When I’m running employment workshops, they can last as long as three weeks depending on the particular class. Even then, there’s a week which follows that involves following up 1:1 with each participant, so let’s call them three weeks and a day. One of the great benefits I hear from those participating is that for three weeks, they felt connected to something, and for most, a connection to other adults.
When you think about employment, work does more than just give you a salary in exchange for your labour. Working with others gives you an identity, daily connections with your co-workers, and depending on the organizations culture, it can feel very much like a second family. It’s ironic actually that while most of us never set out to get a job primarily so we can interact with others, it is precisely the loss of this interaction many miss most when they leave a job or retire.
If you’ve got some recently retired friends in your circle, you’ll probably hear them say more than once how they might not miss the job, but they miss the people they worked with. Some who retire miss the contact so much that they take up part-time jobs, why some even go looking for full-time jobs for another year or two. They just weren’t as ready as they thought they were for the severing of these connections.
Now if you’re out of work entirely at the moment and your prospects are not as many as you’d like them to be, you can still find ways to connect to others, and you might need them more than you realize. If you feel isolated and shunning the company of others more than you used to, it could be an indication of some anxiety that’s taken root and starting to grow. Isolating yourself might sound like the logical thing to do – especially if you feel more comfortable at home alone most of the time. However, isolating yourself intentionally can feed that anxiety of being around others, and if left unchecked, it can manifest itself as depression – and I suspect you don’t want to feed your depression.
Now it’s true that it might take some energy to get outside and connect with others again, but it’s worth it. Beyond working, there are a wide number of groups in your community where like-minded people gather to take part and enjoy whatever it is you find stimulating. For you, maybe it’s a woodworking class, a photography night school course, volunteering with the local food bank to help those less fortunate or even meeting up at a mall to join some indoor walking group.
It’s not so much what you do to get connected, but rather that you do something you find enjoyable that gets you connected. The great thing about connecting with others who share a similar interest in something you find enjoyable is that you have something in common to begin the conversations. And no doubt many of you would be wondering otherwise, “What would I talk about? What would I say? Oh it just sounds like a lot of mental effort to talk with people I don’t know.” Of course the longer you’ve been removed from having such conversations, the harder it may seem to start them. And voluntarily putting yourself in the position of talking with other adults may just seem like a lot of work you’d rather not do.
Your reasons for getting involved don’t have to be solely to engage with others. If that alone was your motivation, it wouldn’t matter what you got involved with. No, you could initially decide to get into some activity solely for the benefit of doing something you’d enjoy, and let the dialogue and conversations with others just happen naturally. So yes, maybe you join Friday night mixed curling because the sport is something you enjoy. Not into curling? No problem, maybe you donate your time reading and recording stories with a literacy group for the benefit of those wanting to improve their language skills,
Volunteering by the way is a great way to feel good about yourself and at the same time this investment is something you can and should tag on to your employment resume. It is experience after all, explains what you’re doing while out of work, gives back to your local community, and improves the lives of those who benefit from your works of charity. Selfishly, it also gives you purpose, gives you somewhere to be, you’re counted on again by others to show up just like a job.
Look there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being comfortable in your own skin and enjoying your time alone. This is healthy actually. However, interacting with other people is also healthy and natural. You don’t have to end up with a best friend, not everyone you meet has to hear your whole life story, and you don’t have to hang around after your class, volunteer shift, game etc. is over. What you do afterwards is your call. However, you might find yourself actually enjoying being involved to the point where you didn’t realize you missed it as much as you do.
Now the benefit to your search for employment – if you are in fact still looking for work – is that not only do you have an activity to fill a gap of time, you might even make some connections that lead to a paying job!