When you are looking for work, one of the best things you can do is manage the things within your control and your attitude has got to be at the top of this list. I get that job searching is frustrating, rejection happens a lot, and you can feel isolated. I think we all get that.
Bitterness however, is one of the most least desirable personality traits a person can exhibit, and at the very time in your life when you could use the helpfulness of those around you, why alienate yourself? Here’s a newsflash for you; you’re not the only person who has, is or will go through what you are going through right now. You’re not entitled therefore to feel that everybody around you doesn’t understand what you’re going through. Most of us know exactly what you’re going through.
This week I’ve had the opportunity to spend both Monday and Tuesday supervising our drop-in resource area. In this space, people who are out of work and on social assistance can come in, sit down and use a computer, phones, fax and photocopy machines, post letters and all of it free of charge. They can work independently or they can ask whomever is supervising that day for help.
There were three people exhibiting very different attitudes that were in this space just yesterday, and all at the exact time. In my position, I ended up interacting with all three of them, and I hope by sharing my observations you might profit personally or share this with someone you know in the hope that they might benefit.
The first fellow is a regular. He struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. Sometimes like yesterday he’s floating in that zone between full self-consciousness and responsibility and the effects of recent use. In other words, you feel like you are getting into a lucid conversation at one point and then it’s clear his mind is muddled. He was frustrated and his social filters weren’t functioning as evidenced by his inappropriate comment to a man from another culture with a long beard that he’d be happy to give him some razor blades to shave his face. Fortunately, the man didn’t hear him and I re-directed my regular back to his computer. This guy’s bitterness is open, easily recognized and he can be engaged with help offered and he can be leveled with. He knows when he’s out of line in other words.
The 2nd person to contrast the above is someone I only met yesterday. He asked for help initially and I responded as best I could to help him. Unfortunately, the restrictions on our computers set up by our IT department in accordance with our policies wouldn’t allow him to access what he wanted. Now he started muttering about my incompetence and how he himself knows more. He then quickly moved to making further personal attacks, judgements, assumptions, and dismissed me. All of this I might add was done with a calm voice, almost a respectful politeness; if it weren’t for the words themselves.
The chip on this 2nd fellows shoulders is huge. If you can meet his needs, good. If you can’t meet his needs, you’re useless and don’t have the intelligence to match his own. That was the gist of his message. This bitterness he is carrying makes him a person to avoid, to watch certainly but provide the most minimal of direct help with lest a full confrontation be provoked. Best to back away, observe in case there is some escalation or developing problem with someone else.
Finally, a 3rd person who is also unemployed. She is a 20 year-old regular who is on Methadone, doesn’t have her grade 12, doesn’t know what she wants to do work-wise, but is always friendly, open to talking, listening and taking advice. Yesterday she was in working for almost three hours on both her own resume and that of her boyfriends. She’s frustrated with her current situation and doesn’t want to get stuck with a minimum wage job. By asking for a bit of help and being open to a conversation, we’ve agreed to set aside some time and do some short and long-term goal planning over the issues she raised.
Three unemployed people on social assistance. Three very different ways of coping with frustration and interacting with the people around them. One openly venting but harmless, the 2nd less obvious at first glance but far more dangerous, the 3rd staying friendly, open to conversation and trying to be positive.
When out of work or facing any personal challenge for that matter, you can sometimes feel you’ve lost control; you’re a victim of your circumstances. The one thing no one can take away from you unless you let them is your attitude. How do you measure up when times are tough, and your resiliency is being tested. A true measure of a person isn’t always how they behave when times are good but how they behave and act when times are tough.
If you are feeling isolated and abandoned, have the courage to first ask yourself if your actions, gestures and words are in any way contributing to turning off other people from approaching you and giving you any meaningful help. Yes it starts with you so take responsibility for your attitude. Getting fired, laid off or downsized might not be something you can control; but your attitude is your responsibility alone.