How to Handle Losing Your Job during the Holidays

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How to Handle Losing Your Job during the Holidays

Losing your job is always crushing; losing your job during the holidays–especially when you didn’t see it coming–can be emotionally crippling.

It’s not just the idea of losing money in the midst of the buying season, although that is certainly bad enough. It’s also the feeling of isolation, like everyone around you is Santa Claus and you’re the Grinch. Friends and family are stringing popcorn and attending festive parties; you’re scanning job posting and updating your résumé. Ho ho ho.

There’s the fear–quite reasonable–that the news of your job loss will cast a long shadow over the holidays. Obviously, no one wants Christmas to be less fun or festive … making it all the more tempting to say the heck with it, enjoy the season, and plan to start job-hunting at the first of the year.

Bad idea.

Sure, the season is stressful enough. And end-of-year is more likely a time for cutting staff than a time for hiring. But experts say it’s critical to start the process right away. Even with the full economy, the average job search is 5 months these days … and the process has changed over the last few years. Particularly if it’s been a while since you had to search for a job, learning the right way to look for work may be a job in and of itself. At the very least, it should be a top priority in order to get back in the game as quickly as possible.

Before anything else, though, you need a plan of action. Here are some quick suggestions:

A Small Silver Lining

There’s no way to sugar-coat it: losing your job at the holidays absolutely sucks. But there is one tiny silver lining to that big black cloud of bad timing: the holidays are also a prime opportunity for networking. That holiday party you were dreading? Now it’s the perfect chance to let friends and colleagues know you’re available. You don’t want to come off as desperate or needy, of course, but you’re certainly allowed to drop the information into the conversation.

Also, the holidays are when we typically re-connect with old friends and acquaintances. No harm in trying to leverage that to further your network. Like we said, it’s a big cloud with a small silver lining, but it’s better than thinking negatively. Take the win.

Partner Up

Nothing will focus your job search so much as a trusted partner to help you stay positive and accountable. Confining your contact to recruiters and other job hunters–or worse, not talking to anyone–is self-defeating. You don’t need someone to kvetch to, you need a dedicated coach who’s not afraid to get in your face a bit and tell you what you need to hear. A person that knows you well enough to keep you motivated, moving, and in the proper mindset.

This is a time when you need to be proactive–and sometimes that’s difficult. Face it: sending out résumés can feel like mailing invitations to be rejected. You need someone to remind you that in realty, you’re kissing frogs in your search for the handsome prince–and that it’s all just part of the process.

Don’t Lose Your Routine

It’s easy enough to get out of your daily routine with the holidays, but losing your job means you have more of a reason to stay the course. Remember, the goal here is to get back into the work force, so keeping your 9-5 regiment going will keep you on track. Wake up at your normal time every weekday, dress at least in business casual (No sweat pants. Sorry.), and tackle your job hunt like … well, like a job. Make a list of what you want to accomplish that day, then get to work.

Take regular breaks, but keep on your schedule. While you’re at it, if you don’t have a daily exercise routine (many of the top CEOs and entrepreneurs do … just sayin’), now is a great time to start one. Job-hunting is physically and mentally draining; regular exercise will help you keep up your strength, and the endorphins will give your mood and your body a boost. Bonus: exercising relieves stress, builds confidence, and generally gives you a more positive outlook.

Believe in the Future

If you really loved your job, losing it can be even more devastating. But sometimes it helps to view this as a chance to hone your skill set and angle your career in a new direction. You may not have made the choice to be laid off, but taking ownership and using the opportunity to your advantage can be both liberating and empowering, and will leave you stronger as a professional.

No one is saying it will be easy–just that it will be worth it. The Brazilian writer Fernando Sabino said it best: “No fim, tudo dá certo. Se não deu, ainda não chegou ao fim.” Translated: “In the end, everything will be ok. If it’s not ok, it’s not yet the end.”