Chances are, if you didn’t lose your job during the Great Recession or its aftermath, you know someone who did. I speak with authority because I joined the ranks of millions of workers who were shown the door in early 2012, three years after the recession officially ended, and I still have friends looking for work.
There has been much written about the damaging psychological affects the recession has caused jobseekers as they try to keep it together and get back into the workforce. Arthur Goldsmith, PhD, who teaches macroeconomics at Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia has published some of the best research on the subject matter. His research combines insights from economics, psychology, sociology and history as it relates to employment, unemployment and psychological well-being. Dr. Goldsmith says as time marches on for the unemployed, no matter how stable that person was when they first found themselves out of work, within six months there is statistical evidence that shows people become more externally focused and start feeling helpless.
He writes about how this compromised sense of self becomes hardened and is better described as a permanent scar rather than a blemish. Even when people become employed again, the adverse impact of unemployment on psychological well-being lingers.
We know by now that joblessness can be more psychologically damaging than something as severe as coping with the death of a family member. I remember being stuck in the anger stage myself, if there was any truth to grieving similarities.
The emotional side of unemployment is something that most of us don’t talk about. People want to immediately talk tactics. Take action. Few people spend the time thinking about the emotional passage that has to happen. There is fallout that has to take place, and people swing to the anger-denial phase no matter how ready they are to deal with it emotionally.
Founder and CEO of The Reinvention Institute, Pamela Mitchell, says no matter how you wound up out of work, you experience emotional consequences. It takes months for most people to register that their world has shifted like two tectonic plates suddenly overlapping each other.
In her book, The 10 Laws of Career Reinvention, Mitchell states: “In this era, lengthy job tenure has lost its value. It’s not how long you last somewhere that counts; it’s what you bring to the table. The people who will thrive in this new world order are those who can repeatedly and successfully transform themselves.”
What I have found is the question you need to ask yourself: are you ready to reset your mindset? If the answer is yes, you’re half way there. Mitchell says a major key to establishing a new career path, or finding a new job while keeping your sanity is to embrace the journey as best you can and as often as possible. Many people miss the gifts that are right in front of their noses she says when it comes to experiencing the “trip” along the way and all that it has to teach us.
She preaches that psychologically, the journey is as important as the destination—a cliché for many challenges perhaps—but it’s important to slow down, tap into the excitement of doing something new and the more you can let go of the job as the final "end," the more you will realize that life is a series of continual “new beginnings.”
This sounds simple, but it is not easy. There’s discipline required to change how we think but, we must keep in mind we are only partially in control of the process. The breakthrough comes when we realize that no matter what happens we can emerge out the other side on top.
If you want a bigger pond to play in you need to think about resetting your future. Mitchell says that means to start thinking about yourself as a “constellation of skills” and talent and looking at multiple ways those skills and talents can be applied, whether it be within a corporate environment or possibly working for yourself.
It’s important to accept we now live in a constant state of reset — it’s more than a one-time event, and it comes down to this: we can react and get lost in our fears, or we can act and live with hope. Not blind hope, but the hope that comes with grit and determination and, yes, even in failure. The potential rests within each of us to reinvent our future, if we only believe in ourselves.
Dwain Schenck is author of RESET, How to Beat the Job-Loss Blues, and Get Ready for Your Next Act. He is retained by corporations and nonprofit organizations as a communications consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org