How to Stay Positive When You’re Unemployed
1) Keep a gratitude journal
When you’re faced with the fear of not being able to support yourself, or potentially your family, it’s easy to get caught up in looking at what you don’t have: you don’t have an income, you don’t have quality food, you can’t pay the bills and you’re drinking lemonade instead of champagne.
It’s entirely understandable, but lethal, to focus on what you are without. You’ll feel like a failure, which will prevent you from selling yourself as a winner on application forms and in interviews. You can spin this.
A wealth of psychological research shows that gratitude and happiness go hand in hand. Billionaire Oprah Winfrey has famously kept a gratitude journal since she was young. It’s a simple, but transformational concept.
At the end of every day, you write down what happened to make you thankful. Did somebody hold a door open for you? Was your bill a little less expensive than you anticipated? Did your child do something beautiful?
No matter how tough your day was, you can always find something to appreciate. In your bleakest moments, you might find yourself simply writing “I am grateful that my sister let me use her shower” or even “I am still alive.” It’s in those moments that you’ll truly understand the value of gratitude.
2) Treat it like it’s your job
You’re not unemployed. Your job is to get a job. It’s probably the worst pay you’ve ever had, but if you work hard you’ll be rewarded with skills in patience, persistence and, eventually, employment.
Imagine your new boss in a sleek suit, shaking your hand firmly and looking down at you. Would that boss be okay with you, pyjama-clad, strolling into the office at 11am, getting comfortable in front of the computer and opening YouTube?
Right now, you are your own boss. That means you have to get to the office at 9am every day. It means you have to work at polishing your CV, get advice from recruitment agencies, apply for jobs, maybe even practise your special skills or read up on how to improve your application forms and interview techniques.
Take an hour for your lunch, if you would do at work. Finish at the same time as you would do at work. Take weekends off.
This not only helps you get into a routine, but it stops you from feeling lazy and helps you keep track of how much effort you are putting into the job hunt.
3) Take breaks
I don’t just mean take fifteen minutes to have a cup of tea (although I don’t know what a cup of tea can’t cure). I mean take a mental break. When you’re faced with constant rejection and a lack of feedback, your motivation can plummet. You only have your own voice to listen to and, after a while, it might start saying “You can’t do it”, “You keep failing”, “You’re not as good as the other candidates” or worst of all “You’ll never get a job.”
What would your best friend say if they heard you talking about yourself like that? If they would say, “Your amazing because you keep trying” or “You’re getting closer to the goal with each day, each application form and each interview so don’t worry”, you’ve chosen a good friend. Catch yourself when you are mentally beating yourself up. Take a break. Breathe. Tell yourself exactly what that good friend would tell you. Then say it out loud.
Self-motivation is incredibly important for success. It’s the spark that will get that application started, that phone call made or that CV written.
4) Talk about it.
Bear in mind, ‘talk’ doesn’t mean ‘whine.’ Moping is okay in small, infrequent doses but it’s also something you just have to break through.
Share your experience with someone you trust. Have your friends or family members ever been unemployed? Ask them about it. How did they feel? What did they do to overcome it? Absorb all the advice you can and use it for yourself. You might (or might not) be surprised by how many people have been in a position similar to yours. This is not only the age of redundancy, but the age of people who feel freer to regularly change jobs and chase dream careers.
5) The Golden Rule: Never Give Up
You are not going to remain unemployed for ten years. It’s not going to happen unless you work exceptionally hard at being unemployed or have unresolved psychological or physical issues blocking your way.
It might take months, it might take longer than a year, it might not be your dream job, but you are inevitably going to be employed. You are going to be financially supported somehow during your unemployment whether that be by savings, a parent, the government, a spouse or friend. There is always a way for you to get help. It can be agonisingly difficult and you might learn lessons about your pride, but it can be done.
I recently met a successful, vibrantly happy man who has a history of unemployment. When he was homeless, he had every right to dwell on this pain and fear. Instead, he used the golden rule to weather him through his storm. He had been employed before and knew he could do it again. He had recovered from an addiction and, because of that, knew he was strong enough to recover from homelessness. He had many more years of life ahead so he could try again. And again. And again.
You’ll only get there if you try. Be gentle with yourself and never give up.