What do Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs (and admittedly, I) have in common? Right, we’re all creative business leaders (although I am still operating on a lower level of fame and success on the innovation mastery pyramid). But here’s another exciting thing I share with these celebrated innovation heroes that might surprise you: at some point in time, we all got fired from a job because we didn’t do what we were told and chose to engage in more creative work over boring drudgery.
If you’ve just lost your job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis, or if you’re afraid you might be laid-off in the coming months or years, then take consolation: It happened to world-famous, ingenious business leaders before. And in fact, getting fired was truly instrumental in making their careers take off. Today and in two weeks, allow me to share twelve action strategies on how to bounce back and rise to new heights after losing your job.
1. Recollect yourself: Get up to begin rising up
For many people, it is a shocking, traumatic experience to be asked to leave by an employer for whom they’ve worked for several years, or several decades. Losing a job can feel like a defeat or cause feelings of significant loss or even grief. Some people experience a similar emotional roller-coaster like the loss of a loved one. In such situations, we pass through five stages of grief and loss: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance. It’s okay to allow yourself to feel these different emotions, and it’s important that you eventually accept the hard reality.
“Sometimes life’s going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith”, noted Steve Jobs with reference to being fired from Apple. It’s part of the human experience that at some point in life, fate hits us with a sucker punch. Losing a job feels like being knocked to the ground. But you’re not knocked out yet for as long as you can muster all your inner strength and faith. Get up on your feet again, and keep up the fight. As Muhammad Ali said, “You don’t lose if you get knocked down; you lose if you stay down.”
(If you’re still employed, proactively prepare ahead. Then, you’re ready to take a blow whenever it may come, or even better: strike first.)
2. Reframe: Embrace the opportunity
Whenever I get knocked down in life, I recall one of my core mantras: “Everything that happens to me is the best possible thing that can happen to me.” This mantra helps me quickly shift my state from negative to positive, and I trust that the adverse incidence will eventually lead me to a good outcome.
Likewise, after you lost your job, reframe the situation. Realize that “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity,” as Albert Einstein noted (who failed to land a job as a university teacher until 1915, although he had already published his famous paper on special relativity in 1905).
The Chinese character for the word ‘crisis’ consists of two pictograms — ‘danger’ followed by ‘opportunity.’ So, a crisis offers both dangers and opportunities.
What’s the opportunity in your job crisis? To design yourself a new career built upon your unique genius, and then pursue it with gusto. Here, know that the word ‘crisis’ originates from a Greek word that translates as ‘decision’ or ‘turning point.’ View your job loss as a decisive turning point in your life to restart your career and finally do what you should have already done a long time ago to add more and deeper meaning to your life.
3. Release: Lose the baggage
As part of the process of grief and loss mentioned above, many retrenched employees spend a lot of time dwelling on memories, lamenting on the injustice of the loss, feeling resentment and anger for managers involved in the decision to let go of them, and so on. Don’t be one of them.
Resist the temptation to carry around your old job’s heavy baggage and the traumatic process of separation. This won’t help your efforts to find a new job, but rather keep you chained to a past that has now passed. So, resolve today to let go of the past, to let go of the heavy baggage of your old job, and to let go of all the heavy feelings that come with losing it. Letting go will set you free and open the pathways to a new career and a better future.
Steve Jobs describes this liberating notion as follows: “Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
4. Reconnect to your true identity
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation,” noted the great Irish playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde. Unfortunately, in most societies, nine out of ten people hide their true selves behind a social mask that earns them the external approval of others. The chances are that you’re one of them.
After you’ve lost your job, now is a great time to finally throw away that ridiculous mask, stop playing a role, and start being who you really are. You need to reconnect to your essential core, your soul, your true being. How?
Set aside time for introspection and ponder the question: “Who am I?” Moreover, gain fresh insights into your unique personality by taking assessment tests that profile your personality and cognitive styles. Invest time to complete at least three different personality assessments or cognitive profiling tests. Invest a bit of money in at least one “for pay” assessment tool as they tend to provide you with a more comprehensive test report with more discriminative results and deeper analysis.
What profiling tests should you use? You have a choice between more than two thousand alternatives. For example, you may want to try out M.I.N.D. Design (free and very time-effective), 16 Personalities (a free variant of the MBTI test), and our TIPS profiling test (USD 89, 36-page report) created for business and innovation in the 21st century.
Think of these tests as an opportunity to collect fresh mosaic pieces to bring into sharp relief your true profile. In particular, your test results and profile description may give you novel insights and a deeper understanding of your unique talents, related strengths, and your preferred cognitive styles.
5. Revalue: Acknowledge your worth
Losing a job is an event that dents one’s self-confidence. Hence, set aside time to list all the right reasons for why you are worthy (your knowledge, skills, experiences, achievements, accolades, prizes, and other goodies).
Consider asking your loved ones, good friends, and trusted former colleagues to give you feedback on how they see your talents, strengths, contributions, and other aspects that highlight your worth as an individual and within a workforce. (If you can take it, ask them for suggestions on things to improve or do better in future too, thus already staying true to the spirit of the next point below). The primary purpose of the exercise, however, is to allow you to revalue the true worth of the unique human asset that is you — and that your former employer was stupid enough to let go of.
6. Recalibrate: Be positive, but keep it real
In his book Good to Great. Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, Jim Collins investigated what factors enabled eleven companies with outstanding financial performance to establish leadership positions in their industries and rise from “good to great.” One of the distinguishing factors of great companies is that they “confront the brutal truth of the situation, yet at the same time, never give up hope.”
Follow this maxim to help you rise from “good to great”, too. Confront the brutal realities of your present situation:
- You lost your job.
- You have to deal with a negative monthly cash flow.
- You have to find or create a new job in a depressed economy.
Yet, at the same time, always stay positive that if you work hard and don’t give up, you will turn things around eventually and use this temporary setback as a starting point for a successful new career.
Walt Disney expressed how he lived this maxim as follows: “I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.”
Interim conclusion: Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom
Today, I shared with you the first six of twelve action recommendations on how you can bounce back after losing your job in a pandemic-plagued, depressed economy: Recollect yourself after the knockdown. Reframe your situation and embrace the opportunity. Release and let go of the baggage. Rediscover your true identity. Revalue your true worth. Recalibrate yourself and take a positive outlook while facing your present reality. And how about the remaining six action strategies that can help you bounce back after a job loss? Come back in two weeks for the final part of this two-article episode.
- Have you been let go due to the COVID-19 crisis? Or are you concerned about your job security? In the second half of Q3.2020, we’ll be launching a free webinar and a special online training program wherein we’ll guide a group of high-quality job seekers and outplaced managers through the twelve action strategies. Contact us if you would like to learn more about the program.
- Would you like to learn more about TIPS? Check out our TIPS website to learn more about our 21st-century personal assessment tool for business and innovation. And consider taking the TIPS online test (USD 89) to uncover your TIPS profile and preferred cognitive styles.
© Dr. Detlef Reis 2020. The article is published in the Thinkergy Blog on July 16, 2020, and will be re-published in the Bangkok Post within the coming weeks.