Succeeding at the interview begins before you sit in the hot seat. The first step is being mentally prepared. This means overcoming the negative feelings that came with losing your previous job.
To lose a job for any reason can be a blow to your self-esteem. Even if you were let go simply because the company had to cut costs, you may feel like you've failed. It can be particularly devastating if you're let go because of performance issues or because you didn't see eye to eye with your manager. You may feel that you're incapable of becoming again the productive employee you once were.
The same applies to having to quit under pressure. Your boss was constantly harping on you for small mistakes or accused you of missteps that you know, deep in your heart, were the correct actions. Because they're the boss, though, they hold the power.
Many of us can't let go of what went wrong. We lose sight of what we did well at work. Negative thoughts swim through our minds. What can a person do to get back on track?
1. Don't Deny Your Despondency
You may be experiencing feelings you've never had before: bouts of crying for no apparent reason, a short temper with family members and friends, a lack of motivation. These feelings are symptoms of unemployment. You're not going crazy.
When I was out of work, I tried to recognize the feelings I was experiencing. It wasn't always easy, but I realized my unemployment was temporary. You should also realize your situation is temporary.
2. Take a Hiatus
You've heard the saying, "Get back on the horse." This is always a good idea, but you don't have to do it immediately. I've known job seekers who have taken a week off to regroup and get their bearings again. While some might believe that you should begin your job search the day after you lose your job, it would be better to clear your mind first.
This said, don't take a full-on vacation, as many job seekers do. Even during the seemingly slow summer months, employers are hiring. Take a hiatus, but don't waste long periods of time.
3. Evaluate the Situation; Be Able to Explain Why You're Out of Work
Given three reasons why you are unemployed – you were laid off, let go, or quit – determine which applies in your situation. To be able to explain to others why you lost your job, particularly in an interview, you must be able to explain it to yourself. If you were at fault, own up to it. Then, determine how you will act differently next time so as not to repeat the same mistake. This is a big step that you'll need to make.
4. Tell People You're Out of Work
There's no shame in being out of work. Whenever I say this, I'm sure many job seekers mutter under their breath, "What would you know?"
Plenty. When I was unemployed, it wasn't easy for me to tell others I had been laid off, even though it wasn't my fault.
In order for others to help you, they need to know you're looking for work. The people you tell shouldn't be limited to your former colleagues and supervisors. They should include family, friends, and acquaintances. Even your brother who lives thousands of miles away might hear or read of an opportunity local to you.
5. Be Willing to Ask for and Accept Help
I find this to be one of the most challenging roadblocks for many people; they just can't bring themselves to ask for help.
There are two things to remember here: One, your job search will be shorter if you have help; two, most people like to help those in need.
Helping others gives people a feeling of achievement. As someone out of work, you will experience the same, so pay it forward.
This isn't to say you should approach everyone in you community and ask, "Do you know of any jobs for me?" To tell people you're out of work and explain the kind of job you're seeking should be enough.
For safe measure, you may want to ping people to stay top of mind. An occasional request like "Please keep your ear to the pavement for me" should suffice.
6. Don't Sleep the Day Away
As difficult it may be, you need to develop a routine. You don't have to rise at 5 a.m. so you can go to the gym before work, but getting up every morning at 6 a.m. to take a walk, eat breakfast, and get out of the house would be much more productive than sleeping until 10 every morning.
You'll feel much better if you are productive than you would if you rose late and watched television all day. I honestly believe that developing a routine is essential to your mental health – and to finding a job.
7. Seek Professional Help if Necessary
You'll probably experience many feelings, such as anger, fear, and self-doubt. If you become consumed with these feelings, it might be best to seek the help of a therapist. This is not unusual – trust me. I went through a plethora of feelings and, yes, I did talk with a professional. It allowed me to clear my mind.
If it gets to the point where you can't see the future – where all you can think about are the past and present – this may indicate you're experiencing depression. It's worth talking to a therapist when you reach this stage.
It's hard for some people to understand how difficult unemployment can be. It hurts your self-esteem, destroys your familiar routine, and can even cause embarrassment. Following the above steps can help you mitigate this negative experience.
Check back next Monday for part two of the series, when we'll look at the importance of knowing yourself before you interview!
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.