Your self-esteem can naturally take a hit when you’ve been unemployed for a while. Here’s how to turn your attitude back around.
Quite often, career professionals like myself deal with the “employability factor” to help us get hired, but sometimes dismiss an issue that can make or break a prolonged period of unemployment: battered self-esteem.
So, how do you stay calm, composed and build self- esteem in tough economic times? Here are some tips you may to consider as a starter guide to self-improvement:
Imagine yourself as a dart board. Everything and everyone else around you may become dart pins at one time or another. These dart pins will destroy your self-esteem and deflate you in ways you won’t even remember. Don’t let them destroy you or get the best of you.
So, which dart pins should you avoid?
Dart Pin #1 : Negative Work Environment
Beware of the “dog eat dog” theory where everyone else is fighting just to survive. This is where non-appreciative people usually thrive. No one will appreciate your contributions even if you miss lunch and dinner and stay up late. Most of the time you get to work too much without getting help from people. Avoid this circumstance; it will ruin your self-esteem. Competition is at stake in a competitive work world, especially with one in five Americans who are unemployed.
Dart Pin #2: Avoid Others’ Toxic Behavior
Bulldozers, gossip mongers, whiners, backstabbers, snipers, the walking wounded, controllers, complainers, exploders, patronizers… all these kinds of people will poison your self-esteem as long as you give them your energy and your attention. Toxic behavior pervades those who are already beleaguered with low self-esteem, such as laid-off individuals.
Dart Pin #3: Changing Environment
Baby Boomers may recall the Rascals’ song in the 60s: “How can I be sure / I can be sure in a world that’s constantly changing?” (Can you dig it, man?)
Changes challenge our paradigms. For example, where has the permanent job gone? A job with benefits has been uprooted by uncertainty. Enter the world of short-term employment and temporary contracts, as sobering as this may be if a job seeker desires job security. But why not consider temporary employment, which is enjoying an increase in the workforce? At least you can accept a contract or register with a temporary employment agency and regain any last vestiges of your crumbling self-esteem.
I chose temporary employment long ago to make valuable contacts, get a taste of the labor market and, above all, to be productive. And, yes, my self-esteem received a boost.
Let’s face it: if you have received severance pay from the government following a layoff, temporary employment may be a desirable, short-term solution for you.
Change is inevitable in the digital, socially networked world. Rather than reacting to change, a preferable behavior (and perhaps ultimately a skill) is to adapt to change. (Incidentally, look up my previous article, “How to deal with the signs of a layoff,” part one, on my blog.)
Dart Pin #4: Past Experience
It’s appropriate and normal to grieve about unemployment. Grief equals pain, plain and simple. But don’t let pain transform itself into fear. This period of unemployment is TEMPORARY.
Your past experience represents value to employers! You just need to craft it into a “professional brand” that entices employers to hire you.
Instead of focusing on WHY you were laid off (most often it is not a reflection of your work performance, but a money issue), focus on what was valuable in your previous employment. How did that experience get you hired before your layoff?
Psychologist Dr. Ron Warner, who certified me in solution-focused interviewing and counseling, once observed, “No problem exists 24/7 except for terminal illness and chronic pain.” How true!
Dart Pin #5: Negative World View
Focus on your goals, as small as they may be. Connecting with five referrals by phone in the next week? Conducting an informational interview? Setting up a free social media account to get acquainted with new technology? Don’t allow the the negativities of unemployment burst your bubble. In building self-esteem, we must learn how to make the best out of the worst situations.
No doubt you’ve heard of individuals being laid off or unemployed for prolonged periods, only to enjoy a rebirth and regeneration of themselves. (By the way, it is the year of the tiger in the Chinese system, which means rebirth and resilience.) In the common vernacular, we might call this a “blessing” if you have been laid off for some time and then found meaningful employment afterward.
Dart Pin #6: Determination Theory
The way you are and your behavioral traits are said to be a mixed end product of your inherited traits (genetics), your upbringing (psychic) and your environmental surroundings, such as your spouse, the company, the economy or your circle of friends. You have your own identity. If your father is a failure, it doesn’t mean you have to be a failure, too. Learn from other people’s experience, so you’ll never have to encounter the same mistakes.
Being positive and staying positive is a personal choice. Building self-esteem and drawing lines for self- improvement is a choice, not a talent.
Let’s harken back to the wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you inferior without your consent.”
In life, it’s hard to stay motivated and upbeat when faced with the life-altering event of a layoff or unemployment. The grim reality of hearing constant rejection from employers is debilitating and savage to the soul, at the very least.
However, take comfort in the fact that “no” means “not right now.” If an employer is not accepting resumes or hasn’t returned your calls, take heart. Do NOT take it personally. The rejection (not an immediate acceptance by the employer) is NOT a reflection about you necessarily, but about unmitigated circumstances such as an uncertain market, diminishing profits, staff issues and training needs. What lurks behind the closed doors of employers is the subject of speculation for many downhearted job hunters.
Even though jobs are imminently impermanent, layoffs and unemployment are TEMPORARY to a wide extent. Witness the egregious Great Depression period of American history. Many entrepreneurs emerged from the economic rubble and became prosperous individuals with flourishing businesses.
Remember: over 90 percent of employment in North American originates from small and medium business.
If your period of employment is lingering and your patience is waning, why not offer your value-added talents via a small business?
Building self-esteem will eventually lead to self-improvement if we start to become responsible for who we are, what we have and what we do. It’s like a flame that should gradually spread like a brush fire from the inside and out. When we develop self-esteem, we take control of our mission, values and discipline.
Self-esteem results in self-improvement, true assessment and determination.
So, how do you start to build self-esteem? Be appreciative of what you have now, whether it’s healthy relationships, a healthy body or otherwise.
Never miss an opportunity to compliment. French writer Victor Hugo deftly observed: “A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil. “
Put away the stress of unemployment just for a short moment and imagine the life you want, not primarily the employment. Answers will emerge….