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Transcript: Wednesday, March 25 at 11 a.m. ET

Coping With Job Loss

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Dr. Lynn Joseph
Award-winning Author, Trainer, Psychologist
Wednesday, March 25, 2009; 11:00 AM

Dr. Lynn Joseph, is the bestselling author of the audio CD, "The Job-Loss Recovery Program: The Ultimate Visualization System for Landing a Great Job Now!" and its companion book "The Job-Loss Recovery Guide." She's best known for having developed and tested an effective strategy using guided visualization which reduces the time downsized workers take in finding their next job. Learn more about her at www.joblossrecovery.com

Today, she took your questions and offered advice for coping with the emotional stress of a job loss.

Get more information on job loss recovery in our special feature, How to Survive a Layoff. Plus, get more how-to's and career-related advice in our Jobs section.

The transcript follows.

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Dr. Lynn Joseph: Welcome. This is Dr. Lynn Joseph and I'm looking forward to supporting your job search by answering your questions today!

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McLean, Va.: Dear Lynn, how would you cope with rejection letters or emails? They hit very hard and could be very demoralizing. Thanks.

Dr. Lynn Joseph: I've always believed that the role of the job seeker is one of the most challenging and demanding "jobs" you'll be called upon to do, mainly because of the resiliency needed to overcome rejection and stay motivated to perform well. I recommend two avenues of support--one internal and one external. Internally, I suggest a visualization exercise called Future Self. Hundreds of studies have confirmed that people who imagine future success outperform those who imagine future failure. Visualization, if you aren't familiar with it, is a thought process that directs and focuses the imagination to create an experience in the mind. Take it from Michael Phelps, winner of eight Olympic Gold Medals and world-record times in seven events, "You just have to dream it, believe it, work at it, and go for it." Golf great Tiger Woods also visualizes his entire golf game while he's on the driving range prior to a tournament. The exercise is easy to do. Simply take ten minutes daily to relax, close your eyes, and imagine having your ideal job. Imagine it as if you have it now, in minute detail and with all the excitement and satisfaction you can. Mentally celebrate with your family and friends. We conducted a study with job seekers using this and other visualization techniques, and five times more participants landed jobs within two months compared to those in a placebo group. Go to www.JobLossRecovery.com for more info.

The external avenue I recommend is to organize or join a group of job seekers that meets regularly to support one another and share information. Even if it's one friend that you have coffee with once a week or connect with by phone, this can help considerably to stay positive.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: How long is too long to be unemployed? I was laid off in December and worry that employers may frown on the length of time not working.

Dr. Lynn Joseph: Given the current recession, with its massive job losses and fewer companies hiring, you can be unemployed for longer periods and not be penalized by prospective employers. Since you were laid off in December, you shouldn't have any problem in this regard for at least a couple of more months. It's difficult to pinpoint an exact number of months because it depends on factors such as your level of compensation and responsibilities. The higher level positions typically take longer.

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Austin, Texas: Can you offer suggestions for dealing with the anger following a layoff?

Dr. Lynn Joseph: Anger is a critical issue in the job search. During my years as an executive search consultant, I noticed that job seekers who ignored feelings of anger related to their job loss unconsciously sabotaged themselves by taking these emotions into the interview setting. A healthier approach is to take the following four steps designed as a complete process to help you achieve resolution and closure.

1. First, recognize your true feelings. This may be difficult for some but be honest with yourself. Recognizing that you are angry and who you are angry with, for example, is the first step toward relief.

2. Acknowledge and express your feelings safely. Be sure to do it in a setting that is safe from any kind of reprisal, and that gives you personal satisfaction. For example, you might write about your thoughts and feelings without monitoring them, for about twenty minutes at a time.

3. Forgive others and/or yourself as you feel appropriate. When you have completed steps one and two several times over 3 - 6 days, forgiveness comes naturally. Do not forgive, however, until you can do it honestly and sincerely. When you do, you'll feel freer, lighter, and more positive. Considerable research documents the benefits of forgiveness.

4. Change emerges naturally when you've accomplished the previous steps. Your choices and decisions now will come from a place of new perspective--that of a confident self, free of constraining emotions and limited insight.

If any part of the process seems especially challenging to you, you may want to listen to the guided visualization CD "The Job-Loss Recovery Program", in which I walk listeners easily through this entire four-step process, along with other visualization exercises to reduce stress, rebuild confidence, and increase job search competence.

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New York, N.Y.: I am a 42-year-old woman, recently laid off from my job of 10 years -are there any special considerations I should keep in mind during my job search regarding my age? Also, are there any support services (websites, groups, etc.) that you know of for recently unemployed women in my age group? Thanks in advance for your reply.

Dr. Lynn Joseph: Your age shouldn't be a hindrance to you at this point if you project motivation, enthusiasm, and flexibility in your interviews. For support services, I recommend your local state WorkSource centers for all manner of resources free of charge. You can ask there about women's support groups. I would also connect with NAFE (National Assoc. for Female Executives) for web services and local groups.

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Washington, D.C.: I just got laid off last week and will be working till April 1. I have a therapist thank God and great friends and family. I am trying so hard to see the silver lining and see the new opportunities that lie ahead, but at times all I can see is the fact I will be unemployed with too much free time on my hands and no money coming in? How do I cope?

Dr. Lynn Joseph: Congratulations for organizing plenty of support around you. A job search can be very lonely and demoralizing. To cope, first recognize that you have a new job now: that of a job seeker! Approach each day as if you had to get up and go to work. Get organized and follow a schedule but also build in some balance--some time to play and relax with friends and family.

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Fairfax, Va.: How important do you think LinkedIn is for a component of a job search?

Dr. Lynn Joseph: LinkedIn is an excellent source of networking and should not be underestimated. Also, many prospective employers check out your profile and contacts on LinkedIn as a source of references, credentials, etc.

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Pennsylvania: I work for a media company, where layoffs always seem to be around the corner. We've had two rounds this year. I love my job but new prospects in my field are weak. I've found the best way to cope with my anxiety is to focus on a new career path and make plans to go back to school (affordably) and retrain in something totally different.

Am I kidding myself? This is the job I've wanted my whole life. I worry that when the day comes, I'll be paralyzed with mourning. What can I do - what can we all do - to make sure that we keep moving forward? Is it OK to take a week or two off and "do nothing?" Can I use this as an excuse to travel for a month and then get down to brass tacks, i,.e. signing up for the classes I have earmarked?

Dr. Lynn Joseph: Your situation is all too common today. I feel you are taking an excellent approach and you seem to understand that you'll be going through a mourning process. You may expect to go through some or all of the five stages of grief: shock and denial; fear, anxiety, and anger; bargaining; depression; and finally acceptance and closure. It's all normal.

Go ahead and take a week or two off and take care of yourself. Write out your feelings daily and then toss the paper away. If you'd like some innovative tools, use my guided visualization CD "The Job-Loss Recovery Program" to help you through the mourning process and regain confidence and motivation.

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Fairfax, Va.: Hi, I've been hearing a lot about visualization lately, but I don't understand WHY it works. What do you think is going on? Are people who visualize success better able to see opportunities? Project a more positive image and thus make a better impression?

Dr. Lynn Joseph: I love this question. Yes, visualizing your successful future self, for example, increases effort and persistence, and has been shown repeatedly to improve performance. It can be used to help manifest anything you set as a goal, and can also help overcome obstacles to achievement of that goal.

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Anonymous: What are your thoughts on how to prepare/cope with an upcoming layoff. At this point, it's no longer about if but when I will be laid off. It makes it hard to get through the day and accomplish anything when you don't think you'll be there next week/month.

Also, what do suggest doing the first few weeks after being laid off? Currently I'm planning on just sitting around and watch TV. Thanks.

Dr. Lynn Joseph: You are in a good position to begin planning your job search now. Update your resume to target the kind of job you want, and update your interview skills. Some employers will even allow you time off the begin the interview process--that is, after you've been given a layoff date. Take care of your emotional self now and immediately following layoff. Take the four steps I suggested in a previous question: Recognize and acknowledge your feelings, forgive, and reach closure. Please don't just sit around watching TV. Get moving and land that next job!

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Manassas, Va.: I was laid off Feb 6th after working for 33 years and I really don't feel like looking for a new job, I am 53 and I know I have to work for a few more years but at this point I feel tired and unmotivated. I have enough money for about 18 months. I guess my biggest fear is that I should not wait to try and find a new job cause then it will be harder, also I am planning on taking a few classes in May.

Dr. Lynn Joseph: I understand your feelings. Unfortunately, however, your age may work against you if you are out of work too long. Please consult a career counselor or therapist to regain your enthusiasm, take no more than a few weeks off, and dig in! When you find that job you want, negotiate some extra time off before you start work.

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Washington, D.C.: Many people say to pursue volunteering after a layoff, but as someone who doesn't have much money and who needs employment soon (or risk losing my apartment and having to move back home with the parents, something I do not want to do), how can volunteering help?

Dr. Lynn Joseph: Volunteering can be of help for a number of reasons, but not as a substitute for putting your all into the job search. If you are feeling a lot of financial pressure, place your full focus on your search. Volunteering can add a sense of meaning and purpose to your life at a time when many unemployed feel lacking in that area. You decide.

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Richmond, Va.: I know everyone says this, but I'm worse than most: I BLOW it in the interview. I'm an inwardly-oriented person--which actually means I can focus and do my thinking/ writing job well, but interviewers are always dazzled by an outgoing personality and never choose me. My knowledge of this dynamic only makes me more nervous, it snowballs and I end up giving monotone syllable answers to questions. I don't know how much longer I can keep from breaking down, I just don't feel like I can get a break and at some point it will be too late.

Dr. Lynn Joseph: Don't give up. You can, indeed, develop interview skills and you don't need to be an extrovert. If you can afford it, get help from a career coach to improve your skills. Alternatively, your state WorkSource center (called One Stops in some states) can provide help in this area as well. You'll want to develop a list of questions that are typically asked, and then answer them yourself ahead of time. Practice, practice, practice.

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Arlington, Va.: Is yoga worth all the hype? Does it help in reducing stress whether you are laid off or not? Thank you for your advice!

Dr. Lynn Joseph: Yoga is wonderful for physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. I practice it some, and plan to do more!

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Fairfax, Va.: I'm in the 2nd week of my layoff and have a good severance package. I've been taking the time to plan a successful approach to my job search and there is no panic. But I know I have put my entire life on hold because of this. How do I bring balance back into my life?

Dr. Lynn Joseph: Glad you asked, because life balance is so critical to good overall health and is the one thing that job seekers tend to let go in the frenzy of the job search. You can add balance by planning for it. Decide what that looks like for you, what refreshes you. Maybe watching a funny movie and laughing with family and friends. Surely it must include some form of exercise. Even if you build in only a half hour a day for yourself, please do it. Your job search will be more effective if you are mentally, emotionally, and physically at your best. You deserve that.

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Reston, Va.: I can't recommend highly enough the importance of taking some time off. When I was laid off in October, I applied for seven jobs that very afternoon--because I had a final exam that evening and couldn't do what I wanted to do, which was crawl into bed and cry.

But the next day, a Friday, I pretended it was a sick day. I brought my pillow and blanket to the living room, watched terrible television, ordered Chinese for lunch, and napped whenever the mood struck. Then I spent the weekend doing everything I'd planned to do before being laid off. It allowed me to start fresh on Monday.

Dr. Lynn Joseph: Good for you! If you had continued to stuff your feelings they would surely have obstructed your job search. Instead, you honored them by expressing them in a safe way. You are on your way to closure, and from there a top performance in the job search will be possible.

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washingtonpost.com: Need more advice? Check out "How to Survive a Layoff."

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Portland, Ore.: Any suggestions on helping a spouse deal with job loss? My husband's last day is next Tuesday although we've known since July 2008. There is a great severance package and I'm certain that he will find a job shortly but he's taking it quite hard. He's had quite a few setbacks in his life (forced to leave a promising career in the Army after being diagnosed with MS, dealing with his father's suicide, a late pregnancy loss last summer)... We talk a lot... and he's doing all the right things to get a new job but things are moving slowly (especially in our area of the country where the unemployment rate is quite high). Any suggestions?

Dr. Lynn Joseph: Your spouse is fortunate to have your support. You are moving in the right direction by talking it through. Encourage him to also write about his feelings for a few minutes daily. Writing for twenty minutes a day over six days has been scientifically shown to lead to reframing difficult situations like job loss, new insights, and even to landing a job sooner.

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Dr. Lynn Joseph: Thank you all so much for your questions. I'm sorry I couldn't get to them all. Please let me know how you are doing at www.JobLossRecovery.com. I'll be happy to help out as time permits. All best wishes,

Dr. Lynn

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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