When out of work, there is a tendency among many people to go into isolation. This behaviour is understandable because the hope is that a job will be found relatively soon, and an announcement can be made about a change in jobs, by-passing the entire, “I’m out of work at the moment” discussion.
It’s actually counter-productive to withhold one’s unemployed status however, for the very reason that your network of friends may be able to source out your next employment opportunity. If they don’t know you are looking for work however, you don’t come to mind if and when the boss says, “We’re hiring. Know anyone?”
But what I really want to focus on for this blog is the inevitable chance meeting that occurs when an old friend and you connect by chance and the conversation turns to where you are working. It’s usually not one of those great moments, and I’d go so far as to say it’s likely to be a source of anxiety and maybe even shame and embarrassment. Maybe it’s an old high school friend and you had big ambitions back then, so this chance meeting and the question of what you are doing now is some kind of measuring stick. “So what have you been up to?”, translates into, “You had big dreams Jimmy boy, are you a success or a failure?”
Now you may never run into that person for another 40 years, or they may have moved back into the neighbourhood and you’ll see them weekly. So without knowing for sure, it may not be the best advice to make up some lie just to save face. On the other hand, pride is real and it can’t be denied that we all want to look and sound successful and our lack of employment for many is a raw open wound they’d rather not expose for view and commentary. What’s beyond our control as well is the news possibly spreading about our unemployment when one friend tells another etc.
Remember that the work we do and the companies we work for are not the sum of what defines us. You can be entirely out of work and a success by many other standards. You could for example have a wonderful marriage, great kids, a comfortable home or your car is paid off. Perhaps you are a needed volunteer in the community in which you live, counted on and appreciated by those for whom you volunteer. You could have a number of skills around the house such as renovation, decorating, housecleaning, budgeting or landscaping skills. And while you may not want to put these skills to use in your next job search, it is these skills and others that you can cite as parts of your life where you are doing quite well indeed.
And maybe you’re one of those people who others come to when they’ve got problems and challenges. Your sympathetic and non-judgemental ear is always there for your closest friends and family. Your advice is sought out and it’s amazing how better people feel after talking with you about their issues. If this is the case, how wise those people are for sharing their problems with you. So in turn by the way, if they are so wise for doing so, why aren’t you sharing your unemployment and the problems it’s raising for you with them? Follow your own advice and share rather than conceal your real feelings. After all, you are human and entitled to a bit of counselling advice yourself.
Have you ever heard of someone throwing themselves an unemployment party? I have. It’s where all your friends, family, old co-workers, and acquaintances receive an invitation to a party you throw yourself. Not a sombre affair, it’s merry, complete with good food and beverages, and everyone gets a goody bag at the party including your up to date resume, portfolio, contact information and an idea of exactly the kind of work you are looking for. Instead of running all over and networking with these people at 14 different locations requiring transportation on your part and various time commitments, you do it with all of them at one location: your house.
Ah but it’s when you’re sitting down at the local coffee shop alone having a quiet moment that you might get taken by surprise hearing someone say, “Julia? It is you! It’s me, Gloria…gosh it’s been ages, can I join you?” And so instead of sitting down quietly alone and reassembling your mental armour, you find yourself exposed and vulnerable talking when clearly you weren’t ready for this. Suddenly you wonder about your hair, your makeup, the clothes you chose to wear, and either feel reassured or apologetic. And why? Because the dreaded question of employment as stated earlier comes up within the first two minutes. Bet on it.
And we want a good answer to that question to show them (and ourselves) that against this person we measure up well. That’s natural and normal. You are more than defined by your job however. Never miss the chance to be honest and market yourself. After all, you never know who may provide the job lead you need to get that next job. If it’s true that it’s who you know, not what you know, you’ve got to make sure they know. So even if you don’t have your resume with you, get their number or address and send them a package!