If you’ve just been laid off or terminated, or even quit your job, you are now embarked on a very exciting change. It is likely that, in time, you will look back on this transition as being a pivotal point in your success in life.
Right now, however, it is natural to feel a bit dismayed with the change. There are reactions from yourself and from others that are fairly predictable — but which can be disconcerting if you’re not prepared for them. Here are a few tips to handle them.
1). Expect excitement and fear to be mixed together. We tend to have a strong “safety switch” in us which limits the risks we take. This is adaptive if we’re planning a plunge over Niagara Falls or a bungee jump from the Sears tower. But it can stop us from doing those very things necessary to make the job or career change. One way of handling the anxiety reaction that any change is likely to provoke is to change our attitude toward fear. Rather than seeing fear as telling us “don’t,” understand that fear occurs whenever we move out of the dead and familiar into the living and unknown. Therefore, if we aren’t feeling a bit of fear, we probably aren’t stretching ourselves far enough. Let fear tell you that you are growing as a person or professional, not that what you’re doing is wrong for you.
2). Expect the past to look rosy and attractive. Whenever we move into the unknown, that which we have known, even if it was pretty miserable, starts to look very comfortable. The simple reason is that we are more comfortable with the known than the unknown. But, unless you’re clairvoyant, you can only know the past, not the future or even the present. Keep reminding yourself that the illusion of a wonderful past is just that — an illusion.
3). Expect resistance from family and/or friends. Generally, few people like change. They want you to be “that same old someone that they knew.” Well, if you’re sick of being stuck in a 9 – 5 dead-end job, and want to get another degree and move up — you’re impacting the comfort zone of those around you. The solution is to clear the decks of the naysayers, so far as possible. Absolutely refuse to have anyone in your life who has a stake in your failure. And immediately get rid of the toxic crowd who tell you that you are too old, too experienced, too ugly, too (fill in the blank) to succeed. These people are deadly to your success. They gotta go! Instead, find one or two friends who are cheerleaders, and listen to them. They’re right about you. The gloomy Gus’s are dead wrong about you.
4). Expect your old habits to rear their ugly heads. Few of us are where we are in life through a mere act of fate. Most of us (as depressing as this seems) are where we are because of our choices. This means that if we want tomorrow to be better, we have to make new choices today. But our old choices and habits can keep coming back to haunt us. If you’re making a major life change, take a leaf from the book of Alcoholics Anonymous and other life-changing programs. It is almost essential to have a support group. It is also pretty essential to avoid the places and people who will drag you down into your old habits. Remember, it only takes three weeks for a bad habit to form, but good habits can take up to three years. Until the new behavior is part of your life, it is essential to have external support and encouragement.
5). Expect a bit of grief over what was. Perverse as it seems, whenever we improve our lives, we are going to grieve for what we’ve left behind — no matter how ugly that is. You can expect this reaction to be stronger if you’re making a real improvement in your life by leaving behind others who are still choosing to be stuck in their old lives. Remember — the only person you can change is yourself, and those you left behind have the same chance as you did to make positive decisions.
After you make the decision to change your life, you may be tempted, as these issues arise, to question whether your dream was really worth it. Keep in mind that this is a question that you can only answer after you’ve achieved the positive change. Almost everyone who makes positive change reports it was more than worth the pain, doubt and work.
You are now at a crossroads. You can just go and get “another job,” or you can see this time of transition as a time to put your life and career together in the way you would like it to be for the rest of your time working. Maybe you’ll decide you don’t need or want to work anymore, and that you have the resources and desire to retire. Perhaps you’ll decide that you have no further desire to work in the corporate jungle. Another option is to work for a smaller corporation, and be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.
The famous psychologist,CarlJung, had a very odd habit. When someone was promoted he offered his condolences and support. When someone was fired or laid off, he opened a bottle of his best wine and offered congratulations because the individual now had unprecedented opportunities. This is the adventure you have been thrust upon, often kicking and screaming. But if you read the best stories of the ages, the heroes are often thrust into greatness kicking and screaming. Now you are on the road. This can be a wonderful adventure for you rather than a nightmare.
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This is an excerpt from our book Getting Employed. To purchase the Getting Employed series, go here.
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