If your boss ever invites you to a 5PM meeting on a Friday, don’t go.
That’s not a meeting; that’s a booby-trap.
That’s the lose-your-job hour, (happened to me once because of a huge financial crisis). That’s the get-fired window (happened to me once because I was a huge jerk). Perhaps, though, it’s too late for you. You’ve already experienced a Career Bump. An unexpected moment, a rogue wave of unemployment that caught you unprepared. What do you do now?
Well, here are 6 ways to survive a Career Bump that I learned in my 16 years of employment adventures:
1. Aim for next, not best.
When you have no job and have no money and eventually have no pants because they cost money, it’s not time to aim for your “dream job.” You need a “job-job” right now. A lot of the people I coach get stuck trying to go off on some vision quest when they lose their job. Forget that. Get your next job — the one you might only have for a year and then fire up the dream job machine once you’ve stabilized things a smidge.
2. Send your ego on a short vacation.
I used to write laser hair removal radio jingles. Why? Because if there’s one thing I have a deep passion for it’s the constant frustration of shaving your legs. Or it’s because I put my ego aside and had to hustle on whatever I could. When you hit a Career Bump, put your ego on pause and do what you need to do to get a new job. Even if it’s one that your ego tries to say is “beneath you.” (Again, it’s not a forever job, it’s just for right now.)
3. Ask for help.
Friends can’t help you unless you ask for help. They also can’t help you if they don’t know you went through a Career Bump. Be brave. Ask people for help. Reach out to friends. Don’t fake like you have it all together if you don’t right now.
4. Don’t eat Easy Mac for breakfast.
When I got laid off, I focused on being sad and eating copious amounts of macaroni and cheese. The only thing that helped me accomplish was my pants not fitting. If you’re still getting up early, running a lot during your unemployment and working out, this tip made no sense. If you’re eating Easy Mac right now though, you should tweet, “@JonAcuff just blew my mind!”
5. Don’t compare yourself to other people.
The worst thing you can do when you’re unemployed is dive into the buffet of “everyone has a better life than I do” that is social media. Don’t gorge on Instagram, watching a steady stream of all the amazing things other people are doing. Don’t obsess on the successful endeavors it feels like everyone on Facebook is enjoying. We’ve always had a grass-is-greener mentality, but now we just have instant access to a million digital backyards.
6. Figure out what you need to work on.
Careers are built or broken on how we invest in them. The problem is that most of us were taught to work jobs, not build careers. Use this time to figure out which part of your Career Savings Account (CSA) you need to invest in. (The formula for a long lasting, successful career is Relationships +Skills + Character x Hustle.) To make that easier I created a simple quiz with 12 crazy questions that help you get a quick look at your career. You can take it for free at careersavingsaccount.com.
I hope you never need this article. I hope you have a forty career run where only awesome things happen to you and you never experience a Career Bump.
But I have my doubts.
If you hit a bump, don’t give up. It’s part of working.
(Also, don’t buy a pallet of Easy Mac and binge-watch four straight days of Netflix. That’s not going to help anybody.)
Jon Acuff is a career coach and bestselling author of five books, including Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work & Never Get Stuck, out next week.