At the request of a LinkedIn connection, I read a sobering Newsweek article called Dead Suit Walking and was transported back to when I was unemployed. All the negative feelings I experienced filled my head, but I also thought about what got me through 10-months of being out of work. Here are five suggestions for those of you are unemployed.
First you need to realize that you’re not the only one who’s out of work. Currently 5.3% of U.S citizens are listed as unemployed (US Bureau of Labor Statistics ); although, the percentage is certainly higher, given that those who no longer collect UI benefits are not counted.
As I sat through career search workshops during my months of unemployment, I was relieved to realize that other talented people were also unfortunate to have been laid off. In other words, you’re not the only one.
Now that I lead workshops at the same career center, some of my customers approach me to say they appreciate my emotional support…as well as my career advice. Sometimes I wonder which is most important to them.
Realize that feelings of despondency, inadequacy, and even depression are natural. You may be experiencing feelings you’ve never had before: bouts of crying for no apparent reason, short temper with family members and friends; a diminished sex drive; lack of motivation—you may find it hard to get motivated to conduct your weekly Career Action Plan (CAP), for example. These feelings, and more, are symptoms of unemployment; you’re not going crazy.
Note: If you feel your mood taking a serious nose dive, seek therapy.
The article states about the emotional impact: “It’s devastating. The extreme reaction is suicide, but before you get there, there’s irritability and anger, fatigue, loss of energy, withdrawal, drinking, more fights with their wives.”
It’s time to be proactive, not reactive. You’ve heard of the Hidden Job Market (HJM) and may choose to ignore that only 25% of all jobs are advertised. Based on how my customers have found employment, I’m here to tell you that it certainly exists. However, you will not penetrate it without networking and becoming a student of the labor market. How will this help you with your downtrodden mood? When you are proactive and take your job search into you own hands, you’ll feel better about yourself.
Rely on family and friends to help you through the tough times. It is much better having that support to lean on than going it alone. The article looks at unemployment from a man’s point of view and discusses the feeling of inadequacy men feel when their wife has to go to (or back to) work. Both men and woman have to push aside this hang-up and believe that they’re not in this alone. If you can’t find support in your immediate family, you must find it elsewhere, perhaps with friends, extended family, networking partners, etc. Most importantly, make it clear that your job search comes first; you are still working 40 hours a week, just in a different form.
Be good to yourself. Because you’re out of work doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the basics of life, a nice home-cooked meal, a movie rental, an occasional outing, get-togethers with friends. I tell my customers that their new job is finding a job, but I warn them against burnout that can occur if they spend too much time looking for work and not enough enjoying the better parts of their life.
Lastly, exercise by walking or going to the gym, or start home projects that will further increase your sense of accomplishment. Get away from behind the computer you’re sitting at for six hours a day. Some jobseekers tell me being out of work has encouraged them to walk…for the first time. Exercise is great for the mind and your emotions.
Being unemployed is a life-altering experience. It has been compared to losing a relative, going through a divorce, suffering through a serious illness, and other calamities. But keep in mind that while these traumatic events are permanent, being unemployed is temporary. There is no easy way to get through unemployment, and those who say it has no impact on their psyche are either lying to you or themselves. In the words of one of the people interviewed for the Newsweek story, “It’s humbling.” When humility turns into despair, you must act and look forward to the small victories.
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