Building your self-esteem during unemployment: a starter guide

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How do you stay calm, composed and build self- esteem in tough economy times? Here are some tips you may to consider as a starter guide to self-improvement.

Imagine yourself as a Dart Board. Everything and everyone else around you may become Dart Pins, at one point or another. These dart pins will destroy your self-esteem and deflate you in ways you won't even remember. Don't let them destroy you, or get the best of you. So which dart pins should you avoid?

Dart Pin #1 : Negative Work Environment

Beware of  the "dog eat dog" theory where everyone else is fighting just to survive. This involves  non-appreciative people who usually thrive. No one will appreciate your contributions even if you miss lunch and dinner, and stay up late. Most of the time you get to work too much without getting help from people... Avoid this circumstance; it will ruin your self-esteem. Competition is at stake in a competitive work world, especially with one in five Americans who are unemployed.

Dart Pin #2: Avoid others' toxic behaviour

Bulldozers, gossipmongers, whiners, backstabbers, snipers, the walking wounded, controllers, complainers, exploders, patronizers...  all these kinds of people will poison your self-esteem, as long as you give them "your energy" and your attention. Toxic behaviour pervades those who are already beleaguered with low self-esteem, such as laid-off individuals.

Dart Pin #3: Changing Environment

Babyboomers may recall the Rascals' song in the sixties, "How can I be sure? How I can be sure in a world that's constantly changing?" (Can you dig it man?)

Changes challenge our paradigms. For example, where has the permanent job gone? A job with benefits has been uprooted by uncertainty. Enter the world of short-term employment and temporary contracts. This is sobering when a job seeker desires job security. Why not consider temporary employment, which is enjoying an increase in the workforce? At least you can accept a contract or register with a temporary employment agency and regain any last vestiges of your crumbling self-esteem?

I chose temporary employment long ago to make valuable contacts, get a taste of the labour market, and above all, to be productive. And yes, my self-esteem received a boost.

Let's face it, if you have received severance pay from the government following a layoff, temporary employment may be a desirable, short-term outcome for you.

Change is inevitable in the digital, social networked world. Rather than react to change, a preferable behaviour, and perhaps ultimately a skill, is to adapt to change. (Incidentally, look up my previous article, "How to deal with the signs of a layoff," part one, on my blog,

Dart Pin #4: Past Experience

It's appropriate and normal to grieve about unemployment. Grief equals pain, plain and simple. But don't let pain transform itself into fear. This period of unemployment is TEMPORARY.

Your past experience represents value to employers! You just need to craft it into a  "professional brand" that entices employers to hire you.

Instead of focusing on WHY you were laid off (most often it is not a reflection of your work performance, but a money issue), focus on what was valuable in your previous employment. How did that experience get you hired before your layoff?

Psychologist Dr. Ron Warner, who certified me in solution-focused interviewing and counselling, once observed, "No problem exists 24/7 except for terminal illness and chronic pain." How true!

Dart Pin #5: Negative World View

Focus on your goals, as small as they may be. Connecting with 5 referrals by phone in the next week? Conducting an informational interview? Setting up a free social media account to get acquainted with new technology? Don't allow the the negativity's of unemployment burst your bubble. In building self esteem, we must learn how to make the best out of the worst situations.

No doubt you've heard of individuals being laid off or unemployed for prolonged periods, only to enjoy a rebirth and regeneration of themselves. (By the way, it is the year of the tiger in the Chinese system, which means rebirth and resilience). In the common vernacular, we might call this a "blessing" if you have been laid off for some time and then found meaningful employment afterward.

Dart Pin #6: Determination Theory

The way you are and your behavioral traits is said to be a mixed end product of your inherited traits (genetics), your upbringing (psychic), and your environmental surroundings such as your spouse, the company, the economy or your circle of friends. You have your own identity. If your father is a failure, it doesn't mean you have to be a failure too. Learn from other people's experience, so you'll never have to encounter the same mistakes.

Being positive, and staying positive is a personal choice. Building self-esteem and drawing lines for self- improvement is a choice, not a talent.

Let's harken back to the wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt, "No one can make you inferior without your consent."

In life, its hard to stay motivated and upbeat when faced with the life-altering event of a layoff or unemployment. The grim reality of hearing constant rejection from employers is dehabilitating and savage to the soul.

However, take comfort in the fact that NO means "not right now." If an employer is not accepting resumes or hasn't returned your calls, take heart. Do NOT take it personally. The rejection (not an immediate acceptance by the employer) is NOT a reflection about you necessarily, but about unmitigated circumstances, such as an uncertain  market, diminishing profits, staff issues, training needs....What lurks behind the closed doors of employers is the subject of speculation for many downhearted job hunters.

Even though jobs are imminently impermanent, layoffs and unemployment are TEMPORARY to a wide extent. Witness the egregious Great Depression period of American history. Many entrepreneurs emerged from the economic rubble and likewise prosperous individuals with flourishing businesses.

Remember: over ninety percent of employment in North American originates from small and medium business.

If your period of employment is lingering and your patience is waning, why not offer your value-added talents via a small business?

Building self esteem will eventually lead to self- improvement if we start to become responsible for who we are, what we have and what we do. Its like a flame that should gradually spread like a brush fire from inside and out. When we develop self esteem, we take control of our mission, values and discipline.

Self-esteem results in self-improvement, true assessment, and determination.

So how do you start to build self esteem? Be appreciative of what you have now, whether it's healthy relationships, a healthy body or otherwise.

Never miss an opportunity to compliment. French writer Victor Hugo deftly observes: "A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil. "

Put away the stress of unemployment just for a short moment and imagine the life you want, not primarily the employment. Answers will emerge....

Melissa Martin
bilingual career coach and ebook author, How to use social media in your job search

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