Fed Up Being Unemployed

Okay let’s start with the premise that you’re fed up. I mean you’ve grown so frustrated with trying to get a meaningful job that pays well that it’s left you confused on how to succeed and bitter. It seems no matter what you tried in the past, no matter who you applied to for a job, in the end the result was the same; you’re not wanted.

Seems to me that hearing the message, “Just keep trying” rings kind of hollow. How many times can you be expected to keep at it hoping for a better result? So you give up. Then after having packed it in you start feeling that it’s worth it to try again. Why? Usually it’s because the life you’ve got at the moment isn’t the one you want for yourself; you deserve better and you’re motivated to try again until you ultimately succeed or you give up once more.

Maybe you’d be open to hearing a few words of encouragement? If so, I’d like to offer you some. I suppose the first thing I’d like to say is that it is a good sign that you aren’t content to keep living the way your are now. That feeling that you want more is the seed of Hope that’s buried deep in your core. ‘Hope’ my dear reader, is at the core of so many people’s thoughts who push off from some known shore for the great journey’s they embark on. Hope is what causes them to leave the safe and known for the uncertainty and yet-to-be discovered.

Now keeping with that image of some adventurer embarking on a journey; the early stages of a journey involve traveling through the norm. The sailor who sets to some unknown land far away first has to get beyond the waters that are well chartered. The hiker deviating from some known path had to first hike what they knew to get to the point where they chose something previously passed up on.

It’s the same with you and your job search. You rely on what you know when it comes to looking for a job until you come across some better way of going about it. This makes absolute sense. However, just like the hiker and the explorer decided at some point to do something they’d never before done, it also stands to reason that you should do something you’ve never done if you expect the results to be more satisfying than you’ve experienced. Going about looking for a meaningful job the way you’ve gone about it in the past is likely to end with similar results; results you don’t want to experience again.

It’s important to realize that you’re not at fault or to blame for going about things the way you are; even if you later realize a number of mistakes you are made. After all, until someone introduces a better way, a more effective way of getting you where you want to be, the only way you’d have succeeded entirely on your own is through trial and error, until you lucked out on whatever works. That seems pretty high risk and could take a long time.

So it seems like you have a choice to make; do things the way you’ve always done them assuming this is how everybody goes about looking for work or, open yourself up to getting help and direction from someone who knows a better way. That ‘better way’ by the way, is likely going to involve some effort on your part in two ways. One, you have to pause long enough to be open to learning the new way and two you have to be willing to give it a shot and carry out what you learn.

Keep something in mind will you? When you’re learning something new you will likely feel the urge to just get going and apply, apply, apply! But throwing your résumé around everywhere hasn’t worked to this point has it? Pausing to learn, being taught something new isn’t  everybody’s idea of a good time. You might be the kind of person that finds sitting down and being taught how to go about looking for work in 2017 is really pushing your limits. Do it anyhow. Seriously; you want a different result don’t you? Sure you do. This is the price you pay for success.

Look you deserve a decent job. You probably aren’t going to end up running some major corporation or discovering the cure for Cancer. That you want to improve your lot in Life however, do something you find personally meaningful and make a future that’s better than the present is commendable. And if I may add, you’re worth it; we all are.

You should seriously think then about reaching out for help. Where to start though? Check in with just about any Social Services organization in your local community. If you’re not in the right place, a few phone calls will likely get you pointed in the right direction. Best news is that the help you need is likely free. Sit down with open ears and a good attitude and do something you haven’t done yet; give yourself over to their expertise. If it works, great. If the chemistry doesn’t work, try someone else.

When you decide to improve things and then act, you’re already becoming the successful person you envision.



Grieving At Christmas

Are you grieving at this time of year more than usual and feeling out of sorts as a result? You know, there’s merriment joy all around you whether it’s songs on the radio, Christmas cards that arrive in the post, the humourous social media posts that land on your homepage; and somehow you just don’t feel in sync with all that carefree joy all about you.

You find yourself on this pendulum swinging between moments when you get caught up in those happy moments yourself and then feel pangs of guilt as you recall the loss of someone special in your own life. Your laughter and broad smile disappear from your face replaced with stress lines on your forehead and a sombre look of remembrance. One moment you feel happy, then you’re sad, and then you’re guilty again about bringing everyone around you down in spirit. Oh if you could just get back to feeling, ‘normal’; the normal you used to feel in years past!

Welcome to your new normal. The emotions and feelings you’re experiencing are valid, very real and yours to deal with and process to the extent you are able. While normally in control in most areas of your life, it seems like you haven’t yet mastered this specific one; dealing with the loss of someone significant in your life. Try as you might, you haven’t found a way to – as they say – get over it; deal with it; move on.

The fact that Christmas brings along with it words of good cheer from everyone from family and best friends to work colleagues and strangers is well-meaning but only seems to punctuate the feeling that things aren’t usual. “Usual” means that for the other 11 months of the year people aren’t wishing you happy holidays or merry anything.

Think of that pendulum metaphor again. Your balance point looking back seemed to be when the one you’re grieving now was still around. When they departed, you experienced a shift where sorrow, longing and heartache have moved the pendulum. Then at Christmas we see, hear, smell, taste and feel the good; it’s families gathering around singing carols, over indulging in rich foods, their gifts, bright lights in the night, decorations and traditions deeply steeped in family history brought out and on exhibit 24/7 until Christmas is over. All of this swings the pendulum in the other extreme; where you’d normally be happy to go and make merry of your own accord.

But whatever side that pendulum is on at a given moment, you’re private thoughts can’t seem to be a peace with. You’re feeling guilty when privately grieving and feeling remorseful when you catch yourself humming a Christmas song in your head let alone out loud. So yes, you’re feeling out of sorts all the time. Why can’t everyone around you understand this and give you your own space so you can get the pendulum back to the center?

Of course to others, they see mood swings and may feel they are walking around on eggshells trying not to set you off. They want desperately to be of help and support; they worry don’t they? And you of course are wondering why they themselves are seemingly handling things much better than you are. Don’t they miss the departed? Don’t they care as much as you do?

Everybody experiences loss and everyone processes the feelings that go with loss in a very personal way. The thing is there is no set timeline for doing so. People who experience long grieving periods might worry those who don’t, and those that don’t worry those who do because they may come across as unfeeling, callous, cold and detached.

It’s healthy to accept that we all process loss and figure out how to move ahead on our own at our own pace. We know intellectually that death is inevitable where there is life; the day we get a puppy we know a day at some point will come when the pet will pass away. Does this make it easier? Maybe for some but not for all. And things get magnified for many when the loss isn’t a family pet but a family member such as a mother or father; daughter or son.

So here it comes…Time is the answer. How much time? Who is to say? You can no better predict how long you’ll take to deal with your personal loss than you could predict how long you’ll live yourself.

Now this grieving process of dealing with the loss of someone special is identical to the process of grieving over a family pet for some and yes grieving over the loss of employment. That may seem trivializing your loss of a family member but to some people, the shock, anger, denial, bargaining and eventual acceptance which makes up the grieving process is just as real when losing a job and shouldn’t be dismissed as not just as real.

Give yourself permission to have your moments of pain and don’t apologize for your tears of remembrance. These are your own very personal moments and your thoughts are not to be taken as a weakness of character. You should never expect nor hope I imagine to entirely forget the person gone, the pet gone or the job lost.

You will eventually get to where you will give yourself permission to be happy without feeling conflicted or guilty. Your good mental health will return. Do accept wishes for a merry Christmas as they are intended; with only the best of intentions.

Job Loss; A Sad Story

Yesterday I had an unscheduled meeting with someone I’d been working closely with about two months ago as she went about looking for work. As she approached me I could quickly surmise that she had bad news to share from both the surprise of her visit and her body language.

Only seconds after she dropped into the chair across from me, she began welling up and then crying as she had lost her job as a Housekeeper with a large hotel chain. Now you might dismiss her situation as not all that big of a deal; after all, there are many hotel chains to work with and she lost an entry level job. Give this a second thought; it is a big deal.

You see prior to working together, she had been unemployed for about 10 years. The prospect at that time of finding employment didn’t seem very good to her; after all, ‘who would want me?’, she used to say. After working together for only 5 days she got not 1 but 4 job offers and was ecstatic. However that was then and this is now, so what happened?

In brief, it appears that the employer decided that after having had a complaint lodged against her, it was far easier to terminate her employment while in the probation period than it was to hear her side of the story at all and deliberate on whether to retain her services or not. That is telling of this chain and their commitment to their staff.

I get ahead of things though. The hotel guest was a frequent one; staying for days at a time when he took a room. Upon meeting up with him in the hotel hallway while performing her job, she inquired if he would like cleaning services one day as he had declined services on the day before. While he indicated that he would indeed like his room cleaned, he himself did not vacate the room. Now between you and me, I don’t remain in the room when service is being completed. For one, I’m in the way. As for the employee, I’m not only a nuisance for them to work around, I’m also putting the two of us in an awkward position by being there together so I ensure I’m always out of my room.

The guest apparently asked of her some inappropriate questions that should have been red flags; asking about whether prostitutes still frequented the hotel and whether she’d like to party with him sometime. These are entirely inappropriate and very suggestive and leading questions from which you can draw your own conclusions. As she was finishing up the room she excused herself hurriedly saying she had only two more rooms to go and then she’d get off early for the day. To this the guest replied that as she was off early, maybe they could party after she was done.

As she left for the day she and he made visual contact which communicated to him that she wasn’t in fact going to be partying with him and she returned home. Late in the evening, police showed up at her home stating the guest was accusing her of stealing $10,000.00 from his room which threw her into a state of panic, confusion and shock. She called her employer immediately and relayed what had happened and asserted her innocence.

Next came the notice of dismissal; no chance of an explanation, no ‘we stand behind our employees’ moment, and bottom line no job. While unionized and paying union dues, no union representation as she hadn’t got past probation yet. Great situation right?

Can you imagine her anger against losing her job and having no recourse to explain or defend herself? The shame of being fired from a job which while maybe not YOUR dream job, was one she was good at and really enjoyed. In fact, she had previously told me how much she loved working with the other Housekeepers and had been told she was doing a great job.

Well, at this point she was telling me how much effort it had taken her to come in and tell me face-to-face because she didn’t want to let me down. What? Really? On top of a bad experience, here she was not wanting to disappoint her mentor and coach. Amazing! Anyhow, I assured her I believed her and believed in her; that she had got 4 job offers after applying the ideas I’d shared with her and that she could do so again.

She was also so anger about how easily someone could make an allegation and ruin another person’s life; that maybe legal action was necessary to prove her innocence and make sure this didn’t happen again to someone else. Was the $10,000.00 just a ruse because she had not taken him up on his advances? Was there ever any $10,000.00 at all or had he gambled it away at some nearby casino and needed an excuse? Who knows? My advice was forget any lawsuit and move on.

With only 2 months spent in the job, best keep it off the resume altogether so the, ‘Why did you leave your last job?” question isn’t asked and start fresh.

Too bad these kind of situations come up and are real but they do. Hopefully together we can get her back working soon. Be careful out there people.


The Grief Cycles of Job Loss and Death

When you’re getting the news that someone has passed away or you’re being fired from an organization, the process you’re going through is often very similar in nature; it’s the process of moving through a cycle of grief and loss.

Many people in these two circumstances we can observe to have similar behaviours. First of all there is hearing the shock of the news itself; especially if it comes totally unexpectedly. However, for many folks, even when they see the writing on the wall and the firing to come or the death of a loved one is reasonably expected, the breaking of the news itself comes as a shock.

You’re hit with the immediacy of the moment; you’ll never have a conversation with so-and-so again; you’ll never work another moment. In both situations, your sense of the norm is broken and you’re instantly aware that the future you’ll experience will be different from everything up to this moment.

Now sure for some the moment comes as a release. You hated that job anyway or it was so miserable but you might not have quit on your own so you actually appreciate the freedom to move on. Similarly, you might welcome the peace that death brings for the person who was in pain, and at the same time appreciate how those providing the ongoing hours of care and support are released from those tasks so they can turn their energies to other things. Nonetheless, in both situations, there is a period of shock that the end has come.

For many there is actually a period of bartering too. Praying to God for example saying things like, “If you’ll only get my job back I’ll be a better worker”, or “If you’ll just bring so-and-so back, I’ll go to Church regularly and be a better person.” In the end though, we don’t get our jobs back and there is no resurrection of the deceased.” So we are forced to move ahead not backward.

Anger too is a normal reaction to be expected; that moment when we yell at God or scream at the Boss who delivered the fateful news of our firing. We’re angry that things ended up this way, and we may even plot in our minds some kind of revenge. “Just you wait, oh I’ll get even” – but hopefully we don’t actually take the action and move on our feelings of bitterness, resentment, anger or hate when we aren’t thinking clearly. This would surely only damage our reputations, compound our problems and get us nowhere closer to where we need to be in order to move forward.

Again, whether it’s a death or a job loss, eventually we get to the point where we have to move on. We’ve had our period of grieving and we recognize that the only way to bring something positive into our lives is to pick ourselves up and look for new work or come to look for joy in the lives of those around us who have up until now been missing us; the person we used to be before grief overcame us.

Now this doesn’t mean we forget about the person who passed, love them or think about them any less. Similarly it doesn’t mean that we will wipe our memories clean of how the job we lost ended. If anything, we hopefully can take some things away from that experience so that it isn’t repeated. In other words, any responsibility we had for getting fired isn’t carried forth into our future jobs so the experience isn’t repeated.

The thing about this cycle of grief is that if you think on the word ‘cycle’, you’ll see it isn’t something linear, but it goes ‘round. Therefore, we might experience the shock of getting fired, get angry, then rationalize things and try to barter or plead for our jobs back only to again find ourselves angry. You and I can both experience the same event – say losing our jobs – but we may react very differently, moving through this cycle of grief in ways that make sense of the event to each of us. When this grief cycle pertains to the death of a person instead of a job loss, people react very differently as well.

This is a key thing to acknowledge and remember; we all experience the event of job loss and death differently and uniquely. So while someone in your family might go on for a long period in grief, anger, and not understand why you yourself don’t feel like they do, you might just be moving through the various stages of the grief cycle at a faster pace than them. It’s not a question of what is right or wrong, proper or improper; it’s a matter of how we as individuals experience the event.

I know when I lost a job many years ago I went right in and applied for Employment Insurance within the hour. I started looking for work immediately, moved forward and told myself I’d be working soon. Others I know who have lost jobs tend to keep things to themselves and turn to isolation and privacy.

Whenever you experience loss of work or loss of those close to you, or meet others in such circumstances, understand there’s stages to work through, and those could be rapid or long periods of time.


Unemployed: The Emotional Toll

Let’s dive right in. You’re growing increasingly isolated from your friends, bills aren’t getting paid in full, savings are a thing of the past, skills are outdated, references are becoming harder to get, and you’re cutting both cable and the land line while eating a lot less healthy foods. Your psyche is becoming more fragile, your swagger like your clothes has long since stopped being trendy, your self-respect betrayed by a conscious decision to hide the weigh scale in the rear of the bathroom cabinet. Yes, there’s a lot of baggage you’re carrying around with this unemployment.

When it first happened, whether you walked away, were laid off or were terminated, you couldn’t have predicted you’d be out of work so long. “Not me”, you asserted with confidence; “I’ll be working soon. In fact, I’m going to actually give myself a little well-deserved break from work before rushing into my next job.” That ‘well-deserved break’ has long since gone from a break to what seems like a permanent reality. Things are different than they used to be when you’d be able to get yourself a job anytime you felt like it.

The television, once a source of entertainment and relaxation is now a diversion. It’s become a way to escape the prevailing thoughts of failure that are more and more prevalent, day in and day out. All the canned laugh tracks in those sitcoms that once got you laughing along now seem less funny as if they mock your idleness. Even the couch that you loved to lounge on no longer provides the comfort it once did, as you feel the guilt of inactivity every time you sit down for more than 20 minutes. So you stand and pace with nowhere to go, nothing to do – except feel so tired you just want to lay down on the couch again.

Being out of work does much more than drain the bank account. In fact, when you first find yourself out of work there are usually financial support systems already put in place to stave off financial hardship such as severance, employment insurance and if need be, government social assistance. The same is not necessarily true however for the emotional and mental strain of being unemployed. It’s this assault on your mental health that often goes unattended to, and failing to recognize the impact on your mental stability that arises from being out of work for a prolonged period of time, or failing to do anything about it can take an emotional toll with life-long implications.

There are for example some people who, having been out of work for an extended period, eventually regain employment and to all accounts have regained mastery over their mental health. The same individuals however may upon having those memories triggered, re-experience the stress without the loss of work. Being called into the office of the boss or an average performance review could set into motion some fears that the person thought they had left behind but in reality have just been dormant. Even hearing of others who are out of work; a relative of a co-worker who is struggling – any such reminder can bring the past crashing back to the present depending on how severe the person experienced their own unemployment.

On the positive side, we change jobs more frequently than in the lives of past generations. No longer is it common for people to retire from the job they started in their 20’s. So with more people experiencing the transition from one job to the next, the stigma of being out of work is not as rampant as it used to be. It’s still personal when it happens to you of course, and this doesn’t diminish or make light of your own experience, but unemployment is an experience that many around you have shared. Talking openly then about your unemployment will have more empathetic ears than in years past. In other words, if you talk about it, you’ll find understanding instead of condemnation.

Another good thing is that because more people are experiencing job loss, there are more supports in your community than in the past to help in the transition from your past job to your next job. There’s employment coaching, mental health counselling, financial planning, debt consolidation and restructuring and more services to help you deal proactively with your specific predicament. Look, you can’t be expected to be an expert in all areas of life. You’re good at what you do, and it stands to reason there are other people who are specialists in their work. Getting professional help to stabilize things at a time when you may not make the best decisions due to the strain you are under is a good move.

There is for many, a natural tendency to cocoon themselves from the world; hide unemployment and its impact from others, deal with it alone and then emerge transformed into something anew. This can work for some people. However, sharing what you’re experiencing could also lead to opportunities, job offers, leads, contacts; all of which could reduce your time out of work. This isn’t a time to let your pride rule the day. If a friend offers to pay for lunch, let them; they may not have any other way to be helpful. You’re going to get through this, and you’re not alone; help is out there.

Mental Health And Your Job Search

When looking for a job, it’s  important to give it all you’ve got. Complicating your job search however are all the things you’re worried and stressed about in addition to being out of work. It would be wonderful if all you had to concentrate on was getting a job, given all the things you’re dealing with. And that’s exactly the problem of course; you’re not dealing with all those things very well and you’re problems are growing.

If you wrote down on a piece of paper all the things you are currently burdened by, it might be quite the list. Of course there’s the lack of a job for starters. Without a job, there’s the money problem and the dwindling bank account. The shrinking bank account is a cause for concern, as is the rent that’s due monthly. Your grocery shopping is being affected; unable to purchase healthier items which are costlier. Without fresh fruits or meats and eating less than three meals a day, your physical health is impacted too.

The unemployment means more idle time which is messing with your weight; either putting on pounds through eating more as a way to cope with stress or eating far less and dropping too many pounds because you can’t eat. Without stable income, your social calendar is vastly restricted too. You’re called less by friends to do things because money is tight, so movie nights are rarer, shopping trips go on without you. The calls you used to get from friends are replaced by debt collectors, and even keeping your phone active is becoming increasingly difficult.

New issues start to surface; you find yourself so desperate to escape the constant stress you’re under, you’re substituting what little healthy foods you can buy for alcohol, which you’re drinking more often as I requires more to get that buzz and escape your problems. Another new annoyance is the tooth that’s aching either from a cavity or being chipped but you can’t afford the trip to the dentist. The cheaper but less healthy food that’s taken over your regular diet is affecting your dental work too.

Added to the above, your behaviour has family worried more about you than you find comfortable. So as a way to cope with all their never-ending questions you stop seeing them, stop answering their calls, and that just increases your guilt so you convince yourself you’re better off without them. Without friends and family or the co-workers you used to speak with, suddenly you realize you’re isolated and cut-off from society. You go out less, shut the curtains to block out the happiness you see outside your window; not wanting to see people scurrying around who all seem to have somewhere to go, something to do. More and more you find yourself just sleeping, retreating into the darkness and warmth of your bed. Anxiety and depression are creeping in.

With all this going on, looking for a job not only becomes harder, it becomes less and less of a priority. The focus moves from employment to just getting through the morning; just the afternoon and ultimately just through the day. As the money dries up, as the necessity of finding cheaper accommodation elsewhere rises and the thought of being kicked on to the street and homeless starts in your head, it may be that you resort to things you never imagined yourself doing – applying for social assistance, using food banks and accepting charity. Funny thing about charity is you were once the person donating money, and you always thought to yourself, “It’s so sad, why don’t they just get a job?”

So now we see how unemployment is layered and complicated. Getting a job would be wonderful of course, but there are a lot of other issues to deal with first. People who say finding a job is a full-time job mean well, but with all these things on your mind, how possible is that? And of course you’ve got additional factors complicating things.

You might have a criminal record (stealing items you couldn’t afford due to the above), a messed up family where you’re labeled the black sheep (why can’t you get a job like your big sister?), being a victim of abuse (taken advantage of by someone you trusted who controlled and used you or uses you still).

So where to begin to deal with all your problems? If I may make a suggestion, you might find talking to someone who will listen with an empathetic ear helpful. A Mental Health professional can help by hearing you out and sorting things out with some confidential advice and suggestions. Seeing how things are related, determining where to make a start, where you can find help and acknowledge your progress can really help you feel better about yourself.

If all the above is unknown to you personally, count yourself fortunate. People such as I’ve described here are all around us; all around you. They don’t wear labels identifying their issues but they are the people you meet who are doing the best they can to blend in and hide all their problems with fleeting smiles they put on to fit in. When you innocently ask, “How’s it going?” they say things are okay but really want to scream, “If you only knew! Help!”

If you know someone like this, or see yourself, reach out and take advantage of help in your community.

Your Job Search Support Team

Being out of work can be isolating. The people who used to be co-workers might indeed be saddened with your departure if you were fired, quit or laid off, but it would be unusual for many of those relationships to continue for very long into your period of unemployment as a previous co-worker.

For some people, sitting inside their apartment or home and watching others go by their windows on their way to work can be a source of tremendous stress. “Everybody in the world seems to have somewhere to go, are doing important things and making money while I’m just sitting here. What’s wrong with me?” If this kind of behaviour goes on too long, anxiety builds up and full-blown depression can take seed and grow almost debilitating a person into becoming afraid to go out and leave the safe confines of their living space.

Another problem can often be a lack of faith others have in your ability to find meaningful work. Not all of us have the luxury of parents and spouses who believe in us and stay optimistic for us. Some folks have parents who make comments like, “Ha, I told you you’d never last at that job. Couldn’t take it? You’ll never really amount to much and I told you. Best you just get used to it – you’re no better than we are. Just collect your social assistance ’cause this is as good as it gets for you and us.”

As for spouses, again not all are 100% supportive. Some think they are doing the right thing to motivate their unemployed partner by yelling and screaming at them to get out and get a job; pull their weight in the relationship or else! But is that really helpful?

Finally, there’s our friends. Once you become unemployed you might have working friends that act like they are afraid they might ‘catch’ your unemployment because they stop calling on you. They say they’re sorry to hear you are out of work, but they don’t do anything more to help in any way. That could be of course because they don’t know what to do to help, and if they did know, they’d do it. Forgive them.

Now ironically, there’s another situation where you can be surrounded by family and friends – even a spouse who are very supportive of your unemployment because they too are in the same position. They’ll be happy to spend time with you talking, window shopping, hanging out, playing with the dogs or kids in the park. It appears they are being helpful and supportive, but actually without meaning to, they are taking time away from what otherwise could be valuable time spent looking for your next job.

Instead of going at this job search alone, it’s vitally important to surround yourself with people who can actually have a positive influence on you and energize you. Several organizations nearby may have job search groups; literally a group of motivated but out-of-work individuals who come together to look for work but do so in a structured group setting.

In such a group, you lose the feeling of isolation, you feel supported by others in the same situation and your job search takes on focus and structure. In short, you get organized, energized and motivated to succeed. You may find job leads, new ways to go about your job search, connections, correct a problem like a weak resume and cover letter which previously you thought were okay. Who knows? You might even get the guidance of an Employment Advisor or Career Counsellor running the group that can give you some helpful suggestions.

The point is that your job search support team is pulling in the same direction as you. Quite frankly, in the nicest but most direct way possible, you should in my opinion, advise your family, friends and partner to either get behind you or get out of your way.

I have gone so far in the past on many occasions to advise some of my clients to consider giving their own parents an ultimatum; either be supportive and be positive or risk being shut out of daily conversations until the person gets employed. It is our parents above all the other people on the earth who you think would be behind us in a job search, and so you see it hurts more than anything when they aren’t. Same goes with a spouse who is supposed to be there no matter what but, may turn out to be very unforgiving even when the job loss has nothing to do with performance – as in the case of a layoff.

So get people on board early. It’s normal to be frustrated, disappointed, rejected, and maybe even angry in a job search. You won’t be successful with every job application and especially in a competitive market. It’s how you deal with the rejection and the disappointment that is critical.

Share your job search activities with the important people in your life so they hear what you are doing proactively to find work. Surround yourself with positive people so that energy keeps you from retreating to dark places. Take a workshop, course, sit in on a class through an unemployment help centre. These classes may be free and you’ll have new things to put on that resume while staying connected.

Keep the attitude positive. I’m pulling for you.




Feelings of Isolation And Being Left Behind

When you are out of work, many people spend way too much time inside their apartments and homes. This voluntarily exile can and usually will bring unexpected and unwelcomed changes to a person. Your residence, which when you were working was your place of solitude and regeneration, could transform itself little by little into your prison. Ironically, the key to freedom is within your grasp.

So why retreat from the world in the first place when you are out of work? In the beginning, say shortly after you’ve been let go, it seems natural to coccoon yourself away and process what has just happened. You might be in a state of shock, trying to reason out your sudden loss of employment. Even when you saw the writing on the wall months’ ago, it still comes as a blow when you’re told not to come back the following day. It still stings.

And of course there is an element of pride that one has; that sense of identity you enjoyed as an employee of such-and-such firm or company. You might be understandably worried therefore that even a trip to your local coffee shop might raise a questioning eyebrow from someone who would normally expect you to be at work at 9:45 a.m. instead of in your jeans and sweat top ordering your favourite brew. “Hey Dave, what are you doing here you rascal! Lose your job or somethin’?”

If it’s not the coffee shop, you’re perhaps worried that the retired couple across the street who know everything about everybody are starting to get suspicious of your car still parked in the driveway. “Hello David, it’s Milly. Are you alright? Donald noticed your car in the drive. You haven’t lost your job by any chance you poor dear?”

Highly unlikely these situations might happen the first day you are home, but in your mind, that kind of negative thinking puts thoughts there that are destructive and self-defeating. It is true that part of our identity is connected to the work we do and the company we work for. That’s why for example it is so common when meeting new people for someone to ask you early on, “So, what do you do for a living?” Somehow, “Oh I eat, drink and breathe”, isn’t the answer they are looking for.

When you are home, you’d best get use to being comfortable with being alone. It’s quiet in the house; certainly quieter than the workplace. All that chatter that you may have found irritating coming from the hall is gone. The continuous grind and whine of machines, photocopiers, forklifts etc is replaced with the suddenly noticeable hum of the fridge, the furnace coming on and shutting off, and the ticktock of the wall clock. Never noticed those being so loud before.

Of course one of the things that nags at the brain after days start to pass is that somehow the world is moving on and without intending it, you seem to have got off the train. Welcome to ‘Nowhere’. In your mind you keep asking yourself, “How did I get here? Where is here? Is this my final destination? I thought I was headed on up the tracks to, “Somewhere” where I could be, “Somebody”. In this little town of, ‘Nowhere’, am I a ‘Nobody’?

Enough already. Taking some time to process a job loss is essential. Take up to a week if you need it. Yes a week. It’s dangerous to take much longer except in the case of a planned vacation and there are exceptions depending on the stress of the job you held. Get going and get outside. Breathing in some fresh air and going for a walk can help you gain some perspective. You can also rationalize your walk by telling yourself you are getting some exercise, so you’re not ‘wasting’ time.

In that first few days after a job loss, you might do well to start thinking about the things you DO have control over. You can if need be, cut back any expenses not deemed essential. You’re probably saving gas or transit fare just by not going to work so see that as a plus. Apply for whatever employment insurance you might be eligible and do it immediately. Many jurisdictions that will provide you with this only issue it from the day you apply, not the day you lost your job income.

Any projects around the house you’ve been putting off that are cheaply accomplished? Even washing the windows inside and out can help you to later look at them and feel you’ve done something instead of being a reminder that you can’t even do something that simple. These kind of dark thoughts are precursors of depression and are best put in their place pronto. Do the laundry, plan the dinner menu, rake the yard, shovel the drive, replace the dim lightbulbs. Do anything that fills your day.

Ready for the bigger stuff after a few days or a week? Good. Now turn your attention to the job search and getting back in the game. Update the resume, make a few calls, let people know you are looking for work, tell them what happened and do your best to sound positive and hopeful. Trains are constantly taking people from, ‘Nowhere’ to ‘Somewhere’ and you’ve always been a, ‘Somebody’.

How You Deal With It Is What Counts

Whether its losing a job, a loved one, a disagreement or a promotion, how you deal with the loss is what really matters. Some people appear better equipped to deal with disappointments, moments of crisis and negative events. And if you are like me, you undoubtedly know some people whom bad news tends to immobilize for long periods of time.

If we look at minor setbacks first, such as waking up feeling tired and aching all over but not really ill, some people will get up and shower, go through the routine of getting ready for work and gather their strength on the way to work. On the other hand, some will do what’s easier at that moment of waking and call in sick and go back to bed. In neither situation is the person really ill, but the two reactions to the same situation are different. Over a period of time, whichever decision you make of the two tends to perpetuate and repeat itself; so you generally push yourself through mornings like these or you develop a pattern of satisfying the immediate urge to stay home or go in late.

Any pattern of behaviour when noted by others becomes your reputation. “Jim’s off work again today everybody”, or “I appreciate you coming in even though you’re not at your best just now.” I can tell you that there are some mornings I wake up feeling groggy, and it’s dark outside, and the bed I’m leaving is warm and part of me wants to go back to sleep. But I know that if I get up, have a cup of tea, shower and get dressed, I’m well on my way to arriving at work with energy and enthusiasm.

But let’s say your confronted with news of a more serious nature. Suppose you’ve just been told that the job you were hoping to get has been offered and accepted by someone else and your still out of work. The relief employment would have brought you is gone, and you’re under immense financial pressure to pay your bills. The strain on your mind and your self-confidence is tremendous and you’ve got to somehow find the motivation to keep looking for work when a growing part of you wants to just pack it all in. Give up or get on with it?

There’s an old saying that goes, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” That saying means that if you can struggle through adversity and problems, you’ll be better of character and have developed survivor skills in the process, making you ultimately better prepared to deal with future adversity in the end. Seems awfully appropriate in this discussion.

We’ve all experienced situations where we see two people faced with similar situations and they handle it very differently. I personally think the reason that some handle these events differently is because of how they’ve dealt with many situations in the past; and those past situations have built upon one another, in essence preparing the person to deal with the situation a certain way. From the outside, you and I might get pretty accurate predicting how a person will react to ill news based on how we’ve seen them deal with adversity in the past, even when that adversity was for minor events. Therefore, we can say how someone reacts to bad news is in or out of character.

So you won’t be the first or last person to lose a loved one, get fired, be overlooked for a promotion, have a car accident, miss a deadline or some other negative event. What is of greater significance therefore is not the event itself but how we react to the news.

Okay so take the loss of a loved one. If you are old enough to read this blog, you’ve survived childhood. People around you are going to pass away sooner or later. You’ll be confronted with such news every so often over your lifetime, and yet the world will keep turning, the sun will keep rising, and things will still need to get done. How you get through those minutes, hours, days and weeks will be unique to you, but you’re not the only one impacted. You’ll be counted on by employers to get back to work, by family members for support, possibly by your children for guidance and ‘how’ to deal with such events.

While an employer may look at a manual and say, “Your entitled to 3 days off with pay”, the human psyche doesn’t operate the same for everyone where we, ‘get over it’, or ‘deal with it’, in the same way. Some people I know who are out of work tell me they aren’t ready to look for work because they are still dealing with the loss of a parent; and the parent passed away more than a year ago. So is that a genuine impairment or as some see it a convenient excuse for not looking? Does it depend on your own inner strength, past experiences or how you’d deal with such news?

For your own mental and physical health and well-being, find ways to work through your lows. All of us experience highs and lows, good and bad; it’s HOW we deal with events that’s important. Unable to cope? Seek out counselling and share your issues with others that can help you through.

Reaching out shows others your wisdom, not your weakness.

Social Assistance And Us

When I was attending Humber College back in 1982 and 1983, I was studying Recreation Leadership; a program which at the time, I believed would prepare me for a life-long career in the field of Municipal Recreation. I had already attended University where I’d graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a Communications Minor.

One of the now curious things about taking that Recreation course was that we made a trip down to Flint, Michigan in the United States of America to see their recreation programs. That in and of itself wasn’t odd at all, but a chance comment by our American host at the time had to do with people who received social assistance in the State. If I’m not mistaken, he said that people there could get social assistance for a maximum of two year’s time, and only for the number of people they originally applied with. So if a woman had a child while on assistance there were no additional funds provided, and the system in the U.S. varied from state to state.

The irony of hearing this is that I’ve built a career not in recreation but in working with those receiving social assistance.

Now here in Ontario Canada, a person could conceivably apply for and receive social assistance (welfare) when they are under 20, receive additional assistance for each member of their immediate family and be on it until they are 65. So while things might have changed since 1983 south of the border, we’ve got one system where someone gets food and shelter money for 2 years and another where the same things are covered for 45 years. Around the globe and in your geographical community, things may vary from these two situations as well.

So whose got it right? Does your view on this depend whether you are in receipt of the financial help or doing the giving via your personal income tax?

One of the things I constantly remind myself of is that people in receipt of social assistance are often among the most vulnerable in our society. I certainly don’t begrudge them the financial help they get because the person getting this financial supplement loses much more than they ever get. It’s no free ride.

Those in receipt of welfare over a long period of time will find the quality of the food they eat is poorer, they develop dental problems more often and issues are more severe. Their overall health is poorer as they see doctors less; they’re often out in adverse weather conditions, living in sub-standard housing, dealing more often with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, addictions and getting counselling regarding dysfunctional families, abuse, suicidal thoughts, despair and hopelessness.

That, ‘free ride’ as some see it is extremely costly. So it’s no wonder that many on social assistance do want to work and regain their financial independence. But given all the issues in the paragraph above, it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain the focus required to get a job. Add to the list expired certificates, out-of-date experience, old work references, gaps in a resume or CV, lack of reliable transportation inconsistent access to technology and unreliable phone service, and it’s no wonder so few come across to a potential employer as the right candidate.

One of the biggest challenges that these people face, (as if that list above isn’t exhaustive enough) is dealing with people like you and me. Whatever image you carry around with you of the typical social assistance recipient will prejudice for the good or bad how we interact with these people in general. So if you met someone who on first glance who looked together and you discovered they were on welfare, what would be your initial reaction? If you were hiring, would you give them a fair shake or would you buy-in to some of the stereotypes we see in the media and place an extra level of examination on them? Would you see them as lazy, a drain on the system or a future problem?

To be honest, there are some who do set out to stay on assistance. Many, many more however didn’t plan the life they have, and really do want to contribute and be self-supporting. In many of those cases, they just lack the know-how and have multiple barriers to deal with. If we want to say that we truly live in a compassionate society, it is up to us to support our most vulnerable members of that society. Our ‘duty’ or our ‘charity’; call it what you will, is a responsibility that we undertake to provide a safety net for those who for reasons often beyond their control can’t stand on their own.

Many who want to work are themselves grown adults of families that were in receipt of assistance. They may have received poor parenting from those who see completing high school as a lofty goal. College and University is a dream never to even be contemplated. A good job is one that gets them a stable address and decent food, not necessarily one that comes with profit-sharing and trips abroad.

My hope is that you and I come to be just a little more compassionate, a little more understanding, and a tad less judgemental. If you are an employer, that you invest in the person and find yourself a grateful worker in return. Sometimes all it takes is a shift in attitude at our end to start.