1. JOB LOSS CAN MEAN MASSIVE TRAUMA. WHAT'S THE FIRST STEP TO RECOVERY?
Yes, job loss is one of life’s most traumatic experiences. How you react to it will make or break your search for new employment.
Many people go through the stages of grief after losing a job that people experience following the loss of a loved one. The stages are:
- shock and denial
- fear and anxiety
- acceptance and closure
Job-loss also damages self-esteem and confidence and produces feelings of loss of control. During my years as an executive search consultant, I noticed that job seekers tended to overlook their emotional and mental states and prepare only physically, i.e. develop resumes and interview skills. Those who ignored feelings of anger or fear related to their job loss unconsciously sabotaged themselves by taking these emotions into the interview setting.
So the first step to recovery is to be honest with yourself about what you are feeling and, if needed, to employ a healing process to reach closure before you begin setting up interviews. The basic process is described in question #6 and is part of the protocol I explain in my book and guide you through in detail in my 2-CD set The Job-Loss Recovery Program: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Get Back to Work—Fast!
2. IT'S OFTEN SEEN THAT JOB LOSS CAN CAUSE SERIOUS HEALTH PROBLEMS. WHAT ARE THE DANGER SIGNS?
Unemployment creates a great deal of stress for the individual as well as the family. The more stress you feel over meeting financial demands or the more involved you were in your last job, the more distressed you are likely to feel. You may have symptoms and feelings such as fear, anxiety, shame, anger, guilt, loss of confidence and self-esteem, depression, irritability, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and bad dreams.
In addition, it is well known that chronic stress compromises the immune system, making one susceptible to colds, flu and other illnesses. How you manage these stressful feelings will determine its impact on your health.
3. CAN YOU GIVE AN OVERVIEW OF HOW YOU DEVELOPED THIS METHODOLOGY, AND WHAT WERE THE DRIVING MOTIVATIONS?
I personally survived several career and life transitions with the help of guided mental imagery and visualization techniques, which I had studied for many years. So it was only natural that when I needed to select a topic for my doctoral dissertation study, I decided to research job loss and develop and test a guided imagery protocol to help laid-off employees get back to work fast. When the scientific study results confirmed my hopes, I knew I had to begin teaching these tools and techniques to a broader population.
For those who may not be familiar with guided imagery, these techniques can be simply defined as a thought process that directs and focuses the imagination to create an experience in the mind, similar to a directed daydream. Experiencing the imagery through all five senses—sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch—enhances the power and depth of the experience. Successful athletes use imagery techniques to mentally prepare for peak performance.
The study protocol for the guided imagery group consisted of a progression of guided imagery exercises that addressed each of the issues and symptoms of job loss. My goal was to help them reduce stress, achieve emotional closure, and mentally prepare for a successful job hunt. In that study, my recorded voice guided participants through six 20-minute sessions (one per day). During the same number of sessions, the placebo control group was instructed to independently set goals for their job search and imagine achieving them. The group did not listen to a recording.
When landing time was monitored two months later, just 12% of the placebo control group had landed jobs compared to 62% of the guided imagery group—reflecting an astounding benefit for the participants who had listened to the guided imagery. Who wouldn’t want to be in the guided imagery group?
The study was published in a peer reviewed journal of the American Psychological Association, and received special recognition from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Based on the success of the study’s methodology, I recorded a commercial version of the six-session guided imagery protocol called The Job-Loss Recovery Program: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Get Back to Work—Fast!
Then I wrote The Job-Loss Recovery Guide: A Proven Program for Getting Back to Work—Fast! Although the recording can stand alone, I wrote the book as more of a workbook that prompts the reader when to listen to each of the six CD selections. It also provides conceptual and factual information about job loss and guided imagery, as well as self-questionnaires to measure your progress through the program.
4. YOU USE A SERIES OF STAGES IN THE RECOVERY PROCESS, EACH STEP BUILDING ON THE PREVIOUS. WHAT'S THE PROGRESSION?
I use a combination of relaxation exercises plus four targeted imagery scenarios in a series of six progressive sessions.
In the first three sessions, I guide you through a process to productively express yourself, which brings closure to any unresolved feelings and helps you move on. You also greet and interact with your successful future self, who already has the position and quality of life you desire. Considerable research on imagining “possible selves” and “future selves” confirms that imagining successful future selves increases effort and persistence, and improves performance.
In the final three sessions, you mentally rehearse peak-performance job interviews in a process similar to that which top athletes and public speakers use to improve their own performance. You will find that your confidence and competence improve as a result. In addition, you meet with an inner coach, from whom you feel unconditional support. This exercise can help to further develop your career dreams and access wisdom deep within you.
A variation of my future self and mental rehearsal exercises is easy to do on your own. Simply take ten minutes daily to relax, close your eyes, and imagine having your ideal job. Imagine it as if you have it now, in minute detail and with all the excitement and satisfaction of accomplishment that you can. Mentally celebrate with your family and friends. Next, imagine going back in time and taking the necessary steps (easily and quickly) that won this ideal job.
5. SOME PEOPLE JUST WILL NOT ASK FOR HELP WHEN THEY NEED IT. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT?
Many people believe that asking for help makes them look weak, and that if they simply ignore or stuff their distressing feelings inside themselves, the feelings will disappear. Instead, anxiety results.
When dealing with job hunters, I first normalize their feelings by sharing the stages of grief that most people move through after job loss. I also cite examples of the many high-profile athletes and businesspeople that use imagery techniques to overcome challenges and achieve goals in many areas of life. And of course the guided imagery study that landed people jobs in half the normal time is very convincing.
6. THERE'S A HEALING PROCESS INVOLVED. WHAT ARE THE BASICS?
The emotional closure segment of The Job-Loss Recovery Program™ consists of four steps designed to help you achieve resolution and closure to avoid taking unwanted emotions into your job search:
Recognize your true feelings. This may be difficult for the person who habitually turns away from uncomfortable feelings but it is an important step. Be honest with yourself. Recognizing what you are feeling is the first step toward relief.
Acknowledge and express your feelings safely. Take ownership for them. Then express these feelings in a scenario that is safe from any kind of harm or reprisal, and that gives you personal satisfaction.
Forgive others and/or yourself as appropriate. When you have completed steps one and two, forgiveness comes naturally. This step should not be rushed, however; do not forgive until you can do it honestly and sincerely. When you can finally feel forgiveness, you will feel freer, lighter, and more positive.
Change, which emerges naturally when you’ve accomplished the previous three steps. From this new, healed place you are able to make new choices for growth and positive possibilities in your career. Your choices and decisions will come from a place of new perspective—that of a confident self, free of constraining emotions and limited insight.
7. HOW DO PEOPLE START NAVIGATING A WAY OUT OF JOB LOSS? WHAT ARE THE DECISIONS, AND HOW DO THEY MAKE IT HAPPEN?
Approach your job search as if it were your full-time job. Get up every morning as if you were going to work. Set goals and objectives with target dates. And give attention to your feelings. Deal with them appropriately. Once you have reached emotional closure, and can maintain a positive attitude a good deal of the time, ask yourself the following questions, and answer them thoroughly and honestly.
What kind of position do I want next? or In what direction do I want to take my career?
What skills, tools, and/or resources are needed to achieve my goal?
Which of these needed skills, tools, and/or resources do I now have?
Which are missing?
Can I and do I want to obtain the missing ingredients and, if so, how and where, or from whom?
What could stand in my way?
How can I overcome what stands in my way in order to achieve my goal?
Additional helpful resources to help you set your direction and stay on target are career coaching and assessments. A support group of friends and colleagues can also help you stay positive and focused.
8. IT'S SOMETIMES OVERLOOKED IN ALL THE TRAUMA, THAT JOB LOSS CREATES OPPORTUNITIES WHICH YOU WOULDN'T OTHERWISE HAVE. HOW DO YOU CONVINCE THOSE SUFFERING FROM THE NATURAL REACTION TO JOB LOSS OF THAT?
It is helpful for them to learn to reframe and reappraise their situation because if they change their thoughts about the situation, their feelings will also change. Reframing refers to redefining or reevaluating a situation from a different perspective—usually a more positive one that wasn’t noticed before. It often leads to helpful new insights as well as to a more positive attitude.
Reappraisal in this context means to reevaluate why and to what degree a situation is stressful. It is important to reevaluate your initial appraisal of job loss because you may find that a negative appraisal is the root cause of much of your stress.
I once had a client, Richard, who was depressed after losing his job in a mass layoff. When he began to reappraise his situation, he realized his greatest stress originated from his fear of financial ruin. He learned to reframe his situation as a challenge and began to see that he already had valuable resources to support him through his transition, such as strong business skills and experience. Also among these resources that had been there all along was that his wife earned an income that could support them. As he reframed his situation more positively and reappraised his resources, his depression lifted.
The Job-Loss Recovery Guide (book) and The Job-Loss Recovery Program (set of two guided imagery CDs) helps you improve your coping skills and shift your thoughts, assisting you to appraise your job-loss situation more rationally and productively as a challenge rather than a threat. One of my favorite quotes is from John F. Kennedy, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters—one represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” My program helps people move through the fear stage so they can recognize opportunities.
9. YOU USE AN EXPRESSION, THE INNER COACH, AS PART OF YOUR TERMINOLOGY. WHAT'S THE INNER COACH, HOW DOES IT WORK?
The inner coach (or mentor) is part collaborator, part personal consultant, part cheerleader and part sounding board. The concept comes from both eastern and western traditions, dating back thousands of years. It’s been referred to by many names, such as the subconscious, inner wisdom, inner guide, guardian angel, and spirit guide. Whatever you choose to call this guidance you can access it if you honestly seek the truth within yourself. I have been amazed at the insight and understanding that comes from this source—within my clients and within me.
In sessions 4 – 6 of The Job-Loss Recovery Program, following the mental rehearsal of a job interview you imagine greeting your inner coach. You may consult about current directions or ask for analysis of your interviews and other job-search activities. Some people talk, mentally, in the same way they might with a friend in reality. Others derive a strong sense of what their coaches communicate, or simply allow thoughts to enter their minds as they sit quietly. You will find your own preferred way as you practice.
10. YOU ALSO USE REHEARSAL AS A TOOL IN INTERVIEW PREPARATION. THAT'S A PARTICULARLY USEFUL TECHNIQUE FOR MANY PEOPLE, PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO NEED SOME COMFORT IN INTERVIEWS. CAN YOU SHOW US HOW REHEARSAL WORKS FOR INTERVIEWS?
Mentally rehearsing a successful interview will prepare you for the competitive environment and potential distractions of the interview situation. When you do face a real interviewer, you’ll appear as a polished, self-confident professional with a winning attitude.
Here’s an example. First imagine yourself—perhaps on a mental screen or through an imaginary window—undergoing an interview in a realistic setting with a realistic interviewer. For example, you may greet the interviewer with a firm handshake, hear and answer questions, and receive an offer. Bring in as much sensory detail as you can, as if it were real. As you picture yourself taking the interview, also imagine that you hold a remote control that you use to stop, revise, and replay anything you see or hear through the window or on the screen. Continue this process until you give a superb performance. Feel the confidence and enthusiasm. The entire process need only take ten to fifteen minutes.
Mental rehearsal is used in a number of areas of life because it works so well. Many singers and actors use it to overcome stage fright, and both amateur and professional athletes rely on visualization exercises to prepare for their sports events. Mental rehearsal improves confidence and feelings of control, resulting in greater focus and insight in the face of challenge.