As a result of the pandemic, a lot of people are finding themselves out of work or uncertain about the future of their work or their business. They haven’t had to seek work for a long time and, to make matters worse, they’ve lost their confidence which means that looking for work is going to feel daunting. What’s gone wrong and how can their confidence be restored?
Understanding what’s gone wrong
You may have heard of Abraham Maslow, the psychologist who wrote about human motivation. He believed that our behaviour as human beings is motivated by five basic needs that must be met in order for us to feel healthy and satisfied:
- Physiological needs – food, air, water, warmth;
- Safety needs – shelter, job security, health, safe environment, emotional security, personal freedom;
- Social needs – affection, love, contact with other people;
- Esteem needs – self-respect, self-worth; being respected & valued by others;
- Self-actualisation needs – being able to do what we’re equipped/fitted to; realising our potential.
In theory, the physiological needs have to be met first, i.e. if you’re starving, you won’t be able to think about anything else. The need for food will dominate all thinking and behaviour. If the hunger is addressed, your attention will turn to safety. And once both of those are sorted out, you’ll then be hungry for social contact – love, affection, friendships.
With social relationships established, attention moves to personal worth. You will want to feel like you’re doing something of value for others. If you can see that your actions are appreciated by others and that you as a person are respected, you’ll feel a greater sense of self-worth and self-respect.
And once this sense of self-worth has been built, attention turns to finding ways of expressing oneself as a human being – fulfilling the latent potential that you have because of your innate capacities.
Maslow explained that in real life this progression doesn’t happen in a linear way. Instead, at any one time, each need may be being partially addressed and met. For example, someone might have 85% of their physiological needs met; 70% of their safety needs met; 50% of love needs met; 40% of self-esteem needs met; and 10% of their need for self-actualisation met.
And then job loss comes along…
Maslow wrote that ‘Any thwarting or possibility of thwarting of these basic human goals… is considered to be a psychological threat… It is such basic threats that bring about the general emergency reactions.’
In the first instance, these reactions are likely to be emotional: panic, fear, anger, dismay, disbelief, despair, etc.. They are typical during career transition. And they’re perfectly understandable.
They trigger all sorts of questions and thoughts that centre on the basic needs:
- Physiological needs: Will I have enough money to pay for food? Will I be able to feed my family?
- Safety needs: What happens if we can no longer afford to pay the mortgage? Will we have somewhere to live? I’ve lost everything that gave me a sense of stability: regular hours at work, a monthly salary, an office. My world has been turned upside-down.
- Social needs: I’ve lost my friends at work; I’m home alone. I feel lonely.
- Esteem needs: They no longer need me. I’m dispensable. I thought I had some value but apparently I don’t.
- Self-actualisation: I had so much to give and now I’ve got no way to give it. It’s all going to waste. Is there ever going to be any point to my life now?
At the most basic level, your needs are under threat and your mindset – which might have been quite positive previously – has been severely disrupted, with a knock-on effect on confidence.
So how do you turn this around?
Maslow’s work is helpful because it provides a framework to take stock. When something big happens (like job loss), we have to take a moment to consider what’s happened and review what our needs are now that the change has happened. Then we can decide what actions we should take.
Things you could consider doing which will help you to feel less under threat and more confident moving forwards:
- Physiological needs: Check that you’re still feeding yourself properly. Draw up weekly menus and shop once a week to keep your shopping bill within manageable limits.
- Safety needs: Establish a new daily routine to include ‘work’. Finding a job is a job in itself: it involves work. Decide when your ‘office hours’ are going to be and use them to work on your CV, doing some training to upskill, speaking to career coach, etc. Also undertake a thorough review of your finances: monthly outgoings, essentials/non-essentials, savings. Consider where you can cut back. Perhaps speak to a financial advisor. Contact your mortgage advisor if you’re concerned about repayments.
- Social needs: map out your social network on paper. Think about which relationships are most important at this time. Draw up a plan of action to invest in them. Think of ways to develop new relationships. And remember to nourish the most important relationship: be kind and loving to yourself.
- Esteem needs: one of the principles that underpins the philosophy of strengths is that we need each other. You have strengths that I need and vice versa. Our strengths work best in the context of relationship, and it is our strengths that other people value in us. So find ways to give to other people: voluntary work, work experience, contributing ideas in a class, etc. Recognise your value and share that with others. They will respect you and appreciate what you do for them, and that in turn will boost your sense of self-worth and self-respect.
- Self-actualisation: use your ‘office hours’ to do a deep dive into who you are, what you have to offer, what you want to offer and why. And once you’ve got clear on this, turn your attention outwards to explore who you want to offer that to, and how and where. This is a big project to do by yourself and actually quite hard to do independently (see below), but the investment of time, energy and money may have a positive impact on the rest of your life.
The pandemic has been a new experience for us all and the uncertainty it’s introduced isn’t going to go away. The fears we’re all experiencing as a consequence are normal and understandable given that our usual ways of meeting our basic human needs have been disrupted.
But with conscious awareness of what those needs are, and compassion toward ourselves, as well as a bit of strategic thinking, we can begin to take steps to address our needs in new ways, and rebuild confidence.
There is professional expertise and support out there in terms of health, finance, relationships, and, of course, careers.
If you’d like some support with the career aspect, book an initial chat now so that we can discuss your situation.
Alternatively, download my free brochure on How to Choose a Career Coach. This explains what career coaching can help with, what it involves, and how to find the right coach for you.
Maslow, A.H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Originally Published in Psychological Review, 50, 370-396. Now available in pamphlet form via: Wilder Publications, Inc.: ISBN-13: 978-1-62755-467-1.