Updated: Sep 30, 2022
Over the years, through my career coaching experience with clients, I have learned a myriad of stories about how people coped, struggled, and eventually persevered to get back into successful careers.
Realities dictate that our work life takes up a huge chunk of our productive years, we somehow get lost with realities and blur the idea of being dispensable. But when we are suddenly faced with the harsh reality of retrenchment, how do we deal with it?
4 Ways to Stay Motivated after Retrenchment?
Most laid-off employees are unfortunately caught unaware, unprepared, and untrained to take the lead on how to start their careers anew. Though there are no hard and fast rules, it is critical to realize the importance of maintaining a positive disposition and healthy perspective towards undertaking the next phase of one’s career.
How does one go about it successfully? Here are some key ways to change how we think in order to overcome a job loss and stay motivated:
1) Take Charge
Truth to be told, there are some people who got laid off and have not really moved on over a long period of time. Unfortunately, their loss of focus and ability to pull it together made them wander and remained unsuccessful in achieving their desirable careers. Whether you see retrenchment as a blessing in disguise or your worst nightmare, down the road – it is still up to your inner sense of willpower to take charge of achieving your next career goals.
In order to get the right focus for creating your next career goal, is to muster some effort to take some bold steps of action. For example, when going back to the basics of applying for work, take time to review and revise your resume. Reflect upon all those past achievements you have done and finely craft them into something that will convey details about how your past work accomplishments can be relevant to the current job requirements being applied. Taking charge it means spending time to do self-reflection on your gained skills and experiences from your past employers. Try to gain new perspectives during this time of reflection to concrete your life goals and identify what truly makes an interesting and satisfying job.
Paradoxically, during this process of self-reflection being your “downtime” can be in fact an opportune time to revisit aspirations and or recreate newer one’s life goals. Allow yourself to recognize your own vulnerabilities and bring yourself to awareness of factors of what you can control versus what you cannot be based on your current circumstances. Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck emphasized in her book called “Mindset” says that it's not intelligence, talent, or education that sets successful people apart. It's their mindset or the way that they approach life's challenges.
Industrial psychologists have identified a construct called self-monitoring, which influences the kind of image people present to others. Self-monitoring refers to the extent to which people observe, regulate, and control the image of themselves they choose to display in public settings such as interviews. Those who rate high in self-monitoring present themselves in whatever way best fits the social climate, hence they have a competitive edge in the workplace. What is essential in doing self-monitoring is that it allows you to grasp your essential skills and make them easier to be incorporated into your resume. The same thing is also applicable if you are planning to put up your own business as another career alternative. It is crucial for you to know your interests and willingness to take on huge risks ahead.
2) A Sense of Urgency
Looking for a full-time job is a ‘full-time’ job itself. In the process of career planning, there are career coaches who work side by side to help individuals examine closely their career options. However, there are some people when doing a job search are still unable to undertake action despite the coaching aid, this then becomes a problematic situation. As the Thomas theorem goes on to say, “if men define a situation as real, then they are real in their consequences”. Indeed, our sense of urgency is one key element in unlocking the vast opportunities out there—if only one becomes fully aware of realizing it.
Interestingly, there is the other side of the spectrum. There are some people who have considerably transitioned successfully in their career plans. These are the ones who have developed the knack to take on the serious meaning of sense of urgency. They regard job search with a well-thoughtout plan, hence, they take the best of their time in organizing and accomplishing what needs to be done. Oftentimes, these people despite the difficult situation they are in were able to regain the motivation to start the first step in their job search. They place a high value on their time and allow themselves to explore numerous possibilities.
The sense of urgency serves as a precursor to finding out the missteps or even mistakes that may be present somewhere along the process of the job search. Therefore, this very experience provides the impetus to constantly improve until the desired goal is achieved. The longer you stay in an inaction state while waiting for the so-so right time for your next career opportunity, the longer the uncertainty creeps in. Much worse, it will inevitably affect the other aspects of your life, such as your family, your sense of self such as personal image or branding, and other key areas of self-achievement and self-care.
3）Unlearning the Learned Helplessness
Psychology has a number of theories and approaches to ‘learning’. One interesting fact about learning is what is called ‘learned helplessness’ by Martin Seligman, an American Psychologist (1967) who conducted conditioning among dogs that opposed the predictions of Burrus Fredrick Skinner’s behaviorism approach. According to Seligman’s learned helplessness theory, it states that we experience a psychological condition in which a human being or an animal has learned to act or behave helplessly in a particular situation — usually after experiencing some inability to avoid an adverse situation — even when it actually has the power to change its unpleasant or even harmful circumstance. Scholarly arguments revealed that this ‘learned helplessness’ among humans is totally incomparable to animals. There are several aspects of human helplessness that have no counterpart in animals.
Apart from the shared depression symptoms between humans and other animals such as passivity, introjected hostility, weight loss, appetite loss, social and sexual deficits—can only be found and observed in human beings but not necessarily in animals. Learned helplessness, therefore, could be something not necessarily adaptable to humans. Now, that is one ray of hope that we can hold on to. We have a choice. There is free will to change the course of our circumstances. We can adapt that willpower to unlearn the learned helplessness.
People perceive and react to retrenchment differently. But learning to be helpless and succumbing to the shackles of a defeating depressive behavior is a free choice. Take it from the challenging words of Dr. Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist and holocaust survivor who stressed that: “Everything can be taken from a man, but one thing: the last of the human freedom – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way…” Bouncing off from a depressive situation is not easy, but there is always a choice to move on and create some wealth of opportunities for a better you.
4) Season of Life
Whilst there is significant value in honing the present moment and savoring the ‘now’ experience, in a situation of losing a job, focusing on the future is helpful and beneficial. Typical of many laid-off employees is that most of them go through a crossroads in their career and then they undergo a period of exploration and uncertainties in the process of transition. While others do have initial plans way ahead of others, there are others who are quite overwhelmed with making goals. In either case, it helps to realize that it is such a thing as a season of life. A new parent has different seasonal needs versus a senior individual retiring and slowing down in his or her career.
This ‘season of life’ can also be regarded as ‘just a passing’ period but it brings newer and richer perspectives and character build-up. It can be a moment in your life that allows you to grow and eventually enables you to gain strength, allowing you to re-plan your career options. A good stint is to focus on equipping yourself to upgrade your skills, like attending webinars through learning sessions, learning a new technology or software program, or enrolling in a formal education or certification. Some individuals who have worked for a long time could use this ‘break’ period to actually catch up on their family members' lives and use this window of time to bond and create enjoyable moments with their loved ones or establish new friendships. It can also be a season to actually re-assess your situation to build up other resources you have not really considered (e.g. relocating, getting hired help, etc.).
Indeed, there are no hard or fast rules in career planning but it is a welcome change. Plans are all custom-made based on our personal needs and life stages. Staying motivated despite the losses can be difficult and disdainful, but if armed with the right support and choosing to acquire a resilient mindset. Being retrenched from employment could actually be the “best thing” that ever happened in the course of your career life. Stay focused. Be flexible. Life is beautiful!
Retrenchment can be particularly overwhelming since it results from circumstances that are beyond your control. However, keep in mind that every dark tunnel has a light at the end of it. By staying optimistic and taking actions to safeguard your emotional and financial well-being could help you work through the stress of a sudden employment transition.
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