Follow these steps when faced with unexpected change:
1 Take time: “The danger is, if you start taking action while you’re still in shock from being downsized or laid off, you may be simultaneously going through a whole series of feelings: anger, sadness, confusion, fear. And when you try to recreate something from that space, it falls apart. You get desperate. You take something that maybe isn’t right for you,” Mitchell says. Give yourself time, which she adds can be as long as a month.
2 Talk about it: Deal with your emotions by talking to trusted colleagues and friends about what you’ve been through. But, Mitchell urges, “It’s really not about complaining. Give yourself a day or two to complain but after that, stop. It’s about asking for emotional support from the people around you.”
3 Be kind to yourself: Unexpected changes still provide an opportunity, so take the opportunity they present. Instead of rushing into your reinvention, do what you never had time to do when you were busy working. Later, you’ll come back ready to dive in.
4 Be kind to others: Volunteer. Many times we get self-absorbed, caught up in all the feelings and thoughts inside our head. Lending a hand puts the focus on someone else, gives you a break from your thoughts, and reminds you that your gifts are still useful.
—Tennille M. Robinson, with additional reporting by Brittany Hutson
Below is an excerpt from Mitchell’s book The 10 Laws of Career Reinvention: Essential Survival Skills for Any Economy (Dutton; $25.95) about combating fear, which Mitchell says isn’t easy; however, the secret is “Learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”…There are few guarantees in your reinvention journey, but this I promise you: You will come face-to-face on a regular basis with fear. In fact, of all the emotions you’ll likely experience throughout reinvention—excitement, sadness, annoyance—fear will be your steady companion.
Fear is a healthy sign that you are venturing beyond your comfort zone, which you must do repeatedly if you want to move closer to your goal. You might think that a necessary requirement of reinvention is that you “get over” your fears. This is not possible. Fear is a biochemical reaction that is necessary for ensuring the survival of the species… .
…However, it is prone to setting off false alarms, where you freeze up in the face of the good stuff or for no reason at all. These false alarms create and contribute to unnecessary panic during reinvention. That’s why you have to learn to manage your fears, not master them… .
Most reinvention fears break down to a number of anxious what-ifs. What if everything fails? What if I’m making the worst decision of my life? Go ahead and imagine the worst that could happen. If “everything fails,” will you be able to deal with it? Reinvention is a process of change, but it won’t kill you… .
Reinvention does not require you to get over your fears, only that you be willing to take action in spite of them… If you’re waiting to get started on your reinvention until you’re finished slaying all your dragons, forget it. You won’t make progress on your career reinvention unless you are willing to give up the excuses and take action in spite of fear.
As the Chinese proverb says: Talk doesn’t cook rice.