How to Survive a Career Implosion
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of U.S. workers are at risk of unemployment. CNN reports that more than half of American jobs, 80 million out of 153 million, are at risk of being eliminated as the economy struggles to recover.
Unemployment can be a terrifying proposition for many. Not only does it bring loss of wages and economic uncertainty, but it can lead to widespread stress and depression as folks grieve the loss of their career and, in many cases, their identity as well.
While there is not much you can control in today’s situation, there are steps you can take to begin to move forward after a major career disaster. You can come out of this experience a stronger and more resilient individual.
Here are four steps to help you approach this failure with a growth-oriented mindset.
Realize you are more than your job
According to a 2014 Gallup Poll, over half of U. S. workers derive their identity from their occupation. Today, with over half of U.S. workers at risk of unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to understand how a large chunk of the population is unsure how to proceed.
If I am not my job or business, then who am I?
This is a question many are asking in the wake of widespread job loss and unemployment. If you are in this situation, now is the time to look within and realize that you have value outside of the work you did or may do in the future.
Hard work is respected in our culture, as are the outward trappings of success that the hustle often generates. Less glamorous, yet just as important, is the time, energy, and effort we put into being the kind of person we want to be in the world. That is a mission that can be fulfilled regardless of what kind of career you choose to pursue. This is your life’s purpose.
Reimagine your purpose
The space created by social distancing can be an opportunity to reconnect with this purpose. What have you always wanted to do in the world?
Give yourself time to grieve the loss of normalcy that we are all experiencing. Breathe through the anxiety produced by the complete destruction of your goals, expectations, and perhaps safety net. With so much uncertainty about what comes next, there is very little currently within your control.
You can, however, spend some time thinking about your deeper purpose as a human and how you might focus on this in the future as we emerge into a new cultural landscape.
Think about what your job provided you that you liked. Perhaps you worked as a bartender and you enjoy socializing with others, or maybe you spent your pre-virus days as a preschool teacher and being around small children makes you happier than anything else in the world.
You will know you are fulfilling your life purpose when you feel excited and engaged with the tasks you are doing. Since you are more than your job, you can find fulfillment in any number of possible work scenarios. Be open to opportunities that excite you in the future. They may be signaling an opportunity to increased happiness and fulfillment as a human, not just as a member of the workforce.
Celebrate your Strengths
Often, when we experience failure in business or lose our jobs, our first instinct is to get right back on the horse and try to get another job in the same field or recreate our success by doing the same thing we did to get there in the first place. In truth, failure is an opportunity if viewed through the correct lens.
Failure is a wild horse you need to ride towards achievement and success. Successful entrepreneurs are experts in failure. Behind the happy face of achievement, lie stories of things broken, time lost, wishes unachieved, and goals missed. — entrepreneur.com
America’s current economic struggles could be viewed as a massive failure of capitalism. Others argue that it proves capitalism is alive and functioning as it should. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, it is clearly a major disruption of our current economy and presents at the very least many tiny disasters in households across the country as folks deal with an uncertain future.
Most of us literally cannot get back on the horse right now, since the horse has left this universe perhaps never to return again. There are no jobs — we are at a standstill as the nation shelters in place for at least another month.
Even though you can’t take the kind of action you would like to, you can continue to be productive and work on finding the silver lining to this disaster. Take stock of your strengths. Think about what you do well, and brainstorm possible future jobs that might take advantage of those strengths.
For example, I used to be a high school teacher. I had a massive professional failure that caused me to leave that career, and I was unsure what to do next. I realized that the parts of teaching I really enjoyed were working in an educational setting and helping people.
Now, I am a dean’s assistant at our local community college. I find the work just as rewarding and it is immensely less stressful for me. I make less money, but I am happier and my daily tasks are a better fit for my personality. When I quit teaching, I was devastated, but out of apparent tragedy has come more personal success.
Above all, your success will be determined by your state of mind. No matter what you do, some folks will see it as success and some folks will see it as a waste of time. All that matters is if your work serves your life purpose and makes you happy.
You can learn to recognize those actions and experiences that contribute to your happiness by practicing a daily attitude of gratitude. Studies have shown that daily gratitude practice can help alleviate stress and decrease anxiety.
Gratitude is paying attention to what you have rather than focusing on what you don’t have. It is finding satisfaction from what is around you and paying attention to the people, situations and things that make your life worthwhile. — healthcentral.com
There are many ways of beginning a simple practice of focusing on what you have. You can keep a daily journal, list a few things in your mind as you go to sleep, or take a walk and notice all the things you can see that make you feel good.
Learning to focus on the positive will help you train your brain to focus on the good aspects of your situation instead of the worst-case scenario aspects, helping to alleviate anxiety.
Focusing on what you have instead of what you lack, identifying your strengths, seeing failure as an opportunity to reimagine your life purpose, and understanding that you are more than your career are four steps to surviving the loss of your job.
You have the opportunity to live an even more aligned life as a result of this disruption. Keep a positive attitude and look for the opportunities in a world that, despite its ups and downs, is set up to help you succeed at being a human.