The Good Men Project’s series How to Survive in the 21st Century delivers survival-mode insight on accepting life-changing circumstances, and gives you the road map to your new normal.

It might help to know, downsizing, can and likely will, become a part of your history at some junction.

In this 21st Century, life is different, moving at breakneck speed; it’s all we can do to keep up. As much as we try to plan the details of our lives sometimes events happen beyond our control, or we might realize we have no control. The visions others have for their lives and personal evolutions, and where they wish their journey to take them, their company, or their relationship, may not play nicely with the path we have carved to lead us to the future we desire. The Good Men Project’s 5-part series, How to Survive in the 21st Century, delivers survival-mode insight on how to accept your new normal, whether it be a devastating diagnosis, an unanticipated breakup, a bankruptcy, or other equally surprising occurrence, and then supplies the road map for getting on with your life.

Our first part in this series Surviving a Layoff, reveals the emotions you can expect when the news you are a casualty of downsizing comes to light. No one expects to hear they have been let go, but in this society, where many of us are employed by corporations, we have very little power to navigate our futures, especially when our futures lie squarely in another’s hands. It might help to know, downsizing, can and likely will, become a part of your history at some junction.

…what were your missed opportunities? Now is the time to capitalize on the chance to rework your life.

When your position is cut it’s a slap in the face. The only thing missing is the physical aftermath, the burn of your offended cheek, but the rest of the sensations remain: shock, recoil, dread, disgust, anger, a feeling of worthlessness, amid other emotional din. All of these emotions sweep over you with remarkable speed and in no predictable pattern.

Here’s your road map to get through:

1. Feel the feels and move on. Whatever it is, acknowledge the emotion and take it into yourself. It is insulting, leveling, humbling. Ingest the scope of your letting go as if you were inhaling a deep breath. Allow everything you’re experiencing to sink its hooks into you. After a day, or so, release these weights. Holding onto will keep you in an unstable emotional state, which should be avoided as you craft your new life. Emotions are real and overwhelming and they have the power to derail our direction. Know that. Know the layoff sucks. Give yourself a time frame to be depressed, sad, disappointed, etc. Then release.

2. Logistics. You need a plan. Now’s the time to plot out said plan. Your resume requires spiffing up. Creating accounts on the best job prospecting sites is a must. Have you decided how many hours per day you need to dedicate to finding another job, have you written down your contacts? Develop your plan and make it your business bible.

  1. Update resume.
  2. Apply for unemployment, if applicable.
  3. Write down your contacts. Email 3 contacts per day.
  4. Create accounts on job prospecting sites.
  5. Arrange for new medical insurance, if you need it.
  6. Apply for 3 jobs you could genuinely see yourself working in, every. Single. Day.
  7. Compose a cover letter describing your skill set, one easily customizable. You should be able to rotate prospect contact information and job specifics in the first paragraph, so each letter reads fresh, and each time you apply for a job you make the most efficient use of your time while also creating a process.
  8. Address your financial situation.
  9. Go after jobs you want. It sounds silly, but this is the time to address your regrets. Sure, the job you lost was great, but what were your missed opportunities? Now is the time to capitalize on the chance to rework your life.
  10. Line-up ongoing education
  11. Meet with a resume expert and several recruiters to ensure your resume rises to the top. Including key industry buzz words translates into salary bumps. Know which keywords will light up those auto-readers like a winning slot machine. Know what information comes first in your resume roster. How did you contribute to your company’s bottom lie, stream line processes, trim the budget?

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You did not lose your job because you were incompetent, or valueless. You lost your job because a chunk of the company needed realignment and you happened to be in the line of fire.

1. Your new schedule. This is not the long-awaited PTO finally delivered to you. It’s not the time to sleep in, or feel sorry for yourself. You have been launched into a new kind of work arrangement. So don’t get behind the ball. Every day, rise with a purpose. Accomplish small goals to get you to the bigger ones.

2. Reflect on the opportunities that many people don’t get a chance to experience. You have a shot to reinvent yourself. What are the changes you have always wanted to make in your career, that you didn’t reflect on prior, because you were gainfully employed? Even a mere component of a job you had has the potential to expand into a full-bodied position. In my case, I went from web content administrator, to copywriter, one of the responsibilities I performed in my previous role. Is this the time to seek a flexible work arrangement so you can attend more of your daughter’s soccer games? Lucky you!

3. Do you need continuing education, additional vocational training? Many community colleges offer reasonable classes which can be completed in short periods of time. Demonstrating to your future employer you are vested into your professional growth, and you understand staying sharp and relevant in your industry is your responsibility, is your value, speaks volumes about your integrity. If you conduct yourself with such integrity a future prospect will likely believe you will bring that to your work, too. What are the educational expectations of your prospective employer? If you can answer that question, you’re ahead of the game!

4. It’s okay to be secretly relieved. After the shell shock wears off and a couple of days, or even weeks passes, and after you have consistently adhered to your new schedule, a small feeling of freedom may waft over you. Appreciating this new existence is okay. This is your time to enjoy the renaissance period of your life. It doesn’t mean succumbing to your inner sloth, but rather as you are working diligently, and proving to yourself you can survive, it’s okay to appreciate the chance for change, or even trivial things…like enjoying coffee in the morning…on your own sofa.

5. Do your research on companies where you would like to work. One thing sinking your odds on snagging that new job? Coming to the table unprepared and unaware of your prospective employer’s history, products, or website—you might as well tape a note to your forehead stating “I’m here for the money.”

Don’t settle because you might not get another chance to retweak your professional life.

6. Look after your spiritual side and mental wellbeing. If you went to the gym consistently each day before the layoff, don’t break the habit. If you worked on a side project, which fueled your passions, do not abandon it. Work these items into your new schedule so you don’t feel deprived, resentful, or angry. It’s okay to have feelings of joy, amusement, and even let out a big belly laugh in the face of devastation. Taking care of yourself feels good and creates the self-validation we are giving ourselves what we need. Revel!

7. Fill your head with positive messages. I can’t underscore the importance of this tip. You must believe you can succeed because your attitude will inform a large part of your daily living and whether you are successful in gaining new employment. Get gritty and real with yourself. You did not lose your job because you were incompetent, or valueless. You lost your job because a chunk of the company needed realignment and you happened to be in the line of fire. A layoff is not personal. Repeat this to yourself, believe in yourself and refuse to associate with negative people—even if that negative person is that guy or gal in the mirror! If you find yourself in the midst of negativity, excuse yourself, stay busy, tell the nasty negatives you have other plans. Refuse self sabotage by envisioning a locked door and those Debbie-Downer cage rattlers ricocheting against it. This is the door designed to shield you from your own worst insecurities. Use it! If you practice this self care often enough wearing positive armor becomes habit.

8. Define your deal breakers. Don’t take a job out of desperation. Yes, it’s fine to grab a part-time gig as a barista for a couple of months to keep the money flowing and the kids fed, but don’t let yourself get sucked into a long-term commitment. Do you know the industries you would prefer to steer clear of? What about the level of salary you should expect? If you know you’ve been underpaid, this is the time to be up front with potential employers. Don’t settle because you might not get another chance to retweak your professional life, to renegotiate the pay you deserve, to finangle your schedule to include down time to welcome your kids home from school, or show up for family dinners. What’s important on and off the clock? Define it, then remain true to it.

♦◊♦

Surviving a layoff knocks the wind out of you, rearranges your physical and mental being into a temporary, teetering figurative Jenga game. It is still never a reason to spiral into a person who feels unworthy or unwanted. Resist the urge to couch potato it up! Move through this layoff with grace, kindness, determination and introspection. You’re going to make it and one day soon you will realize the blessing behind the layoff, and how, quite possibly, in retrospect, you would never change a thing.

Original article appeared at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission.

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