What Do You Do If You Are Jobless?

26/05/2017What Do You Do If You Are Jobless?

By Dr. Srini Pillay, MD, PhD
Award-winning author of " Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear" and "Your Brain and Business"

When jobs are scarce and hopelessness is rife, what can you do where you cannot see options for a return to work? How does brain science and psychology research help us?

People who lose their job feel shocked, alarmed and depressed. This is understandable and grief reaction to loss is normal. The problem arises when the grief is prolonged. In a world of limited resources, who survives and wins?

Jobless people who are reengaged in the workforce must remember that their job loss often has nothing to do with their incapacity. It is often a product of the financial environment. Taking on the emotional burden of shame and regret just adds to the burden of fear and not knowing how survival is possible. My first request is to feel the fear but not the shame and regret. Fear is natural, and within limits, can be motivating. When excessive, it may put the brain in reaction mode and the brain may either flee opportunities or feel paralyzed. Winners never stop looking for alternatives.

They understand that joblessness means they must climb a mountain to see the opportunities. The hopeless give up because they cannot see the answer from where they are standing. Those who move forward first are at an advantage. They use what I call “possibility thinking” rather than “probability thinking.” Finding a job in this economy is not highly probable for many, but not impossible. It takes effort and motivation to pursue what is possible but not probable, and the disappointment of the job loss leaves people feeling hopeless and stuck.

I advocate “possibility thinking.” When we feed our brains choices, the brain’s unconscious “navigator” starts to sketch a plan to move us toward solutions. In the best situations, we will not only find solutions but better alternatives than we had.


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What does this translate to? If we know that at a brain level, we must feed the unconscious navigator (the posterior parietal cortex) and that we must continue to move rather than be paralyzed, here are some suggestions:

1. Look through classifieds the same time each day. Make it focused, not incidental. When looking for jobs, rather than simply seeing if you like something or not, make a list of certain features that appeal to you. e.g. flexibility, work from home, short commute. This will start the process of feeding your brain information to attend to.

2. When a job is almost what you want but not exactly what you want, ask yourself: Is there a way I can start a business like this? What is the one step above this job that would make me apply for it? What will I lose by applying? Start going for interviews at a level that is below what you want. In this way, someone you meet may be able to refer you to a job that you like.

3. Think of definite ways to motivate yourself each day. Physical exercise, a massage, or doing anything that you love will help you see the jobs that you are looking at differently.

4. Realize that being jobless can also motivate you to stay that way. It may reduce your anxiety, and make you feel comfortable about not having to perform. Avoid this rut. The longer you are in, the harder to leave.

5. Being jobless is probably not your “fault.” Be easy on yourself. Remind yourself of your talents; write out positive qualities about yourself a few times a week. Write one or two letters describing why you are ideal for a job even if you are not applying for it. This will help focus on your strengths.

This reminds you that the difficulty you experience after losing your job is not easy to get over. However, the earlier you start to move toward your next goal, the more you will be at an advantage when the opportunity arises.