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power points

Rob Barnett has been let go from a job four times. It stung each time, even when he only fell victim to a reorganization. After the fourth dismissal, he learned the power of reaching out to others in a similar situation – for comfort, ideas, and encouragement – and that social media can be valuable in job hunting if used right. Now, he hopes others can benefit from what he’s discovered while struggling with unemployment.

Often, he notes, the person terminating you will stress it’s not personal – it’s business. Mr. Barnett counters in his book Next Job, Best Job: “All of us who have been through this rite of passage know that it’s not only personal, it’s primal. Deep emotional buttons are pushed when somebody strips away your income.”

Mr. Barnett would check his bank balance a dozen times a day in the aftermath. But it goes beyond the lost income. Your ego shrivels up as you are no longer needed. For him, it seemed as if he was tied down in chains, the walls closing in, without any idea how to escape. “The weight of all that stress ate away at my strength and confidence,” he says.

You also find out which friends won’t show up when you need them the most. Many former colleagues refuse to reach out, even as you desperately want to hear from them. You realize a lot of work relationships are transactional, not true friendships – many people treat you as if you have a disease they might catch by connecting.

Mr. Barnett advises that emotional rescue comes by things like meditation, vigorous exercise, spontaneous dance – and dark chocolate. Fire the “no police”: the fears in your mind insisting not only that you won’t secure a good job for a long time but also that finding a better job, with higher pay, is impossible. Jettison fears surrounding your age. Commit yourself to a date night once a week with somebody who believes in fun, treating the cost as an investment in your sanity. Volunteer somewhere to be with others and feel useful. Recruit a trusted friend who will make regular check-ins to keep you accountable for making progress on your job search every day.

Find your supporters. In Mr. Barnett’s case, he uploaded an impassioned video about his between-jobs desperation to social media in 2018, after being out of work six months, and by nightfall attracted 16,000 views and about 600 comments. He had struck a nerve, echoing what other people were feeling, and he subsequently knitted them into a community that continues today.

He urges you to do the same: “Your job search does not have to be a solo, isolating experience. Who made the crappy rule that you have to hunker down alone or depressed on a job search without any significant human support?” Don’t be afraid to reach out. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. E-mail people you like and trust to let them know you’re building a team of folks who will support each other by pooling their resources and networks to find open jobs.

Determine your North Star – your professional identity, what you have to offer in the marketplace. Make that central to your pitch. Don’t try to be all things for all people. Get social media working for you, starting with the most powerful for job hunting: LinkedIn.

“Swear that you’ll never let a single day of job search go by without making at least one professional, relevant, online post,” Mr. Barnett writes. Demonstrate through those posts that you’re in step with pressing issues of the business and industry you target. Try to be authentic, engaging, and inspiring. Keep it apolitical.

Losing your job is personal – it’s a kick in the teeth. But you can recover, working with others and social media to find your next position.

Quick hits

  • Turn your out-of-office e-mail responder on the day before you go on vacation, recommends content strategist Erin Greenawald. Tell your boss and closest colleagues, but this little trick helps to fend off requests from others as you are getting set to leave.
  • It’s OK to leave a job off your resume, advises executive recruiter Gerald Walsh, if it was far in the past, your time in the position was brief, the work was part-time, short-term, or contractual, or you took the job simply to generate cash. But don’t leave something off your resume to mislead an employer, particularly bad experiences.
  • Executive coach Dan Rockwell urges you to take 15 minutes to express irritations and frustrations through a “naughty list” of people who disappoint or aggravate you. Just don’t leave it hanging around the office.
  • Virtual selling and buying is here to stay, notes sales coach Colleen Francis. As we return to in-person meetings, find out which type of sales encounters your customers and prospects prefer.
  • If working remotely, consultant Sara Canaday reminds you not to become out-of-sight-out-of-mind: Send regular progress reports to your boss and colleagues.

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