ask yourself these questions, if for no other reason than to learn something about yourself. Maybe the quality of work was below average and could have been better. Or, possibly workers recently hired were the first to go, those with seniority kept their jobs. Whatever the reasons, don’t let them zap energy and deter achievement of primary goal: landing a job. It’s time to move on.
Summing up, Orloff stressed that “getting back on track emotionally after a layoff is the single most important thing to work on.” It's more important than updating your résumé or checking job sites. Once in a positive frame of mind and focused on keeping negative emotions in check, there is a better chance of excelling on job interviews and building career connections. “You may discover that getting laid off was actually a positive experience because it opened up new and better opportunities,” Orloff added.
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