When Life Knocks You Down, Don’t Get Bitter. Get Better.
Millions around the world have been hit hard by an economic recession which has been plaguing the world since at least 2008. Jobs, industries and even entire professions have disappeared and are not likely to ever return. Unemployed professionals are facing bleak prospects while those hoping to make a career move are clinging to their unhappy jobs like buoys in a turbulent sea. The whole is compounded by the media regularly pounding the recessionary drums with a decidedly pessimistic outlook. 57% youth unemployment in Spain, we are told, tells us how bad things are but also how much worse they could get.
In this climate of fear and doubt, it is easy to become jaded and bitter. Former employers, politicians or foreign workers often become targets as we look to lay blame somewhere.
While anger and resentment are perfectly understandable emotions – and may even be a necessary part of the healing process – the sooner we can overcome them, the sooner we can begin to prepare for the next phase of our lives.
The key to a successful professional rebound rests in our ability to update our human “software” with some bug fixes, a few new applications and perhaps even a new operating system. We simply have to take advantage of any professional intermission to become better and to grow. More marketable, more knowledgable, more polished, … whatever can make us a more prized and valuable “asset.”
Here are 10 simple tips with tools for the road ahead:
- Read. Read a lot and then read some more. Stay current, learn about your industry, your profession, the economy and the world. The web offers amazing tools for personalizing the news you consume. My personal favorite news app is Zite. It learns your interests and reading preferences to present you with ever more personalized and pertinent information. Another great choice in the same vein is Flipboard.
- Blog. Build up a digital presence that develops your writing skills and creates a personal branding platform for the world to get to know you better. The two most popular blogging platforms are WordPress and Blogger. Both are free, simple and they offer excellent introduction material to get started. Give it a try. Leverage you interests, passions and skills to generate interesting or insightful content for others to read.
- Organize. Whether you are organizing your finances, updating your online profiles (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn) or keeping a to do list, use your down time to bring some order to your life. Fortunately, there is a slew of terrific apps that are designed to help you easily organize parts of your life which may need of some tending. Try Google Calendar for appointments & reminders; Mint Personal Finance for keeping tabs on your finances; 1Password or e-Wallet for safely storing your passwords and personal info; CrashPlan for safe data backups; and Astrid for your to-do list. Not only are they almost all free and easy to use, they are highly mobile and platform agnostic.
- Call. Regularly reach out to your network and – no! – email does not count nor will it have the same effect. There is still no substitute to a live conversation. Think of it as a skill that needs to be developed but which gets easier the more often you do it. Skype is a great tool which is not only free but which adds a visual dimension to conversations between people.
- Network. Even better than the phone, meeting people in person is a fundamental skill and activity that should be prioritized over everything else. We may live in an increasingly digital world, but real social interaction – the face to face kind – trumps everything else. This holds true for your personal as well as professional life. Get out there and interact. A number of helpful apps exist which you can use to track appointments and create updates or reminders (like birthdays or anniversaries) for people in your network. Consider apps like MeetMe or Skout to meet with friends or to make new ones in your immediate area. CardMunch is a great app for capturing business card info and saving it to your contact list.
- Review. Take stock of what you have done/learned, where you are in your life today and where you want to be heading. Set some goals and create your personal brand or mission statement. Try to capture your personal lessons learned (what worked and didn’t work for you in your previous roles) and how you will apply them moving forward. Evernote is a great tool for jotting down notes or for creating a diary that is easy to use and to retrieve info from via the cloud.
- Study. Take advantage of your downtime to pick up some new skills. Learn how to use new business applications, teach yourself to program, pick up a new language, discover a new hobby, etc… Do whatever it takes to grow and expand your mind. Several new informational and educational (and free!) models have emerged which provide very high quality content for consumption. Try Khan Academy but also consider listening to any number of podcasts on topics of your choice as well as instructional videos on YouTube.
- Travel. Don’t become idle or stale. Become interesting and take on some new adventures to see the world. Come back with your mind expanded and refreshed and with new stories to share. Think also about other places you might want to move to to live and work. Kayak is a beautifully simple platform for making affordable travel plans. Use TripAdvisor to get tips on where to stay and what to do while on your trip. Try AirBnB or VRBO to rent a flat/house instead of staying in a more expensive and impersonal hotel. If you can’t physically leave, let Google Earth amaze you with a virtual trip around the world!
- Exercise. If you don’t have one already, take on a regular physical activity. Even walking 30 minutes 3 times a week is enough to lift the spirits and fight the blues. Mens sana in corpore sano. Healthy body, healthy mind. Nuff’ said. Best tools include the revamped FitBit for tracking your daily life or the Nike+ kit to track movement and pace during run/walk exercises. Top workout apps include RunKeeper to keep motivated and Nike Training Club for circuit training support. There are even apps like Zombies, Run! to push you to your limits while making exercise a bit more fun.
- Enjoy. Be good to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Push yourself to improve but don’t make it a chore. Find rewards and pleasure in small things. Gamify your life if you have to. Remember that when you are happy and fulfilled it comes across. Try watching a few TED videos to get inspired and motivated. Bring a little music into your life with Spotify. Read a good classic book you downloaded from iTunes or Amazon. Learn about classical music with the L.A. Phil app. Download a free app from a nearby museum ( e.g. the Brooklyn Museum app or the American Museum of Natural History app).
We may be going through challenging times but we also live in an incredible age. Think of all the available (and free!) tools and resources that are at our disposal – indeed, at our very fingertips – that can help us live fuller lives and help us bounce back stronger. There are so many possibilities and options to make our lives better, richer and easier. Think about it the next time you feel the blues kicking in and remember: Don’t get bitter. Get better.
photo credit: kikikiliii via photopin cc