Out Of Work And Feeling Down?

At the moment, I’m facilitating an employment workshop with 10 participants. I’ve had 1:1 conversations, ascertaining the reasons they believe they are unemployed. So here I am, now in possession of information from all of them, though I’d hazard I haven’t got all the barriers, just the ones they are open to sharing with me.

Many of their self-declared problems are shared problems; you know, the kind that one would expect to be associated with being out of work for an extended period. Now I’m not going to share who said what, as that would break confidentiality and trust if they identified themselves after reading this piece. However, if I gave them all slips of paper and asked them to write down their issues which they’d share, many of the participants would look at each other and say, “You too?”

Have you been out of work at some point in your life? Maybe you know some of what they have shared then. Should that unemployment period be protracted and become longer than you’d have hoped or expected, your departure from the world of work would result in additional barriers and problems wouldn’t it?

That’s the point really; what you’re feeling is probably exactly the same thing other people in your situation are feeling. You have a shared experience which is long unemployment, and therefore the feelings that go with that long unemployment are naturally the same for most people. It’s not hard to believe that if you started feeling unsure of yourself, some anxiety when it came to going for a job when you haven’t had an interview in a long time and finally, you were feeling somewhat sad or depressed about your plight, others might feel the same way.

Those general kind of feelings wouldn’t be unique to my 10 people. Those are generalities which are shared by a majority of out-of-work folks. It is comforting to know that because other people in your situation feel like you do, maybe you’re not so odd or broken. That phrase, “What’s wrong with me?”, that so many people end up asking themselves is being asked by an awful lot of people.

So? How does that help get you a job? I didn’t say or claim that it would – but keep reading. The benefit of this is that once you realize that other people also feel much the same as what you are feeling, you have to come to the conclusion that there really isn’t anything wrong with YOU. Those feelings you have are sure unwanted of course – but they are a shared normal experience by people in general in response to unemployment and a desire to be working.

There is a struggle going on inside you between what you want and perceive as normal (getting and holding down a job) and your reality (despite my efforts, I’m out of work). If you choose to look at things differently, that’s actually a good sign. Those feelings expressed as, “What’s wrong with me?”, are really internal signals you are sending to yourself, encouraging you to get back to what you perceive as normal; in this case, working.

Once you stop feeling that internal struggle and the brain ceases to say, “What’s wrong with me (that I can’t get a job)”, it may be because you’ve got a, ‘new normal’ which is unemployment and you are actually okay with that status. If you settle in to unemployment and don’t feel anymore stress or anxiety, that isn’t something I’d suggest is a good thing. Your inner self is struggling to change your present reality and knows that paid work will bring you back into balance; this in turn brings you out of sadness, raises your self-esteem and you say, “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

Work can in fact, resolve many people’s inner imbalances. You’d expect to feel good when you get an employer who calls you up and offers you an interview. Why? Because that call is really validation from someone saying you are wanted and have desirable skills and qualifications sure – but actually it’s because you are hopeful of returning to what you perceive as normal.

Should you actually hear those words, “Welcome to the team, you’re hired”, you’ll feel a weight being lifted. That weight you currently feel is a mixed bag of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, insecurity, financial dependence, constant tension, isolation, etc. So no wonder then that just getting hired brings a smile to your face, your shoulders may physically drop, your forehead stress lines relax, and your self-confidence improves.

All those symptoms and labels we have for what is wrong with us and others is our mind and body’s way of signalling us that something is out of whack. To return to ‘normal’, something needs changing; and in this case it’s unemployment to employed. Okay getting a job doesn’t snap you out of clinical depression overnight anymore than you woke up one morning and went from everything perfect to clinically depressed.

Take faith though; just making an effort to get help with your unemployment is a mental signal which sows the seeds of, “I’m doing something to change my unemployed status and I anticipate success in the near future”. Every bit of improving your resume, cover letter, job searching techniques, interview skills, etc. repairs part of your ‘damaged goods’ mentality and tells you that you are on the road back to ‘normal’. Welcome back.




4 thoughts on “Out Of Work And Feeling Down?

  1. Although you raise some interesting points, the fact is, at the end of the day, they still don’t help with getting a job. I fully agree that it is important to acknowledge that it’s ‘not my fault’ (assuming that one is doing all the ‘right’ things to get back on track). However the fact remains that employers hire whomever they want and there is little that anyone can do to force them to change their minds. Also sad, but true, is that to get a job it still is largely dependent on ‘networking’ which is a loose euphemism meaning ‘who you know and who you bl____’. This is why so many people end up self employed. They have great skills and qualities but employers just do not want to invest in people despite their lip service otherwise. This is a result of neoliberal philosophies where everything is about ‘cost’ and ‘savings’ and ‘squeezing’ every last penny out of labour. And to add insult to injury, even those who end up self employed, are often still at the mercy of the big employers because contracts are rarely awarded for quality and actual service, they are based on lowest price, period. The only ones who really win with all the un and under employment are the psychologists, psychiatrists and the drug companies. Un and underemployment creates a huge demand to help express the pent-up frustration and depression but does nothing to change the larger society conditions that encourage or support full employment in the first place. Sad, but true. And this seems all the more so for ‘older’ workers. Big employers only want the young and the ‘brightest’ (whatever that means because there was a time when experience counted for something). And now policies are virtually pitting the young against to old. Structurally speaking, if older workers are being excluded as a reliable and proven labour source, and young workers are having trouble getting started because of the old ‘no job without experience but no experience without a job’, heaven help all of us! So yes, let’s collectively acknowledge and rejoice that there is nothing wrong with us as ‘individuals’ but take that energy and collectively push back against ‘the establishment’ to let them know it is NOT ok to exclude people in such arbitrary and impersonal fashion. Let’s first get rid of the expensive and complicated ‘on-line’ application systems! And hey, here’s one more idea -remember the talk of a ‘futuristic’ 4-day work week being talked about a few decades ago?? Well if we could promote job sharing and have all 60hr a week people give up a few hours each, then think of how many more jobs could be created to help put a dent in both the unemployment numbers as well as help reduce the significant social cost of depression as a direct result of unemployment!

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  2. I totally agree with Anna. We are headed for a jobless future for the majority of people. Average people are no longer wanted. With so many people to pick and choose from employers only want superstars. It’s really depressing to read article after article on how to write a resume and find in every one of them they are saying you need to have past achievements like having made a ton of money for a previous employer or other superstar achievements to even get an employer to read your resume. The only jobs being created are low paying part time service sector job and there are few of them. Our economy no longer creates decent paying full time jobs. It’s no wonder people end up feeling like they don’t stand a chance and give up. I understand where they are coming from. I keep myself busy volunteering. At least I can be useful.


    1. I am so sorry you feel this way Deb, and you’ve mentioned in replies that you feel you have to have amazing accomplishments before. Ordinary folks have accomplishments and I suspect you do too. Yours could be a perfect attendance history for an employer, turning around an angry client and keeping them coming back or being able to go about your work with little supervision and then being always prepared to take on extra shifts when people don’t show up to work unexpectedly. I work with ordinary unemployed people all the time Deb and have no difficulty in helping them identify their accomplishments which they themselves can’t see. If you can’t see your own value, I’d suggest you get the help of an Employment Counsellor in your own neighbourhood. Volunteering is great and make sure to market yourself and the skills you are developing while there.


      1. Again, Kim, valid observations however your comments still focus on the ‘individual’ and do nothing to look at the structure we are trying to match people to. I’m sorry but no matter how hard one tries forcing a square peg into a round hole will only cause further collateral damage to both ends. The examples of ‘value’ you offer Deb are encouraging but the fatal flaw is that employers just laugh at this (I have had this happen to my face). In response to the question so ‘why should we hire you?” I was proud of my reliable attendance record and fact that I was known to ‘always step in on short notice’ and help out when needed, and articulated this. I was enthusiastic in my presentation that this is something I felt was of value to offer the employer. The interviewer said “that’s nice but all 5 of the people I have interviewed have given me much of the same. What makes you more accomplished?” How is that for deflating one’s bubble? While you may be eager to consider thinking ‘outside the box’ it is more uncommon than not. I think your message could be amplified by helping people ensure the corporate climate and organizational culture is a good fit for them before trying to match their ‘accomplishments’ to the task. The better paying (and big) employers do not care about your attendence record or how ‘helpful’ you may be. They want to ensure profits are maximized and shareholders continue to be satisfied. Sadly these corporate agendas are grossly inconsistent with the personal values and qualities that you are trying to convince people are of actual use in a job interview. I feel that these ‘accomplishments’ ARE worthy but until companies pay more than lip service to it all, I’m afraid that not much will change. Keep up the interesting articles. I agree with a lot but I will continue to challenge your assertions because it appears that you, like many ‘HR’ writers, keep trying to pin the problem on the individuals and not call the real power holders to task!!

        Liked by 1 person

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