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Anxiety to Inspiration: Facing Forward After Leaving a Job

How to remain positive and focused on finding your next role.

Key points

  • Record numbers have been quitting their jobs each year since the Covid-19 pandemic, and the trend is not slowing down.
  • Concurrently and unsurprisingly, anxiety is the most common psychological disorder in many societies at the moment.
  • The RESET method can help people to mitigate the anxiety that inevitably comes with leaving a job, and sustain positivity in their job search.

Many aspects of life changed during the Covid-19 pandemic; We learnt to wear masks on public transport, we stood metres away from each other, we baked our own bread and we permanently worked from home. While much of this has at least started to revert back to “normal”, one phenomenon hasn’t slowed down: record numbers of Americans are still quitting their jobs and searching for what’s next. And for some, the chaotic state of the world amplifies anxieties as we find ourselves competing for work within turbulent global economies.

So how do we manage this anxiety? How do we rebuild our confidence to believe our skill sets can compete? How can we turn our post-job worries into positive motivation to keep moving forward in a productive way?

Firstly, we must remember that anxiety is normal and in cases such as this we should expect a certain degree of it. When we feel anxious, the fear centre of the brain (the amygdala) is activated, suggesting that evolutionarily it plays a role in how we detect threats and prepare ourselves to respond. In this case, a degree of anxiety is a perfectly rational response as leaving a job can is in many cases connected to financial instability, at least in the short-term. So, be kind to yourself.

Secondly, focus on your "RESET." This method can mitigate the anxiety of leaving a job and help to garner energy for and clarity around what lies ahead:

R: Relationships
Talking to people in both your personal and professional networks is the first step you should take and continue throughout the process of finding a new direction. Job and career anxiety can feel very singular to you, but everyone goes through it and hearing others’ experiences normalises your own, builds a sense of community and gives people the opportunity to connect you to potential work/ learning opportunities.

E: Energy
Find and nurture your purpose energy by really considering what you care most about or what you want to contribute to society. This will be the rocket fuel that sustains you. Research shows that the level of interest someone has in their work correlates with performance, engagement and their chances of success. As Steve Jobs famously said to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

S: Strengths
Take stock, assess your personal strengths and your skills and consider how they may be applied in conjunction with your purpose energy. Think back to school, university, first jobs and even what you do for hobbies – nothing is off the table and everything should be included in the brainstorm! Knowing your strengths is a crucial part of knowing what to look for in new jobs as people who use their strengths everyday are six times more likely to be engaged at work.

E: Experiments
The exciting (albeit, nerve-wracking) part of leaving a job is being given the chance to experiment with other possible futures. The reality is that Americans change their jobs on average 12.4% in their lifetime and only 21% of college graduates believe their degree plays a role in the work they do today, meaning we have all strayed from the path we once saw ourselves on. Sometimes a new job won’t be right and sometimes it will – knowing either way is still highly useful insight into yourself and what will ultimately make you happy. We must trust this process.

T: Timeframes
When the task at hand can seem so immense, setting timeframes and goals is even more important. This might be as simple as ‘reach out to three people in my professional network this week’ or something more ambitious, such as ‘make a decision on x in two weeks’. Either way, know when to make a decision despite natural hesitations, set these timeframes and stick to them. This forward momentum will alleviate feelings of anxiety and research shows that not only does setting goals increase motivation, self-esteem and self-confidence, but it also is linked to higher rates of success.

The Great Resignation is not an overall negative phenomenon – in fact it is great that Americans are being more thoughtful about how they spend 40 hours (at least) of their week. I do however think that the process of leaving a job can be a more positive one than it is for many currently, and it is my hope that by applying these simple concepts we can start to reduce the degree of anxiety that seems to be part and parcel of being ‘in-between’.

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