Does losing your job ever have a silver lining? It did for Dominique Browning, author of 'Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on my Pajamas and Found Happiness.' Browning was editor-in-chief of Conde Nast's House & Garden magazine. When the magazine folded in late 2007, Browning was told she had four days to pack up her office.
What followed was a time of self exploration where she was able to slow down, examine her priorities, reinvent herself, and create a new and more meaningful lifestyle. Browning's journey offers many life lessons that can help others in career transition find more fulfilling career paths.
Give yourself permission to mourn
Browning's story. After losing her job, Browning found herself sleeping a lot more than usual; some days it was hard to get out of bed. When she did get out of bed, she would stay in her pajamas and find comfort in food. Allowing herself to mourn her job loss also led to introspection on other recent loses -- a difficult long-term relationship and the reminder that her two sons were now young adults and didn't need to rely on her anymore for their day-to-day care.
Career takeaway: Psychologists have said that losing a job is the third most stressful event an individual can experience in their life (the first and second being death of a loved one and divorce). And just like death or divorce, job loss may require a period of mourning. Sometimes job seekers feel they should start interviewing immediately after a job loss. But if they are carrying a lot of emotional baggage -- which is normal early on in the process -- they will not interview well. It's better to take the time to examine and acknowledge your emotions and start interviewing once these have been dealt with.
Take the time to rediscover your passions
Browning's story. As Browning settled into her status as "newly unemployed," she began to rediscover the things she loved to do but never had time for while working. She spent time on many activities including gardening, playing piano, journaling, reading the Bible, kayaking, and baking.
Career takeaway: Some job seekers claim that rediscovering their passions allows them to reinvent themselves and forge a new career path. Some have been mulling over an idea for a new business or venture for years, but kept their idea on the back burner as the demands of work and life got in the way. Many people feel like they are on a perpetual treadmill at work -- constantly moving but never going anywhere. When you lose your job it can be one of the few moments in life where you get to step off the treadmill, examine closely what you want, and move forward in another direction.
Strike a balance between structured and unstructured activities
Browning's story: Work had given Browning structure -- so much structure that she realized she spent more time with her office family than her real one. Being unemployed gave her no structure. She woke up and ate at different times every day. Over time she found herself several pounds heavier and having difficulty sleeping. She soon realized there needed to be a happy medium. Her doctor put her on a regimented diet -- which not only helped her lose weight, but gave her life structure and a feeling of order.
Career takeaway: Job seekers can create a healthy balance of structured and unstructured activities into their day as well. It helps to create a routine where you wake, shower, and leave the house at the same time each day. Even if you are just leaving the house to do company research at the library or meet an acquaintance for coffee, the routine helps create control and order, which many job seekers report helps them maintain a positive outlook on their search. Yet when you are in job search you also have the flexibility to fit non-work related activities into your day. You may finally be able to catch your child's soccer game or check out a new exhibit at the museum. And if you can work a bit of professional networking into your personal excursions, even better!
Nurture your strong relationships and abandon your toxic ones
Browning's story: Browning noticed that some of her relationships soured after she lost her position; in some cases she felt like a few of her "friends" found some sort of satisfaction in her loss. And it wasn't until her job loss that she was able to crystallize the dynamic of her long-term, on-again-off-again love interest, realize it for what it was, and move on.
Career takeaway: Everyone knows toxic people. Their negativity can be even harder to tolerate and even damaging during a job search. Stay away from people who quote the most recent unemployment statistics chapter and verse or those who drone on about a friend who has been in search for two years. Every situation is different. Don't fall into the trap of comparing your situation to others or giving up hope.
Find your new career path by examining your basic skills
Browning's story: Browning reinvented herself by stripping her skills down to their basic components. Instead of pegging herself as an editor-in-chief of a magazine, she examined her main skill set as a communicator. She coupled that skill with her passion for and expertise in writing -- and in addition to being a published author, she is now also a contributor to several publications including The New York Times Book Review, O Magazine, Wired, and Travel & Leisure Magazine.
Career takeaway: Job seekers can create a more strategic and three-dimensional search strategy by examining the intersection between their skills and their passion. Focus on a transferable skill and repackage it for a new audience. Also look at the viability of the skill and the industry you wish to market yourself into. Is it trending up or down? Are there alternative paths you can explore based on the changing nature of the industry? Perhaps consulting or freelance positions are more realistic than the traditional 9-to-5.
Move away from letting your job define you
Browning's story: As the editor of House & Garden, Browning let her job define her. She rarely had time for life's simple pleasures. In 'Slow Love,' Browning learns the importance of and satisfaction in making time for the things you love.
Career takeaway: We spend a lot of time at work, and in the best case scenario we do work we enjoy. It's important to work at our careers, but not to the detriment of other facets of out lives. It's a difficult balancing act, but one we should be cognizant of and try to achieve every day. Perhaps all of us need a little bit of slow love in our lives.
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