Here’s the scenario. Maybe this sounds familiar:
You’re unemployed and have been looking for work for months. You’re terrified because your savings won’t last forever. You’re starting to feel useless and incompetent. The free time is killing you, leaving you depressed, which is making job hunting and surviving job interviews more difficult.
It’s a scary one, seeing a yawning open future without a job in place, and most of us have been in this situation. You DO get stuck. And that “being stuck” keeps you from moving forward. How do you look for a job when you feel miserable? Here’s a three-step process to get you moving.
(1) Imagine the worst case scenario
You got it: the first question is the hardest. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Take a deep breath and think it through.
You’re facing problems finding employment, and that scares you. What are you worried about? “Money will run out” is your first thought. Keep going. What’s the most horrible thing that could happen? “My kids will be forced to eat at food banks.” What’s worse than that? Think it through and find your worst-case outcome to this problem before reading mine.
Worse case scenario: eventually the money runs out. We can’t pay the bills or rent. The family is starving to death. My wife, kids, and I are evicted from our house and end up living under a bridge. My kids grow up to be addict-gangsters and end up in prison. My wife leaves me for a millionaire.
The worst case scenario probably leaves you feeling even worse. Why go there? Why focus on such negative stuff?
There’s purpose here: identifying the worst case scenario often shows us how unrealistic our fears are. The chances that we end up under a bridge and raise addict-gangster children is possible, but unlikely.
The next trick is to keep going. Never stay on Step #1.
(2) Imagine the best case scenario
Imagine a glorious life ahead of you, with dreams fulfilled… friendship, school, work, purpose, and sheer joy. The perfect job is waiting for you, and everything is going to turn out perfectly. What’s your best case scenario? Imagine meeting your goals. Imagine your wife and children materializing their greatest dreams. Think of world peace! Be creative. Think for a second about your best outcome before reading my interpretation.
Best-case scenario: someone calls you with news of a job offering. It’s your ideal career, which you’re educated and ready for, and the world rejoices as you accept the new position. At work you find your colleagues are a kind bunch, given to baking cookies, offering friendship and support, and appreciate your passions. They recognize your creativity. They respect you as a person. If you need it, you earn a sizey salary. If you want it, you save the lives of millions.
Even better: you become a famous musician, artist, writer… and have a great story of suffering and survival to share with the masses.
Even better: well, this is the fun part. We can imagine ruling vast kingdoms filled with magic, meaning, and friendly, black dragons. The good stuff goes on and on, right?
The best possible outcome is a bright place where emotion tickles the soul. People like to stay here, and understandably so: here’s where our dreams are fulfilled. The temptation is to stay here a while. The fear melts away, de-thawing you to a bright, new world, and there’s inspiration to start moving, start living again. Oh, yes, idealism and positivity have a place. They give us hope.
But this world is rose-tinged. When you’re ready, it’s important to move on.
(3) Imagine the most-likely case scenario
The most-likely, realistic outcome is about balance. Hit the center between worst and best case-scenario, and you’ve found the place you belong. The most-likely outcome is about the probable truth, 99% reality.
Most likely outcome: you take the advice of a good friend and sign up with a temp agency. The pay is reasonable, but you don’t like your first assignment and ask to be transferred. The second assignment pays less but, yeah, it feels right for now. Most of your colleagues are friendly. There’s free coffee in the break room. The boss is never around but seems an okay guy. Not a bad place to work. Three months later your wife finds a job, making finances a lot easier. At night the two of you hang out on the sofa with two of your kids (the third is too rebellious to spend time with the family) and watch TV in your cozy, little apartment. You’re thinking about going back to school part time. It’s time to work on getting that dream job.
Alternative most-likely outcome: it’s two months later, and you still haven’t found a job. Maybe it’s a sign: time to go after your dream! You open up your own street-side candy shop. You’ve got money enough to start, credit cards and loans and friendly gifts to keep it going, and after hours and hours of intensive labor (even your kids are putting in their part), you start turning a profit. There are too many licenses and taxes and overstocked candy, but you get through the obstacles and make it happen.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a refreshing tale. The emotional part of your personality likes the good outcome (“the worst case scenario didn’t happen!”), while the logical “you” appreciates the fact that this is based on what’s most likely to happen (“the unrealistic, idealistic best case scenario just isn’t believable!”). This middling version is the easiest to believe — and the most likely to happen.
Chances are, if you keep looking, you’ll find a job. Maybe not the ideal job, but you’ll find something. Consider vocational rehabilitation or temp agencies. If you don’t find work soon, food stamps, housing support, emergency funds, free health clinics, free dental work at dental schools, and other resources can keep you going. There are dozens of charities that do just that: help people in dire circumstances.
Thar you have it: unstuck and de-thawed, you can go back to job searching knowing it’s almost certain that everything is going to turn out okay.