I was inspired to write this blog post after receiving two calls recently — both from highly accomplished and successful technical managers who suddenly found themselves laid off. Understandably, both of these individuals are having a little bit of trouble absorbing the shock. After 10 plus years of dedication and significant accomplishments with their respective companies, how could this happen to them?!?
Fired, downsized, laid off, your company went bust — whatever the reason, losing your job can make you feel lousy. It’s a blow to the ego and it can crush your confidence. Even when part of a mass layoff, it’s hard not to take losing your job personally and emotionally. Feelings of grief, fear, panic, and frustration are completely natural.
We all spend so much time at work — according to Psychology Today, an average of 90,000 over a lifetime — that quite often, we spend more time with our work colleagues than with our family. While losing your job is not the end of the world, it can have a strong psychological impact. It can make you feel as though you are stepping into the Twilight Zone.
The good news is that despite the stress of job loss and unemployment, there are many things you can do to take control of the situation and remain positive. If you have recently been laid off, consider the following advice:
- Remember, you are not alone! Everyone at some point in his or her life will suffer from loss. Whether it is a job loss, a death of a family member or friend, the passing of a beloved pet, the loss of financial security or a missed promotion, at some point we will all experience what it’s like to not reach an important goal.
- Face your feelings. Grief is a natural part of the healing process. Before jumping straight into a job search, allow yourself a little time to deal with the emotional loss of your career. Take a few days off if you need to in order to calm yourself down and deal with your emotions.
- Don’t overthink it. Unemployment is a part of every market economy. The sooner you can accept your reality, the sooner you can move on. In an interview with The Washington Post, Robert Leahy, Ph.D., clinical professor of psychology and author of The Worry Cure, says, “A lot of people think that rumination will help you solve the problem or will help you find closure … The disadvantage is that it makes you depressed and it makes you withdraw from people.”
- Build a support team. There’s no reason to go it alone. Reach out to the friends, family members, and mentors who you know have your best interests at heart. Tell them how you feel, as we as what you need. Perhaps all you want is someone who will listen. Maybe you want career guidance or advice. If others know what you need, they can support you in the ways that matter most.
- Make your health a priority. When you’ve lost your job, it can be all too easy to plop yourself on the couch and wallow in self-pity. But mental and emotional well being requires physical well being. Get outdoors, do yoga, go for a run, take your dog for a walk — and take care of yourself. Do what you need to do to shirk off any negative emotions that could potentially deter you from being proactive in your job hunt.
- Look for the silver lining. Use the time of a job loss to reflect on your life — both personally and professionally — and make a list of the things you enjoy doing. What are your priorities? What have you learned from this experience? Consider ways that you can apply what you’ve learned to chart a new, more satisfying course for your future.
- Get to work. Looking for a job is now your job. Update your resume. Polish up your LinkedIn profile. Reach out to former colleagues and let them know that you are looking for employment. And of course, network, network, network! New connections can create new opportunities and open doors in unexpected places, but it’s important to make your situation known.
General George S. Patton has said, “Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” As you begin your job search, surround yourself with people you can count on for guidance and support. Reach out to others who have navigated their own successful job search and ask them for their advice. You may want to consider working with a career or life coach.
Losing your job is not the end of the world —it just sometimes might feel like it. But the right moves can help you bounce back quickly and confidently — and, quite possibly, enable you to land yourself a job that is even better than the one before.
Master Your Mannerisms: Can Your Body Language Win You the Job?
Studies have shown that your body language communicates more to another person than what you say or the tone of your voice. This is particularly true when meeting a stranger. For this reason, how you carry yourself during a job interview can have a big effect on a hiring manager’s perceptions of you and ultimately, your chances of being hired.
Consider the following:
- Nonverbal cues have over 4 times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say.
- Many HR experts agree that body language literally accounts for 93% of messages you send out during the interview.
- One study found that a first impression is based on 7% spoken words, 38% tone of voice and 55% body language.
Do those stats make you nervous? While most of us may not be aware of our body language—especially when we’re in a stressful situation—many job interviewers are trained to read it. Fortunately, body language is something you can learn to control.
Consider yourself an actor or actress in a play.
Imagine that you’ve been cast as an “job interview candidate.” Your script is the job description that you’ve applied for—and like all good actors and actresses, it’s important to study up and prepare for your role. Get to know your audience (AKA, your interviewers and other decision makers) by reviewing their LinkedIn profiles and bios. Learn more about your setting by reviewing the company website and press releases, as well as the products and services they provide.
Ultimately in this role, your goal is not to simply “get the job” as a result of this first meeting. Your aim is to build a rapport with your audience, sell yourself and your skills, and communicate to your audience why you are the winning candidate. This type of planning can really help to set the stage for a great interview. Preparing in advance can help to calm interview jitters, which in turn, improves body language during an interview.
Tips to Help You Project Confidence from the Start
Actors know that body language speaks volumes—and skilled ones know use it subtly to persuade the audience. Poses, postures, and positions—they all can say a lot about a character. Consider the following tips:
- Clothes call. Dress professionally and in the style that is appropriate for the environment—act as though your belong there. Your clothing should fit properly and be comfortable. If you feel good about the way you look that will project positively during your interaction with others.
- The eyes have it. Look your audience in the eyes, but remember there is a difference between good eye contact and a “stare down” or eyes that move rapidly between eye contact and throughout the room. A gaze that lasts longer than seven to 10 seconds can cause discomfort. Try to control over-blinking or any nervous tics and avoid looking down.
- Shake it, don’t break it. A sincere, solid handshake (solid does not mean a bone-crusher grip) is generally a smart way to start an introduction. According to University of Manchester psychologist Geoffrey Beattie, “A handshake reveals aspects of the personality of the person giving it. For example, a soft handshake can indicate insecurity, whilst a quick-to-let-go handshake can suggest arrogance.”
- Take a seat. Career professional have varying views, about how to hold your legs and feet or whether to sit a little forward or not. Personally, I advise sitting in a way that is most natural. You can’t go wrong by sitting up straight with your feet in front of you and with a comfortable posture. There may be times you may lean in during the conversation, based on the conversation and energy in the room.
- Make your move. Consider the way you hold your hands and arms. Some gesturing is perfectly fine, but too much can be distracting. Avoid activities such as tapping your fingers, cracking knuckles, twirling pens or constant playing with your hair. As tempting as it may be, try not to cross your arms or place your hands in your pockets. Keeping your hands gently in your lap, by your side, on the arms of a chair, or lightly clasped are a few ways to keep hands and arms under control and on good behavior.
- A smile goes along way. A well-placed smile helps to project confidence and warmth. It communicates that you are a team player and someone that others can be comfortable working with.
- Don’t overthink it. At the end of the day, your goal is to look and appear comfortable. If it doesn’t feel natural, it probably won’t look natural either.
It may seem universally understood not to chew gum—or anything else for that matter—during an interview. Although it was a long time ago, the memory is still fresh in my mind when a candidate I was interviewing for a sales job greeted me with a fabulous handshake and followed it with what would have been an outstanding smile, had it not been for the wad of gum in his mouth!