Consider the time when you first needed a job and didn’t have one. Perhaps for illustration sake, we agree this time is when we are in our early to mid twenties, school is over and we start looking for our first full-time job as an adult. Some people are going to get work immediately because they have excellent job searching skills and perhaps know somebody who can get them an interview, which leads to a job offer. Good for them.
There will be too those that get jobs relatively quickly, and some that get job offers after a few months of trying. They will tell you that they were starting to get a little worried because the other people I’ve mentioned got jobs right away and they were starting to feel a little jealous of them and perhaps getting a little discouraged themselves.
Ah but what about the rest of the people who are still looking for work and haven’t received job offers or perhaps even been given interviews yet? These people ARE feeling self-doubt, becoming discouraged and frustrated. They have rent to pay, school loans to repay, socializing needs, food and clothes to buy, and quite frankly might not have been schooled in the art of budgeting.
Instead of being able to focus 100% on a job search, they are forced to give some of their precious attention to their basic needs: sourcing money for food and rent. Without a job to provide the money for these necessities, they undergo an ugly transformation which, rather than all at once, is subtlety changing them in ways they themselves don’t immediately recognize but their friends do.
What their friends and family see is someone quick to become angry, smiling less often, stress lines on their forehead, maybe becoming more reclusive and less eager to show up for get-togethers. And this in turns leads to some friendships ending, fewer contacts, and when get-togethers do happen, there is less and less to talk about because much of the conversation is either about the employed persons job and the people there, or the unemployed person’s job search. It becomes obvious to the employed person that they should talk less about their own job because they don’t want to offend, and the unemployed person doesn’t really want to talk about their ongoing failures. So what’s left?
Lengthy unemployment can then lead to social isolation. And if the unemployment drags on, then the skills the person once had which were up-to-date in the past, are now becoming less and less relevant. Any previous job on their resume, such as a summer job, or part-time employment during school, is also further in the past. Those references they had may be less willing to lend their support, and the weight of their endorsements therefore less valuable.
With increasing isolation, stress of unemployment, few positive results to show for the effort being put forth in a job search, other issues crop up. With dwindling funds, the cell phone minutes can’t be purchased, and now a way for potential employers to contact you is lost. Landlords like money and don’t appreciate tenants that can’t pay their bills and fall behind. So that apartment you are comfortable in; the one place you can relax – well you’re threatened or faced with eviction for non-payment of rent. Well this certainly is a depressing situation isn’t it?
Depressing? Absolutely. You’ve identified the big danger that all this spirals into:. Depression. Wouldn’t you rather read a blog about puppies, sunshine and fairy dust? You the reader can of course: just stop reading on and go look for another blog. But for the person dealing with depression, it’s very real, it’s very present, and it’s not as easy to overcome.
This period of depression also means that at some point the whole job search thing has gone from being done 100% of the time to not at all. Some people with full-blown depression can’t even force themselves to get up out of bed, or if they do, it’s only to move to the couch where they close their eyes. Not very realistic to expect this person to pull themselves together and start intensively looking for work.
For those with chronic long-term unemployment there are supports which can be accessed and while they differ from area to area, they include mental health counselling, employment counselling, medical intervention, psychiatric treatment, social assistance for rent and food, food banks, support groups etc.
It may be that those services described above are not even on the radar screen of someone who needs them most. After all, we don’t typically get told about where all these services are in our community until we need them. And if you’ve never used such help, you might see asking for help as further proof of your failure.
My advice reader, is to look at asking for help not as a weakness but as a sign of strength. There’s some part of you inside that wants – AND DESERVES – to have a job if you want it, to use your skills, be appreciated, be valued, be loved and be connected to others. Asking for help and motivating yourself to go to an appointment, see a doctor or attend a support group is one of the first few steps to regaining your self-esteem, liking yourself again, and feeling good about yourself.
And if employment seems too much to handle, think about volunteer work for now. You’re contributions will be appreciated and so will you!