Out Of Work? Get Your Team Together

I think it’s a behaviour common to many people; when we’re embarrassed, ashamed or we feel we don’t quite measure up in some way, we do our best to isolate ourselves and keep the source of our embarrassment to ourselves. After all, the fewer people who see us in these moments, the less likely we’ll feel exposed and we hope to reintegrate ourselves back into our circle of friends and family when we’ve recovered.

Being out of work can feel very much like this scenario. Lose your job and you might tell a few of your closest supporters, adding, “Please don’t tell anyone. I don’t want everyone to know.”

The irony of this behaviour is that we often miss opportunities because the very people who could tell us about job openings are kept unaware that we’re looking for a job. As you’re unaware that they know there’s a job opening, you don’t even know what you’re missing; but you’ve missed it all the same.

It’s our ego though that needs protecting; and I don’t mean this is in a self-centered kind of way. Protecting our ego, how we view and see ourselves, is a natural response. The fewer people who know about our unemployment the better; and if they want to assume we are still employed but on some vacation or leave, that’s fine. We’d rather they don’t even know we’re off in the first place. And this is the problem. We don’t want to have to explain why we’re not at work, so what we often do is stay inside our apartments, condo’s and houses; going out only to gather food and necessities.

Like I said, this behaviour is natural and instinctive. So having stated this, let me suggest you consider doing something which on the surface goes against your natural instincts; get your support team together.

Your support team isn’t just made up of Employment Coaches and Resume Writers. It isn’t made up exclusively by your spouse or your best friend either. No, your support team is composed of people you can trust to help you out while you look to regain employment. Just like many other teams you’ll be apart of in life in your personal and professional life, team members have specific roles.

Here’s some of the people you might want to enlist to be a part of your team:

  1. You

You’ll need to be the CEO or lead of your job search team. As you’re going to be recruiting people to help you out, you’ll need to prove that you’re seriously invested in this project. It will mean reaching out to people, getting them on board, checking in with them to make sure they stay committed – and they’ll work more for you if they see you working hardest for yourself. You need to be accountable therefore; show up for meetings, do your homework and work hard at finding work.

2. Emotional Supporters

Before we get to the technical helpers, you need people who will empathize with you, care for your well-being and understand the highs and lows of the job search. You’re going to have bad days precisely because you’re human. Emotional Supporters are those who get that and love you anyway. These folks pick you up and pick up the tab here and there when there is one. They keep you included in get-togethers and find the ‘free stuff’ to do is important to staying connected.

3. Technical Support

You’d be well-advised to have some expertise on your team when it comes to resume writing, employer and employment research. A good proofreader, a sounding board or Employment Coach to offer the critique you need but in a supportive and understanding approach. Whoever you have in this area might be your mock interviewer, helping you find and keep the confidence to do your best in those up and coming interviews.

4. Partners and Family

Obviously if you’re single and have no family you can pass on this one. However, when you have a partner, your spouse, boy/girl friend, etc. is critical to providing you with the stability you need when the assurance and identity a job brings is missing. Sure you might not want to, ‘burden’ them with your news and hold out telling them above all others, but your partner is a partner for a reason. It’s not your job that they value most – it’s you. If you want to deepen your relationship, trust them when you’re at a low point with being out of work. This is when partnerships often work best; you pick each other up and move forward together.

As for the family? Sure you might not want to tell mom or dad to protect them from worrying and protect yourself from all the dramatics of their concern; but that concern is genuine. You might end up with a few lasagna dinners being dropped off or depending on their status, a job lead to follow-up. Some moms and dads are really good at stepping up even when their kids are in their 40’s!

Now there are others too, but I leave it to you to decide who you need on your job search team. Essentially what I’m saying is go the counter-intuitive way and reach out to people instead of shutting out people. Take care of your physical and mental health while you find yourself out of work. This unemployment won’t last forever and will pass.

Sure You’re Ready To Work?

Have you ever decided to take a job offer and then only a short time into the job had to quit? It didn’t work out as the positive experience you believed it would be.

Some people are so focused on getting a job, all they do is scan job postings, send off resumes and cover letters, go to whatever interviews they land and then take the first job that comes their way only to regret it. If you’re doing exactly this now, you might want to re-think what you’re doing to avoid future disappointment.

Of course, I know why people do the above with such fervor; they need money to pay bills and stave off exhausting their financial savings. There is a lot of stress watching the money go out of one’s bank account week after week, month after month. All the money you’d saved up over a period of years can slip away pretty fast when additional money dries up and you’re not used to a self-imposed strict budget. Taking a job; any job mind, shores up the leaks and hopefully balances out the exiting funds.

The problem which can surface however is that a person takes a job that they haven’t really investigated much before applying. Then with the money problem addressed in the short-term, now people look at where they’ve actually put themselves.  It can often be the case that they then say, “What have I done? This isn’t right for me at all.”

What happened of course is the desperation to just get a job of any kind is in the past. Then with that out-of-the-way, attention is turned to the job and that’s when things can seem worse than when the person was out of work altogether. Knowing they can and must do better than the present job, often people quit so they can put 100% into finding a job; the right job this time.

To increase your odds of getting the job that’s right for you, there are a number of things you can do now while unemployed. For starters, and please don’t ignore this as unnecessary, address your health. Looking for work is taxing on the mind and the body. Eating properly and getting out of the house to take in some fresh air and get some exercise while walking around the neighbourhood is essential. Not only will you feel better, if you go for a walk around a block or two a couple of times a day, you’ll also focus better on the job hunt when you return.

Eating healthy foods and moving will fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to ward off excessive weight gain. At the other extreme, eating as little as possible to save money could cause you to lose more weight than is healthy. If you’re fond of the bubbly, watch your alcohol intake. You wouldn’t be the first one to increase drinking to numb some of the stress of looking for work, but what could seem like a good idea at the time could turn out to be a bigger problem than you can handle and then knowing you shouldn’t be drinking so much can for some have the impact of drinking more heavily to actually feel better.

Another thing about starting a new job when you’ve been out of work for a very long time is an abrupt change in your routine. It might not sound like anything you can’t handle, but suddenly having to get up at a given time, catch a bus that runs on a schedule and be seated ready to go at 8:30a.m.  could present a problem you hadn’t considered. Why? Could be that over the extended time you’ve been out of work, you’ve slid into the habit of getting up at 9:00a.m., and with breakfast over after simultaneously watching the news on T.V., you haven’t really got rolling most days until it’s closer to 10:00a.m.

Hey it’s understandable that your routine changed without the need to be somewhere and be accountable to anyone but yourself. I get that and so do employers. However, employers have zero tolerance for people who show up late for work, and if you’re not disciplined, you could find yourself hearing the boss tell you, “it’s just not working out” as they tell you you’re done.

Variety really is the key to staying positive and engaged in your job search. A majority of people think looking for a job means sitting in front of a computer screen for 7 hours a day, 5 days or more a week and applying for job after job. Wrong on so many levels.

A successful job search also includes getting out and introducing yourself to people, networking if you will. Call on people you want to be your references and walk into the organizations you wish to work with. Meet people, feel the atmosphere, get some literature, make some phone calls and ask about their challenges and priorities. Ask to meet with people who hold the jobs you’re after and pick their brain over a tea or coffee.

As part of your computer time, read reviews of what others are saying about the companies you’re interested in on websites like Glassdoor.

You want a job that provides income and you’ll be a good fit with right? Good. Take a breath and let’s get going.


Want To Quit But Afraid To?

There are a significant number of employed people who are dissatisfied or hate their jobs intently to the point where they are strongly thinking of quitting. Some of these people actively job search while they are employed, while others haven’t got the energy to look for a new job and simultaneously perform a job they have little motivation to continue with.

So here you are in your job, dissatisfied to the point where thinking about going in to work seems like heading off to some kind of prison sentence. I mean you don’t want to think about going, let alone actually go in, but there you are until something new comes up, and hating every moment of it. How did things go so bad? Surely at some point you presumably took the job with some kind of enthusiasm. Where did it all go wrong?

Some people feel trapped in their jobs – they are consciously unhappy and want a way out with a soft landing, but can’t just up and quit. It could be that the security of income, especially in situations where your decision would impact on others – such as a partner or children has you immobile. Maybe it’s the mortgage, the car payments, the cottage or your lifestyle you are afraid of losing if your source of income should be cut off.

The added moral dilemma is of course that you know you are unhappy and haven’t found a way as yet of doing anything tangible about it. If you are honest, you also probably know your attitude and demeanor are negatively impacting on those around you. Could be your anger is coming out quicker, your patience has a shorter fuse, things set you off that in the past you brushed off, you smile less often and you’re just not that fun to be around. When you say you can’t afford to quit, maybe for all these reasons you can’t afford to stay either. Now there’s your dilemma.

So now it’s a question of priorities. After all, you’re seeing this scale with your lousy job on one end and your happiness and all the things you could be on the other. If you could replace your job with something much more enriching, you’d have perfect balance instead of having this job you loathe weigh you down. And it really doesn’t take much you think; you just hand in a note stating you are submitting your resignation and you’re last day will be such and such. Just thinking about it is liberating!

However, (why is there always a ‘However’?) there still remains the problem of no job to replace the one you have, and no stable income therefore either. Hmmm….yes that is a tough one.

It’s possible that you sit down with your stakeholders; those in your immediate family and see if quitting your job would have their support, especially if your actions are going to impact on them financially. Honestly, they might surprise you and be relieved that you are finally going to DO something and quit! They may be willing to tighten up the entire family budget if they get their old dad or partner back – the one who used to smile and be a positive person.

You should at any rate determine what financial benefits you might be eligible for should you resign your job. A few phone calls to the agencies providing financial aid to unemployed persons will help give you some idea of your eligibility if you quit under certain circumstances. It costs nothing to inquire. Maybe a note from the doctor stating your mental and physical health is at stake would be good supporting evidence?

Not always, but sometimes a good talk with the employer is recommended too. After all, employers want and need people who are committed and at the top of their game. If your unhappy and doing the minimum, might they include you in some future round of layoffs doing you both a favour? Sounds odd but if things are this bad, getting laid off might be a blessing.

At the very least, start looking seriously for other work. Your current employment may look attractive to a new employer, and you should start to get a handle on what jobs are out there in your field, unless of course you’re leaving the entire field for something new. Then some research into other lines of work entirely is in order.

When you quit, be sure to do so with some grace. Life has a funny way of bringing people back into contact with each other. Whether its returning to work in the future to the company you never thought you’d work for again, or finding out your boss is on the Board of Director’s for some non-profit group you might work for, you could need a positive end to a relationship gone bad. Even a reference will have you wanting an uneventful departure. Save all those nasty things you are thinking for the car ride home!

A fresh start is liberating and invigorating. You will no doubt find some new energy in the job search process. Yes, it’s scary and has no guarantees. If you don’t jump sometimes however, you’ll never know what you might miss out of fear.

Whatever you decide, you’ll have to live with the consequences of your decision – stay in a job that’s negatively impacting on you, or take a chance with the possibility of saving yourself.




Unemployment Can Be Exhausting

Some people who are unemployed become mentally exhausted, while others are physically exhausted. Then there’s those who are both; it wears on the body and the brain.

Now you might see someone in this situation and wonder at it. After all, if a person is tired, they aren’t working so they could just recline and have a nap, wake up refreshed and carry on. It isn’t so simple when they wake up however and within seconds find themselves jolted with the awareness that they have no job and have to look for one and the anxiety they may have escaped while sleeping is ever-present yet again.

Look at the face of a person who has been unemployed for a period of time during which they’ve been really trying hard. You may see stress lines on their forehead, furrowed eyebrows, less smiling than you remember. All of these are the body’s way of coping with stress. And there’s more of course; the person may eat less or more, causing abnormal weight loss or gain, and then there’s something else to worry about, the person’s self-image.

When you look in the mirror as a person with a job, you may see a successful person, a provider. Be chronically unemployed and you see the opposite perhaps; someone who is unsuccessful and dependent. Most of us have no desire to be or remain dependent on others, and so this period of life if it’s happening to us can cause us to be constantly agitated, out-of-sorts, irritable, and while we are aware it’s happening, the reason isn’t always evident.

The idea of catching up on needed sleep is a good one, and it would work too; if it wasn’t for the fact that as the body settles down and fewer distractions are present (like street or television noise), our thoughts seem to become magnified and focused on whatever is on our minds which, in this case, is our lack of a job. And so the result is tossing and turning, spending long periods of trying to enter that elusive period of REM sleep where our bodies do most of the healing and our brains really do turn off for a while.

And for many, the little things in our personal lives that bring us comfort and satisfaction; reading a book, gardening, listening to music – those things just don’t bring us as much joy because we experience is off-set by the guilt we might feel because we should be doing something.

It’s like we know we have a problem which is our unemployment, and we know we should be actively doing something about it because it’s not going to fix itself without our effort. And yet, when we take some valuable time to do something personally satisfying we can’t enjoy it as much because of this feeling we should be doing something to address the big problem which is the lack of a job. If we could see that in fact we are doing something to address the problem in having a little ‘me’ time to recharge our spirit, we might do better, but the brain is a hard thing to dupe.

And if you are unemployed, you know it gets harder to find moments to really enjoy yourself without guilt. No matter what you are doing, your brain seems to scream, “Stop this and get a job!” That pressure is coming from within more than it’s coming from those around us most of the time. While our parents, spouses, friends, social workers etc., want us to get a job, the pressure we put on ourselves is greater.

It is more than just good advice to take some time and do the things you find enjoyable with as little guilt as you can, in fact it’s critically important. Whether you are working or unemployed, balancing your life with things you take pleasure in gives you energy reserves, let’s you focus back on tasks with more enthusiasm, and you may find you’re more productive than you would be otherwise going at something – in this case getting a job – with no diversion.

So go for walk or bicycle ride. Call up some friends and get together to play some beach volleyball, pick up soccer game, or maybe ask them to go fishing. There are all kinds of things you can do to stay connected to others and still keep your expenses down. I hope you are wise enough to know that to justify recreational activities you have to do them with moderation. I’m not advocating someone spend 2 hours a week on a job search and the balance of the time doing whatever they want because it’s important to indulge yourself with doing things you love.

Oh and one final thought here is to get in and see your doctor whether you have any obvious signs of illness or not. Far from clogging up the health care system, you should get in so you get the old once over. If you get a clean bill of health, you’ll feel better instantly, and if things should change down the road you have a point in time to look at what’s changed. If there are any issues with your physical or mental health, this is the time to have someone qualified look at things.

All the very best in your job searching efforts. Stay healthy!

Commit Yourself To A Moment Daily

Think about your job or your job search as the case may be. Did you just experience an immediate jolt or tinge of stress, heightened alertness etc.? Now think about a prolonged job search with all the ups and downs, or a job that generates little personal satisfaction. Got it? Okay that’s good. Read on.

A full-time job or job search is 7 or 8 hours minimum a day. Add to this the time you prepare to go to work, travel to and from work, think about work before and after hours, maybe working from home etc. Think about the constant strain of the job search and when not actually job searching constantly being on the alert for new leads, budgeting what you can spend money on at the grocery store, what you need to sacrifice etc. That’s a huge block of time spent worrying, investing serious thought and emotional energy. Because a serious job search or a full-time job is such a large chunk of our daily lives, it naturally follows that if this block of time isn’t all that positive, it becomes all the more critical that you find some time to do things that you derive pleasure in.

Time is a commodity like anything else, and you can’t add more time to a day or detract from it. What you have the full power to do however is consciously decide HOW you will spend the time you have, each of those 24 hours. Think for a few moments about what it is that is enjoyable for you to do, that you could add in to your daily routine. Because you’re adding this to your daily routine, this is going to be something that’s easily accessible, low-cost, and of course something you derive pleasure from.

Some examples to get you going might be to read, blog, paint, sketch, write, scrapbook, knit, spend time with the family pet. What would have to happen for you to build in a 45 minute to one hour block of time in which you were free to pursue this activity? In my own case, I don’t have to get moving into my pre-work routine until 6:00 a.m. each weekday. So I have found that the 5:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. hour is a beautiful time slot to do things I enjoy. My routine is to generally get up, make a cup of tea, then write a daily blog – the one you are reading now. The fire is one this morning, and the house is in complete silence other than the tick tick tick of the clock which is magnified in the silence.

When you set aside and commit to a block of time that’s entirely yours to do with what YOU want, you look forward to it. When you’re in those moments, you become pre-occupied with nothing more than what you are doing usually. That book truly does whisk you away to wherever it takes place, the sketching is more rewarding because you get immersed in it and start to feel the flow of the illustration clearer and deeper. And as these thoughts come into your head and occupy your thoughts, the stresses of the job search or work ebb out for a while.

Like anything else, the more you do commit to this time period, the better you become at getting to your happy place faster. You could find initially that dedicating yourself to a time slot that’s yours and yours alone might seem weird to others in the house. For those 45 minutes or 1 whole hour a day, you’re all about you. You’re unavailable except in a crisis; and a crisis isn’t a plaintive call from your teenager saying, “There’s nothing to eat!”

I know of one woman who gets up much like myself and cooks. The kitchen is far enough removed from bedrooms that the noises she makes are not disturbing, and instead of feeling rushed and HAVING to cook when hungry people cry out for dinner, she derives more enjoyment from WANTING to cook. That early morning time is when she can experiment, check recipes in a cookbook, freeze items for the future, put the evening meal in a slow cooker, etc. And not only does she enjoy this time, it pays dividends again later in the day when she is on the way home and not stressing about what to prepare, especially if the day was taxing and she’s tired. So mealtime is more about getting together and enjoying the mealtime than an act of labour.

What you do and when you do it is entirely up to you. You not only deserve this time on a daily basis, I’d argue you need it. Everyone needs to recharge, refocus and balance all the must-do’s in a day with some want-to-do’s. It’s much healthier for starters on both a physical and mental level. I bet you may not be aware how much of a physical strain it can be to constantly be only responding all day instead of initiating. When your day is spent doing what you have to without a little bit of what you want to, you feel less in control. Take back some control; like a gift you give yourself.

If you set aside this time, others may find you more pleasant, happier, less prone to be on edge. So do them but more importantly yourself a favour and commit yourself to some ‘me’ time each day.

Admiration For The Long-Term Caregiver

One of the most valued and yet at the same time unappreciated jobs has to be the Caregivers in society. When someone in your own family has mental and/or physical health issues of a long-term nature, I can only imagine how stressful that conversation must be of whether or not it’s time to enlist the services of a paid Caregiver.

Some Caregivers work round the clock and live-in with their charges, expected to be energized, well-rested and providing quality care throughout the day, but also to be light sleepers and at the ready in the dead of night should their clients call out. And in addition to their human capacity to nurture, care and empathize with their clients, they are also expected to research all they can about the condition of their patient in particular, and their illness in general.

Many of these Caregivers are required to take their clients outside daily; to the market, around the block, to the parks, bowling, social events, and more. They may have to provide their own cars or vans, navigating the streets with the rest of us while all the while chatting with and dealing with distractions from within their vehicles. Or it could be that public transit is used, and while it becomes less stressful in some ways such as not being responsible for driving, stress has to rise as they deal with all kinds of gawkers, on-lookers, well-wishers, busy-bodies and taunting juveniles too young to know the role they play.

It’s not hard to understand why people need to enlist the services of such people. A good Caregiver can reduce the daily stress of a person caring for an elderly parent. Many people might want to take time off to care for their own family members, but bills still have to be paid, mortgages kept up, and thus faced with the difficult choices of providing for oneself and providing for a parent, enter in the discussion of enlisting a Caregiver.

Here in Canada, statistics tell us that we have a very large population of older people, and in the coming 3 – 8 years that large group is going to swell to a huge number as all the baby-boom generation shift into the retiring categories, and many of them needing care. The services of Personal Support Workers, Caregivers and Companions is going to exhaust the current number of those available, and the good ones will have no problem finding employment. In fact, if you have a car and licence in good standing, and are in good physical health yourself with a propensity to enjoy providing care for others, you may be in high demand if you are a Caregiver for years to come.

And it’s not only the old and feeble that people care for. No, it may be middle-aged people with mental and physical health issues. Even younger people are out there in need of care, but the stereotype is the older client.

And I admire the Caregivers for many reasons. They take charge of cleaning patients up who have had urinated or worse in bed and need fresh linens and clothing. They deal with patients who may not be fully or even slightly in charge of their mental faculties and may not even know who they are whatsoever, thinking one day they are a child of their own, or someone out to rob them when they sleep. They can be verbally abused in this way, treated poorly and unappreciated by their charges, underpaid by their employers, questioned thoroughly if something goes missing, expected to render medications but first suspected if medications cause problems.

Caregivers are also angels among us. They allow people to carry on with their jobs, providing income for their own families. They provide respite for frazzled people who need a mental break themselves, who are overwhelmed and laden with guilt from not being where they think they need to be in order to be where they have to be. They endure all the slander mentioned above, they are expected to bond and enjoy the company of the irritable, and quickly endear themselves to their clients so that the search for a Caregiver is concluded to everyone’s satisfaction.

You might think these people would be handsomely paid for their services, but in truth the financial compensation they receive is limited. Their formal education and training may be limited to some basic first aid courses, sessions in how to deal with difficult people and a Certificate program in providing personal care. They could conceivably be on social assistance or seeking a career change, a registered nurse looking to branch out, a previously unemployed person taking this job thinking it’s a stop-gap measure while they look for what they call, ‘a real job’. They come with many different motivations and stories themselves.

Depending on a families needs, they may take time to find the right person, or they may just throw the cheapest person into the job if they don’t have the time, patience or interest in hiring the very best they can find.

If you are a Caregiver, I applaud your vocation and your choice. I for one certainly hope that you do your very best daily to provide high quality care, and that you are appreciated for your work by those who pay you, those in your care, those you meet and that it’s reflected in the compensation you receive.