03/29/2011 09:18 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Move Forward When You've Been Let Go

Losing your job can be scary in this economy. I had a client I'll call Jill who found herself in the very difficult (but these days fairly common) place of being laid off from her job. She found herself in a whirlwind of disbelief and negative thinking that almost paralyzed her from getting another job. She was a confident, intelligent, successful woman who had been in a very high-powered job, and she absolutely could not get over the fact that she had been the victim of downsizing. By the time I started working with her, she was a total basket case. She was the sole breadwinner in the family and needed to find a job within three months or she was going to have to borrow money from her parents or sell her house -- neither of which were attractive options. I knew I could help her, but there were some serious changes she needed to make if she was going to find a new job that quickly.

1) You Are Not A Victim

Jill was devastated and shocked after being fired. Like many people, she went on an emotional roller coaster ride, imagining herself the victim of the firing. Negative thoughts flooded her mind: Why did she get fired and not her lazy co-worker? The company was out to get her. She was a great worker and totally unappreciated.

You can have a pity party and tell yourself a story about how you were a victim of the company, but it does you absolutely no good, and in fact it robs you of your power in the situation. So let's be adults, admit that this is your life and ponder the possibility that you got fired for a reason. Be honest and look at the possible scenarios. Was the company cutting costs and needing to let go of people with high salaries? Or was the company letting go of the lowest performers? Were you a lower performer? When was the last time you sold an account? Did you get along with everyone? Were you a complainer? There are many reasons why people lose their jobs. It's important to be able to tell the truth about your job loss. Think hard about why it happened and be accountable for it. It's honestly much easier than being a victim, because then you actually have a real, tangible problem to focus on instead of wallowing in pointless self-pity.

With Jill, the bottom-line fact was that she was let go because a major account left the company and there wasn't money to pay her salary anymore. In her head she turned it into a big drama about how the company screwed her and it wasn't fair, and they were now the enemy. I got her to realize that she actually wasn't a victim at all; it was just circumstance and the economy. When you let go of being a victim, you take the power back and can move forward from a place of strength.

2) Take Action

It's easy to become depressed after losing your job. Every morning, I had Jill get out of bed, take a shower and spend a minimum of three hours a day looking for a job. During those hours she sent out résumés, made phone calls, signed up for Internet job sites, contacted headhunters and reached out to all her business contacts for help. Her goal was to set up at least one interview a day.

3) Exercise Every Day

I don't care what anyone says; exercise makes you feel better. I had Jill exercising every day. At first she didn't want to, but almost immediately she started enjoying it. When I say exercise, I mean getting your heart rate up. If you don't belong to a gym, do a powerwalk or go on a hike. Do one thing a day that equals an hour at the gym. It will clear your head, and you'll feel good about yourself.

4) Do A Special Project

How many projects have you been putting off for years because you were too busy working? When you're unemployed, it's the perfect time to follow through on projects or hobbies that have fallen by the wayside. Every week you don't have a job, you should focus on accomplishing one new project. While Jill was unemployed, she cleaned out her garage and organized all her photos. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment afterwards.

5) Stop The Negative Inner Dialogue

This last step is very important. After being fired, most people start a negative inner dialogue in their head about being fired. It's hard out there. Unemployment is high. You'll never get a new job. You blame the economy, the job market, China, whatever. But the real force you're up against is you. Stop listening to the negative dialogue in your head! Trust yourself and believe you will get a job.

Jill had an ongoing, negative inner dialogue in her head that was downright ugly. She would constantly put herself down and tell herself she would never get a job. Then she would talk to her friends about how there were no jobs in the marketplace and she was screwed. They would agree with her, and everybody felt awful.

To stop this vicious cycle, I made Jill send me a nightly log of everything she was thinking in her head. I needed her to really hear what she was saying to herself and recognize it. Most people don't want to hear the dialogue in their head because it's so nasty, but you have to be able to hear it in order to stop it. She was taking the actions every day to get a job, but the dialogue in her head wasn't aligned with getting a job. She was actually sabotaging herself through her negative thinking.

I also had Jill tell her friends that they were not allowed to feel sorry for her. They were only allowed to support her and ask her about her progress, which stopped her friends from reinforcing her negative dialogue. Once Jill stopped her self-destructive inner dialogue, she was able to shift her thinking about getting a job.

Finding a job in this economy is possible.

After thoroughly following my steps, Jill landed a fantastic job within three months. She didn't have to borrow money or sell her house. She stopped thinking negatively and changed her outlook on her whole life.


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