Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn • I’m 49 and probably about to be unemployed because of job elimination. Not struggling financially, thank goodness. But feeling anxious and depressed, sort of staring into the void. Any advice or words or comfort? — Staring Into the Void
Answer • I’m sorry to hear about the unwelcome disruption, or at least the threat of it. I hope it’s of some comfort to know that what you’re feeling is completely normal. Change is hard, and losing income is scary, even when you’re prepared for it.
It sounds as if you can use this period of uncertainty to work on your Plan B — and in the process basically treat your anxiety (unless it’s too debilitating for that, in which case please do make an appointment for a medical screening). Figure out, for example, some exact numbers — how much money could you live on indefinitely? Then, what jobs would bring in that amount? Which of them sound interesting, and which are you qualified for?
If you don’t feel ready for this, then break it into smaller pieces, and smaller goals — like, would a part-time job help steady you? Dedicate, say, 30 minutes per day to this research.
At the same time, start thinking of things that calm you, that you can turn to if you suddenly find yourself with open days to fill. The biggest payoff awaits, I suspect, in things that occupy you, tap into your creativity, promote physical health, and save you money all at once. Cooking is an obvious example, or walking/hiking, but there are others. Easing some of these hobbies into your schedule now, along with scheduled planning sessions for a new career direction, can also take the edge off your dread.
Embrace this time. EMBRACE IT. You’ve probably worked your whole adult life with short American vacations — can’t be away too long, gotta check in! Spend at least two weeks sleeping in and doing nothing more strenuous than lunch with friends, or, a plane ticket somewhere. Or two months. Decompress. Then start networking. — Anonymous
Been there. (I was 53.) Network like crazy. Meet people for breakfast, coffee, lunch, at their schedule. Also ask how you can be helpful to them. Find volunteer work that you like. Plan out your day as if job hunting is your full-time job, even if you aren’t ready to do that. Update your LinkedIn profile. Join or participate more in professional associations. Get on a good exercise program and meditate or do yoga. All these things helped. Talk to everyone. Most people have been un- or underemployed at some point. — Been There
I found that the biggest issues I had were isolation — after being used to being in an office all day — and feeling that I was not using my time well. So I focused on networking, for social reasons as well as professional ones, and volunteering. Lunch is particularly good for networking, as it is less expensive than dinner and nearly everyone has time for lunch. The volunteering was especially good because I found a real sense of purpose. And now that I am retired, the volunteer work has become my reason for getting up in the morning. — Networker