Behavioural Change Brought On With Unemployment


I feel a lot of empathy for you if you’re unemployed and really motivated to find work. Having had times in my life when I’ve been out of work I know personally the ups and downs of job searching with little success until that moment of euphoria comes when you hear the words, “We’re offering you a position”.

The interesting thing about being unemployed is that it’s both the lack of employment and the lack of income that while related, force us to make changes in behaviour; to do things differently than we’ve done. It’s these changes in behaviour that elevate our stress levels. Understanding this can and does help immensely.

For starters, very few people actually look for employment when they are employed. If you are the exception, I’ll still bet you don’t go about looking for another job with the same level of intensity that you would were you entirely out of work. After all, your motivation for wanting a different job than the one you have at the moment is more for personal satisfaction or happiness, wanting to accelerate your career or to build on your current income. The work you do in your current job provides some level of income however, and so if you feel tired when you can finally turn to looking for work, you feel no hesitation to put off seriously looking for another day without guilt. There is much less urgency.

When you’re out of work completely, things change out of necessity. Suddenly you find yourself having no choice but to engage skills that might be rusty or completely foreign to you. Writing cover letters, thank you notes, lining up references, networking for leads, composing resumes, marketing yourself. You may not have had to do these things for a while and you might not find these things pleasant, so you haven’t invested any real-time in keeping up with latest trends in job searching or what employers want.

Secondly there’s the change in income or rather your change in behaviour that has to happen when your income changes. You can either keep spending like you’ve been used to and you’ll increase your personal debt, or you have to cut back and save where you can. Saving money and spending only what you have to is a change in behaviour that can add to your stress. Maybe you drop the social dinners out on Friday nights, start clipping coupons, drop the 3 coffees a day at your local café and only use the car when it’s necessary to save on fuel.

These two changes regarding your spending and having to engage in job search activities are both necessary and both things you’d typically like to avoid having to do. Here then is the reason for the stress; unwanted but necessary activity you begin to engage in.

While I acknowledge that we are unique in many ways, it is also fair to say that in many ways, most of us share similar feelings when out of work. We might feel embarrassment, shame, a lack of pride etc. and want to keep our unemployed status from friends and extended family. If we could only get a new job in a week or so we could then tell people that we’ve changed jobs. We do this of course because we want to save face, protect our ego, avoid worrying over what others might think of us and wanting to keep our relationships as they are. We worry they might re-evaluate us, think poorer of us, maybe even disassociate themselves from us. Ironic then that while worrying about possibly being disassociated with us many unemployed isolate themselves from social contact.

But I get it. When you’re unexpectedly out of work, you have really two options; get job searching immediately with intensity or give yourself a reasonable period in the form of a mental health break. This time might be good for grieving the loss of your job, venting the anger and bitterness until you can focus better on looking forward not back. You don’t want a trigger of some sort to suddenly have you spewing out venom towards a previous employer in a job interview after all.

When you’re ready to focus on looking for a new role, ask yourself as objectively as you can if you have the necessary skills to job search successfully. You might be good in your field of work, but are you as highly skilled as you need to be in marketing yourself? How are your interview skills ? Are you in uncharted waters or have you kept your résumé up-to-date?

I understand that job searching ranks pretty low on most people’s list of enjoyable activities. It’s understandable then that if you too don’t love job searching, you’ve done little to invest any time or money in honing your skills in this area. Suddenly of course, you hope the skills you do have will see you through.

You’re in a period of transition and you’ll feel a range of emotions. You’ll get frustrated, maybe even educated on how things have changed since you last looked for a job. You’ll feel demoralized perhaps and hopefully encouraged at times too. It’s the broad swings of emotions, raw and real that can catch you unprepared. These are normal when you are forced to deal with change out of necessity.

 

 

 

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Develop The Habits Employers Want


Ever been in a job interview and been asked a question about a gap in your resume? They may have asked, “So what have you been doing since you last worked?”, or “What did you do to prepare for this interview?” All three of these questions give you the opportunity to demonstrate to the employer one key thing and that is what you’ve been doing – or not – when you’ve been in full control of the time you’ve had.

They are interested to see if you’ve taken some initiative, been proactive, made the most of this period, learned anything new, taken some training, upgraded your skills, addressed a weakness, improved your health, expanded your knowledge, etc. They are also checking to see if you’ve been complacent, dormant, passive, let your skills slide, removed yourself from the field you’re saying your interested in now. In short, have you been developing and keeping up your good habits or haven’t you?

Developing and maintaining good habits; the kind of actions and behaviours that employers desire the most, are not only a good idea, they could be the difference between getting a job or not. It’s one thing to say you’re invested in the work that you’ll be doing for a company and quite another to demonstrate that you’re invested.

Now suppose for example you’re out of work altogether and you are applying for an administrative position. You can foresee that some of the people you are going to be competing with are currently employed elsewhere in those positions which gives them a distinct advantage. You may not be employed, but you can still employ the skills that would be used on a daily basis by someone in that position. So for example you can practice your keyboarding skills, make a daily ‘to-do’ list, organize your personal or family paperwork. Buy some file folders and organize all the bills, receipts, various warranties for household items you own under categories like: Insurance, Autos, Mortgage, Vacation, Renovations, Taxes, Identification, Investments, etc.

If the above seems onerous, too challenging, beyond what you want to put energy into, then I’d suggest you might not be ready for the job you are actually saying you want to do. After all, if you can’t be bothered using these same skills for yourself, why should an employer feel you’re the right person to get things in order for them?

One thing you have 100% control over is your personal schedule. With no employer to record your attendance, check on your productivity, evaluate your adherence to a dress code, measure your attitude, do you or don’t you have the self-discipline to monitor yourself? You may disagree as is your prerogative, but getting up, showered and dressed on a set schedule even when you are not working is a key part of maintaining good personal behaviours that are consistent with what employers expect. Many people who go months without work and then get a job do not respond well when suddenly they get hired and have to be sitting at a desk at 8:30 a.m. dressed professionally, wide awake and ready to go at top speed.

Look into free or low-cost training opportunities in your community and then sign up to hone your skills, update your resume afterwards and keep your mind sharp. Small rather simple things like adhering to a 15 minute break in those workshops and training programs is what employers will demand you do when on the job. If you take your 15 minute break and come back only to then go about making your coffee you’re not demonstrating a respect for what the 15 minute break is for.

Another key thing to keep up is your personal communication skills; both written and verbal. You can’t do either if you sequester yourself away behind the curtains of your living room and cut yourself off from all contact. Talk with people, engage in conversations with store clerks, the paper boy, mail carriers, people you meet on walks around the neighbourhood, cashiers; all the people you meet. Your people skills need to stay sharp as does your comfort initiating conversations.

Like so many things in life, what you do with your time while you are between jobs really says a lot about you and your values. You are free to do what you wish with your time and are accountable in the end to only yourself. That’s a double-edged precious gift however. There are consequences – and don’t fool yourself into thinking there aren’t – both good and bad for whether that time is productive or wasted.

Most of the people I counsel who are out of work know they should be making good use of their time. They sound remorseful and want to rediscover that drive and personal motivation they had when they were working. They bank on igniting that energy and ‘turning it on’ when they get a job. However, many also find that when they do get hired, they lose those jobs quickly. They tell me that they couldn’t work as fast as the employer wanted them to, they just didn’t fit in, they were so exhausted after three days on the job they were late on the 4th day and were told not to return. In short, they hadn’t keep up good habits when unemployed and couldn’t work at the high level expected.

Good habits are something you control. Ignore developing good habits and you’ll develop bad ones by default.