Feel Just Like You Did Last Year?


In every household around the world, the calendars flipped on January 1st, marking not only a new year, but a new decade. The internet is full of people posting about the new hope that this brings, the fresh starts, the opportunities that await and it would seem all we have to do is jump on board the bus and we’re on our way with an overly enthusiastic and energetic group of positive people. How can we not have a grand time?

Yet, something is wrong. Today seems just like yesterday and yesterday felt pretty much like previous days before that. While the calendar turned over, your life seems pretty much unchanged otherwise. So you’re starting to wonder, “With everyone I read about touting the arrival of 2020 as a reason to celebrate, why do I feel left out? If anything, these overly happy and positive people have me feeling more depressed than I was before.”

Let’s be clear about one thing shall we? The turning over a calendar alone hasn’t brought about magical change for ANYONE. Having said that, it’s what flipping the calendar represents that has people excited and optimistic. Take reading a story in a book. The chapter you’re reading seems rather long and is really moving a little slower than you’d like. It’s You flip the pages just to see how long it will be until you reach a new chapter and you see there’s another 12 pages. You could skip the 12 pages of a book but you can’t do so with life. The arrival of 2020 is like the first few words on that next chapter; the one you hope will speed up the action, draw you fully in to the plot and get you wanting to read more; really caring about the protagonist and wondering how they’ll fare in the end. So this is what 2020 is and why so many are excited.

But here’s the catch; you and I – them too for that matter – we all have to work to put ourselves into the positions we need to be in for us to take advantage of the opportunities 2020 is going to bring. If we don’t invest ourselves in the work it will take, the phone won’t ring nor will we get that single email that we dream of that leads to an employment offer. 2020 can be the year that we look back on and believe was the moment our lives were forever changed for the better, but we have to do things that bring about such change.

Ah change. It’s what you want isn’t it. That’s not a typo because it’s not a question but rather a statement. You want change. But change doesn’t happen when you sit and do nothing and the chance of change happening for the better is only marginally better when you keep doing whatever it is you’ve done in the past. Real, significant change occurs most often to people who do things differently and with applied energy.

Whether you’re job hunting, looking for a promotion – hey maybe even looking for Mr. or Miss Right, two things are needed; 1) a change in how you’re going about things and 2) a lot of work on your part. The thing about the work first; it is work to find work or to land a promotion or to be discovered by the person who is hoping to meet you this year. Work though in this sense is something you should relish; after all you’re going after something you really want, so your motivation should be heightened. As for a change in how you’re going about things, it stands to reason that if you keep doing things as you’ve always done them, it’s likely the results you get will be similarly the same.

Okay, so it’s January 6th today, we’re about a week into the new year and you’re feeling down because you’re standing alone with your 2020 party hat on, the streamers are on the ground and the noisemaker in your hand just seems so phony.

Avoid looking for company so you can be miserable and disillusioned together. Misery might like company, but this isn’t the company you want. If you really want to feel alive and celebrate success, what is it going to take to get you personally motivated? Again, might be talking a job, losing weight, repairing a family issue, buying a car, improving your mental health, being more assertive etc.

My suggestion is to consult an expert in the area you want to obtain success. What they’ll want from you is a commitment to your end goal and this means you’ll have to put in the work necessary on your end if you want their help to be truly beneficial. Otherwise, you’re just giving away your time and money.

If you are genuinely and honestly wanting to improve some aspect of your life, there are all kinds of people who want to work with you and support you. Be prepared however to do things that will require stamina; both physical and mental. If you want it bad enough however, I’ll guarantee – that’s right I’ll guarantee – that you’ll achieve your goal. Why? Because when you want it bad enough, you discover that putting in the work takes less effort as you build on your own momentum. Getting started and building that momentum is the hardest part.

If you feel nothings changed, maybe it hasn’t – yet. But it can and it will if you really want it.

 

Helping / Living With The Unemployed


If you or someone you know is apathetic about finding employment; really not caring one way or the other if work is found or not, the only way to get them moving is to identify that one thing. “That one thing?”, you ask. Yes, that one thing that makes wanting to find work more meaningful than not caring.

For a family member, friend or professional working with an unemployed individual, this is a tremendous challenge. You are also likely to find that the longer a person has been unemployed, the greater the effort will be to shift their thinking sufficiently to get them started.

Be forewarned, you can’t motivate someone else. Oh you can help them, support them and encourage them, but you cannot motivate someone else to want something they don’t want themselves. All you’ll get if they don’t want it bad enough is a token effort, and the first time they run into a barrier, they’ll pack it in and go back to what was comfortable; not bothering to look. Unfortunately, they may reason that they can be unemployed and struggling to find work or unemployed and taking it easy. For many, a simple choice.

The frustrating part for those around the unemployed person is failing to understand why they’ve become so disinterested and why they seemingly won’t put in the effort to find work. It’s highly likely that there’s been a major shift in their values; and the values they currently hold differ from those around them to such an extent they’ve become difficult to be around. There may be an increase in friction and tension, more arguments, less things to talk about, or the conversation about work might be one they insist is off the table.

There are far too many factors that could be in play in any individual case for me to accurately know what’s behind a person’s apathy, but here’s one possibility that may be going on. After having become recently unemployed, the person took some time to self-heal mentally. This is especially true after having been fired, let go, or quit a job they found problematic. At this point, they wanted to find work, and planned on doing so soon. When they felt ready, they began to look. That period of time to, ‘get ready’ may have been anything from a week to over a year – hard as that might be for someone else to understand.

As this person started to look for a job, they found it harder to get one than they had in the past. Perhaps because of technology and having to use computers to apply online, or having a poor resume, they kept getting nowhere on their applications. Interviews weren’t happening, or when they did, no job offers came. From the person’s point of view, they’ve left a job on bad terms, can’t get interviews, aren’t sure really how to compete against so many other people now applying for the same jobs, and their psychological state is becoming increasingly fragile.

Without being able to articulate what they are experiencing and how they really feel, they retreat rather than engage, and withdraw into themselves. Socializing becomes a huge outpouring of effort and only having so much energy to get through a day, they choose to stay in the relative comfort and safety of their home or a room in their home. This isolation skews their thinking; they become anxious beyond their safety zone, perhaps more irritable and easily frustrated. Whereas they used to be happy and good to be around, they are now a constant source of worry for others and an ever-present and growing concern.

How they see themselves has changed dramatically. Once productive and self-reliant, they had dignity and a healthy view of their ability to provide. Now they feel dependent, reliant on family or friends – and when that dependency becomes too hard to live with, they remove themselves and turn to the broader society at large to support them. It’s sad, it’s unfortunate and it’s not uncommon.

Of course they – or you, never used to feel or be this way. Once purposeful and hopeful, things have changed. It’s understandable why so many might self-medicate with alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs. With the ever-present thoughts of failure, disappointment and regret, anything that takes that thinking away, even for a short time is appealing.

Suddenly, just telling someone to get a job and expecting them to respond accordingly doesn’t sound at all realistic. Getting a job is transferring our own value of employment onto this other person who doesn’t share our value system as they might once have done. Yes, they genuinely want work perhaps, but they haven’t the energy, focus, willpower and motivation to make any real progress on their own. None, until that is, they find that one thing that they want more than they want the way things are. And no, you can’t find it for them.

Conversations are good; talk that draws someone out once the trust is established that allows them to go deeper and unload the ‘big’ stuff. Some are never going to work again, some may and others will. All three types will need support however, and the nature of the support they receive will vary depending on the individual.

Sure it’s challenging for family, friends and those who work with this population. Do what you can; know your limitations.

Dark Days Having An Impact?


Everywhere on our planet, albeit at different times of the year depending on where you live, the elongated orbit we take around the sun brings us increased darkness as the sun takes a little longer to rise and sets earlier at the end of the day. Where I am in Canada, here I sit at 5:50 a.m. and outside is completely dark.

Now were this a couple of month’s ago, there’d be light outside. Our summer is waning and Autumn is moving in. While it’s many people’s favourite time of year, for others, this prevailing darkness which shortens our hours of daylight is of great concern. The darkness outside touches a darkness within; moods change, some cocoon themselves away, contact with others is restricted, it’s harder to get going in the morning and there can be a prevailing sense of anxiety, worry, stress and depression.

Some of us adapt to this change in light better than others. If your job is to record the attendance figures for your organization, you may note patterns of absenteeism, increased use of mental health days, and even when people are at work, there can be a drop in productivity for some individuals. This isn’t just a case of lazy workers, but may be attributed to this period of reduced natural light.

For many people, there will soon be days of commuting to work in the darkness and again commuting home in the dark. Not everyone has the benefit of sitting with a window out into the world around them, and so it’s possible that without making a conscious effort to get out for a walk at midday, one could travel to work in the dark, never see the light of day and then return home in the dark. Now if this goes on from Monday to Friday, that’s a huge block of time being deprived of daylight.

There’s a name for this condition which negatively impacts some people; seasonal affective disorder. (Isn’t there a name these days for everything?) It’s important to remember that such a condition is not someone voluntarily choosing to be so affected. This isn’t a conscious choice to be moody; it’s not something one can, ‘snap out of’. It’s a state of mental health.

Just like many other mental health conditions, it’s invisible to the eye though. I mean there’s no walking cast or arm in a sling that gives us a visual clue to someone’s condition. Those affected may actually do their best to compensate for their mood by forcing smiles, laughing along at things they don’t really find funny; in other words, doing their best to appear to be their normal self. They aren’t sick in the sense of having a virus nor is there a need to be walking around with a box of tissues at hand.

Now you and I who aren’t affected to the extent these people are might still find ourselves missing the sun. We all have an awareness of the lack of light in the morning and evening – all of us. However, those impacted to the point where it affects their mental health experience this lack of light differently. They may not know what the problem is defined as, they may just feel they aren’t themselves. Without knowing it’s the deprivation of natural sunlight, they may just brood more than normal wondering, “what’s wrong with me?”

Now take this condition and add to it unemployment. For many unemployed people, waking up and consciously realizing there’s no job to go to is in itself a depressing state. Looking for work as you know takes focus, energy, commitment, a strength to face the disappointments of outright rejection, being passed over for someone else or getting no feedback at all on jobs applied to. When you add in the negative impact of what we know to be Seasonal Affective Disorder, well, you’ve got someone who should be ramping up their job search but who is weighed down and not at their best. Worst of all, on the outside, they appear to be normal.

So, what can be done? Well, like many first steps, getting in touch with your physician is a good idea. A check up might be in order. Yes, and be honest when you see him or her. Even if you’ve got a 1 p.m. appointment on a sunny day and your mood has improved, it’s incumbent on you to share openly and honestly about how you experience your days. Many tend to downplay their mental health; wanting to appear ‘normal’, to come across as in good shape and in control; able to handle themselves. But if you conceal what you experience, you won’t get the help you need. Like the toothache that somehow disappears the day of the dental appointment, you’ll regret not being open and honest with your doctor who can’t treat what they don’t know.

Secondly, get out in the daylight. Go for a walk and clear your head. Make a point of looking out a window during the day if possible. Consider some vitamin tablets to compensate with what you miss from the sun.

Most of all, do your best to engage when your instincts tell you to withdraw and isolate yourself. Your thoughts will go to darker places if you’re alone. And finally, open up and share how you’re doing; this is a strength my friend.

We’re all in this together.

When You’re Lost And You’re Broken


Sure I’ve said before that having a job gives you a sense of identity; you see yourself as an employee of a company. When introduced to others you’ll often say as part of your answer what you do and who you work for, and conversely when you are out of work you’ve lost this part of your identity.

That being said, when you’re lost, trying to figure out what direction to go in life; when you’re feeling broken and what isn’t broken feels fragile, you may be wise to put your job search on hold. Now, sure an immediate job would indeed restore – if only shortly – that sense of who you are and give your flailing sense of confidence a boost. However, what a job gives you may be outweighed by what a job demands of you, and I’m just saying you might not be in the best frame of mind or have what it physically takes to keep it and be successful.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at this time with many areas of your life seemingly in chaos and confusion, you may find it comforting to know that what you’re experiencing is indeed quite normal. That doesn’t make it any easier perhaps, as it’s personal and it’s happening to you of course, but knowing that other people – and many of them – are or have experienced the same feelings you are can give a person a sense of hope.

So what I mean is that it isn’t just the lack of a job that’s likely got you worried. If only it was just that! No, it’s probable that you at also dealing with a growing lack of confidence and self-esteem. Could be you’re wondering more and more, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just have a normal life?” Without employment, you’re no doubt cutting back on buying healthy foods and buying them in the same numbers you used to. Maybe you’ve got growing anxiety as you feel left behind more and more and it’s leading to depression. You’re sleeping patterns are totally off, you can’t sleep when you do go to bed and you’re zapped of physical energy when you feel you should be up and going.

On top of all this you’re more irritable, negative thoughts seem to last longer and longer; drugs and alcohol to self-medicate give some short-term relief but the thoughts return and then you add guilt for having used them. Financial worries, accumulating debt, calls from creditors, losing time on your phone…when will it end?

So does this sound like the right time to be putting yourself out there as an attractive option for an employer? Likely not. More likely is the fact that you’ll try with little success to get a job and after having been turned down again and again, you’ll add to your growing frustration and just feel like giving up. Possibly worse, you may not even be aware that what you believe you’re doing a good job of concealing is on full display and a lot of other people can see the changes in you and know you’ve got issues going on.

Think I’m laying it on rather thick? That it couldn’t possibly be this bad? Well, sadly, I’m not illustrating the life of a handful of people here but actually sharing the experience of a rather large segment of the population. It’s sad yes, but for many of these people its debilitating. So it’s not helpful to say to everyone who lacks a job to just pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get out there and get a job. Don’t you think that given the choice they’d love to be working and feeling productive?

Thing is these are people with what appears to be invisible disabilities. There’s no cast on an arm, label on a forehead, crutch supporting their walk or warning sign they carry. Without these easy to read indicators, it can be difficult to then see what might explain erratic or self-destructive behaviours. Hence, the broken and fragile might not get the empathy they could use; the understanding and support that would be a start. As a result they may withdraw further and increase their isolation, loneliness, and ironically retreat to the places depression feeds and grows.

It’s hard to know where to start when so many things seem wrong and need attention; in fact it can be overwhelming. Reaching out for help does take effort, and yes it might take a few tries to find the right people who can counsel and offer the aid you want and need to help you on your way back. No one knows your personal struggles like you; you’re the expert when it comes to what you see as wrong, or needing attention.

A good doctor who listens and will make a referral is a good place to start. Seeing a Mental Health Counsellor (look them up online in your community or if you haven’t got a computer with internet access, visit a social services agency where you live.)

Rather than work on and fix all the areas where things are wrong, start with one. Just one thing to improve. Don’t give yourself the pressure of a deadline to ‘fix’ it either. Give yourself credit and give yourself permission to try perhaps with some room for setbacks too. May your efforts move you forward to a healthier and happier you.

How Many Jobs Should You Apply To Per Day?


The short answer is a nice big fuzzy, “it depends.”

Now of course the logical question you’re framing in your mind is what does it depend on? Am I correct? While setting goals for yourself is commendable and strongly encouraged, it’s not always the best strategy to set a number of jobs to apply to each day when you’re out of work. That may come as a surprise to some of my readers given that I’m an Employment Counsellor.

An effective job search is about more than just filling out applications and firing off resumes to organizations online or via email. In fact, a healthy job search allocates time to a number of activities which will keep you busy and productive.

Now while you may be driven to actually apply for employment, it’s not always the case that the person who applies for the most number of jobs is ultimately the first one hired. Nor is it the case that the one who applies for the most number of jobs is the one who lands in the right job; and that can lead to many job changes when the positions don’t last long.

Sure you should look for jobs daily. By all means set aside some time in the morning to see what new postings may have come out in the last 24 hours. You don’t want to miss an opportunity that you’ve otherwise kept your eye on and find it has some extremely short deadline to apply and then miss it. How unfortunate that would be! If you also look into postings once during the afternoon, you’re already doing a good job of staying on top of what’s available.

There are other things you should be paying attention to however; and it’s these other things that will keep you productively engaged in your job search and give you enough variety so you avoid discouragement. Here’s a list:

  1. References. Now is the best time to put together a list of the people you know who will vouch for your work performance. Current or former employers, supervisors and/or co-workers are excellent choices. You’ll need a minimum of 3 of these, including the correct spelling of their names, titles, company names, phone numbers and emails. By the way, send them a current resume to have on hand as well as a note of appreciation for their ongoing support.
  2. Social Media Profile. When applying for a position, many employers will turn to the internet and dig around to find what they can about you. If you started a LinkedIn profile but never really developed it much, now is a great time to devote some attention to developing and fleshing out your profile. Put in a little effort now and you won’t feel embarrassed about your profile later.
  3. Exercise. Job searching is stressful for almost everybody and it manifests itself in physical ways. Getting out for a walk, bicycle ride, the elliptical gathering cobwebs in the basement or a trip to the gym will not only improve your physical fitness but ward off aches and pains.
  4. Enjoy A Pastime. If you need permission to spend some time doing things you enjoy, here it is. Get out in the garden, work those knitting needles, pound those keyboards, pick up that paintbrush. Setting aside some time to do things which bring you happiness and keep up your sense of normal day-to-day living is strongly encouraged. Job searching need not be all-consuming.
  5. Practice Interviewing. I know, I know, I know. This is likely something you don’t enjoy and only want to do when absolutely necessary. Still, without practice and more practice, you’re not going to be at your best just winging it on the day of the big interview. You’ll feel mounting anxiety if you put off practicing and end up sitting in some Reception area wishing you had dusted off your interview skills earlier.
  6. Work Your Network. Networking is essential; engaging with other people, taping into their resources, gaining support and advice, drawing on their expertise and experience. Be it phone calls, face-to-face, over the net, etc., devote some time to reaching out. All those friends on FB and connections on LI you’ve been building are a good place to start.
  7. Diet. By diet I do not mean lose weight. What I do mean is pay attention to both the quantity of food you consume and the quality. When you’re off work, the proximity to your pantry and fridge is considerably reduced, and your trips to both may be much more frequent. If you don’t bring junk into the house in the first place it won’t be there for you to over-indulge in during those weak moments when you crave comfort food.

There’s more you could be doing for sure, but these 7 are a good start. Setting yourself an arbitrary goal of say, 8 job applications a day will either set you up to fail or have you applying at jobs you don’t really want at all just to meet this quota.

If you’re only applying to a single job every week or less you’ve got to step things up my friend. What I’m saying is balance is the key; apply for jobs that you’re truly qualified to do and motivated to do – absolutely. It’s equally important however to get out from in front of a monitor and keep living.

 

How You And Your Work Part Ways


Sooner or later we’ll all be gone be it retired, fired, quit, laid off, contract ended, downsized, company relocated, or one of several other possibilities. It will either come about for reasons within or beyond our personal control but it will come about as I say inevitably; one day you’re working and the next you’re not.

When it does happen it will be a cause for any number of emotions. You could find yourself feeling jubilant, excited, let down, angry, shocked, satisfied, sad, desperate etc. Even the way you walk out the door for the last time will be handled in any of several ways. You could find yourself having a big party thrown in your honour surrounded by all the co-workers you’ve had over a number of years with your partner invited to work for the big occasion. Equally possible is you could walk out figuring it’s just another day and come to work the next only to find the building entrance locked and the company out of business with a, “Closed: Have a nice day” sign taped to a chained fence.

Ouch! That last scenario is a bit tough to imagine; surely that doesn’t really happen? Oh yes it can and it has. Well hopefully for both you and I it won’t come to that!

Let’s look not at what might happen beyond our control because as it suggests, we have no control over situations dictated by others. Let’s look at things from the viewpoint that we’re going to leave on our own terms. We may work into retirement, quit or have a contract end which we knew would happen when we agreed to the contract duration in the first place.

As far as contract work goes, there are people who take contracts out of necessity because they have been unsuccessful at landing permanent part-time or full-time jobs. Others take contract work as their personal preference; stringing together contract after contract. For these folks, they see a variety of employers and starting over again and again as desirable. For example in an Administrative Support role, they might enjoy parachuting in to cover a maternity leave for a year or less and then just as they get restless and want a change, their contract period is looming and they leave before they become bored and less productive. They move on and now it’s covering for someone off on sick leave and they are welcomed as they take some of the pressure off others doing double duty.

If you’re the kind of person who likes the variety contract work brings, you’re likely okay with the instability of the security contract work has; you trade that off willingly for the stimulation of change. When you walk out the door of a company you’re not as emotionally attached to the desk you worked at, the people you worked alongside; a job is a job and it’s on to the next one.

Turning to look at quitting is a different experience depending on the reasons behind the reason you’re walking away from the work. You might quit for health reasons, a distaste for the work, to avoid being fired if you think that’s coming, or of course for a better job, a move to another city, This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, just some of the reasons you might walk out.

When you do quit, the, “How will I do it?” question arises. Will you just walk out and not tell anyone you’re not returning the next day? Will you march into the Boss and let her know face-to-face that you’re quitting and give her a piece of your mind in the process? Or, will you take her out for lunch and pay for it with some of your lottery winnings? (One can dream can’t one?)

I suppose the question in quitting is whether you seek to keep the relationship with the employer as positive as you can or do you just not care because in your mind you’re never coming back and won’t be affected negatively in the future. By the way, Life has a charming way of bringing many things around full circle so my advice is to always leave on the best terms possible.

Retirement is attractive if you have something to look forward to; some satisfying way to spend your time; for time is what people cite as the reason for going. Time to spend with the grandkids, time to travel, time to relax, time for me, time for us, time…time…time…

Timing your retirement is what it’s all about from an efficiency point of view too. You want to leave before your employer and co-workers resent you just hanging on doing less and less while they pick up the slack more and more. You want that last day to be a good one; whether you want a party or a quiet exit with a simple hug or handshake at the end of the day, you want to walk out with your head high and feeling appreciated for all those years you invested.

Looking at how you and your work part ways now might give you some measure of control about both when and how it will happen. The advantage in thinking ahead gives you the power and comfort of controlling what you can. This of course makes it a positive experience to embrace.

 

 

 

You Know What You SHOULD Be Doing But…


Some people are handicapped because they need help deciding what to do next when it comes to moving forward. If someone in the know would only tell them what to do and why, they’d take action. Others though, know what they should be doing yet fail to actually do what they know they should.

Sometimes it’s not a big deal really; you go to bed with good intentions of cleaning out and organizing the garage in the morning. When the day dawns you just don’t feel like it so you don’t. It’s not a big deal because not doing it on this particular day doesn’t impact on anyone in particular. It’s been disorganized for a few weeks and one more day won’t matter. With the passing of another day – maybe even a week, you find the motivation to clean and organize and the job gets done.

However, there is a problem when you know what you should be doing, you’ve got no good reason why you aren’t doing what you need rather than want to do, and the problem of inaction persists. Take the whole unemployment and job search picture. It’s probable that you know you should be looking for work, making up those resumes and actually sending them off. You tell yourself you’re going to get at it first thing in the morning and go to bed with the best of intentions. Well done.

Upon waking up however, you don’t feel that same degree of motivation. Unlike putting off cleaning up the garage however, getting down to looking for work weighs on your mind. You get restless, your intellect tells you what you should be doing but you can’t or won’t motivate yourself to get going. You pace around the place, sit down, get back up moments later, look out the window, walk around some more, lie down but can’t sleep, get up and walk around some more. So what’s wrong?

It’s not like you don’t have the skills to do what needs doing. It’s not like you don’t know what you should be doing either. You know the potential payoff is achieving your goal of getting a job which would be good and the money of course would help. So you’ve got the incentive, skills and resources and yet, here you are, almost incapacitated and paralyzed and can’t figure out why. Meantime of course, you’re wracked with guilt because your brain just won’t shut down or move on to other thoughts. You don’t find satisfaction in reading, watching the television or whatever normally brings you comfort.

By the way, we all have days such as these. So if you have the odd day like the one I’m painting above, the experience is normal. Definitely doesn’t make it more enjoyable of course, but it is normal. Looking for work when you’re unemployed is definitely frustrating for many what with the rejections, the unanswered letters and emails, the hanging around waiting for interviews etc. The danger lies not in having the odd day like these then but rather, having day upon day of days like these. If this experience is your ‘normal’ day, this isn’t the normal experience.

It’s not likely I’m telling you anything so far you don’t know yourself. Now you might be asking yourself the classic, “What’s wrong with me?” question. In a very real way, I’m thrilled if you are. Why? Simply because if you are asking this question or some close version of it, you recognize that something if off, you’re not behaving and acting the way you’d like and most importantly you would appear in the asking of the question to be wanting to change. So to summarize, you know something is wrong, you want to be actively engaged and that requires some kind of change. Good!

Now, have you been able to – for lack of a better word – ‘fix’ things yourself? If this was an occasional thing you’d have moved on and you haven’t had you? No. So if you want to feel better and know change is needed, and if you haven’t been able to bring about the change you want on your own, it’s only logical to come to the conclusion that you need the assistance and help of someone else. This my friend isn’t a weakness. Sure years ago if you sought out help you would possibly be called weak; be told to just suck it up, man up, get over it, etc.

Many people today believe that reaching out for help is a sign of wisdom. Organizations like Bell promote a Mental Health Day which endorsed by celebrities and widely promoted. Many workplaces have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) which workers can confidentially access to discuss concerns. So where to start? Starting with your Doctor is a good idea. Remember you know you want to feel differently than you do at the present so admitting there’s something wrong is okay.

If technology isn’t your thing, get out the phone book and look up counselling in your community. Walk up to the local hospital and walk past the Emergency Department and head to the Information Desk. Ask for the location of the Dietician and get some information on eating right, as what goes in plays a huge part in your physical health which you shouldn’t ignore or abuse. It’s all connected. Get out and walk. Talk.

Your wellness and good mental health are worth it. Other suggestions?

Forgive Yourself And Keep Going


As I’ve said time and time again, being out of work and looking for employment is a roller coaster ride of emotions. You’re energetic and productive one day, lethargic  and unproductive the next. On the days you make progress you feel good and on the days little is accomplished it’s so easy to get down on yourself.

My advice to you however is to watch those big emotional swings so you can anticipate and deal better with the self-blame which may rear its head from time-to-time. Depending on your individual situation, you may have noticed yourself becoming short with others or repeatedly asking yourself, “What’s wrong with me?”

What’s wrong of course is that you’re not comfortable with your unemployment and your lack of success so far in getting that next job. Sometimes it’s a lack of jobs to apply to in your field or only entry-level positions when you’ve been gainfully employed for 15 or more years and you’re overqualified for entry jobs but not getting anywhere when looking for mid-level or senior positions. Your reality and your assumption of where you’d be at this point in life don’t match up; that lack of balance is playing havoc with your self-image and that’s bringing on these feelings of inadequacy. Where you want to be vs where you are; someone should be held responsible and in your solitude you turn the finger and blame yourself.

Taking responsibility for your situation is commendable; so good for you. However coming around to the point where you can forgive yourself for those unproductive days is healthy and will eventually lead to more of the productive ones which is far healthier.

At the end of a day in which you didn’t accomplish anything of significance, you can opt to be down on yourself or not. Now you might ask, “How on earth can I find a positive in a day when I’ve been so unmotivated I go to bed having accomplished nothing?”

Well think back on life when you were working. I’m willing to bet you enjoyed your downtime; time when you turned to a book, a hobby, enjoyed a television show, puttered around the garden or organized the garage for the umpteenth time. No matter how you spent that persona time, it was time spent of your own choosing; doing whatever you wanted. Sometimes you’d feel very productive and stand back at the end of the day and see what you’d accomplished. The garage was all tidy, the grass was cut and the garden beds weeded, 7 chapters of a book you’ve been meaning to read covered..

There were times too when you lazed around the house and read the paper, had a prolonged Sunday morning breakfast 2 hours later than normal, maybe just kicked back lounging on your patio and soaked up some sun. At the end of those days you didn’t beat yourself up over being non-productive; you told yourself you’d earned those days, you’d needed them to recharge and then you went back to work focused, not having really done much on the weekend but still feeling good about those two days off just the same.

Looking for work is much the same as working in that both require effort and stamina. There’s no boss to hold you to account and certainly no cheque at the end of the week when you’re unemployed, but you’re use to one thing and that’s being accountable for how you spend your time. It’s this accountability that’s got you feeling the way you do; accountability not to a boss but to yourself. You my friend, unlike the boss at work, know exactly how much you’ve given the job at hand at each and every moment throughout your day. So it’s only natural then that you know all the times you got distracted, weren’t motivated, sat and stared at a blank monitor, feared picking up the phone for fear of calling someone and being rejected yet again.

Forgive yourself. This is the key. You’re under stress my friend and giving yourself the grace of having off days is healthy at this time. In fact, while maintaining a regular routine of getting up and getting showered, shaved, dressed and bearing down on getting your next job is commendable and excellent advice, it’s not always going to happen. If at the end of a day you’ve done things you’ve found pleasure in; reading, repairing something you’ve meant to do for some time, watching a movie etc. that could be just the stimulation your brain needed. Your psyche might improve having fed your self-indulgence.

Of importance is to acknowledge your feelings and then return to engage back in your job search. Be it the next day, later this afternoon, or even after a 2 hour break to watch a movie you could have watched in the evening but watched mid-morning instead, get back at it free of the guilt.

Prolonged unemployment will have these ups and downs and it’s best to understand you can’t maintain 100% focus on employment 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, for months on end without some periods of low productivity. That little voice in your head that makes you feel guilty whenever you find your mind wandering? Knock it off your shoulder and stop playing the blame game.

You’ve got a lot to offer the right employer. Your self-confidence hasn’t gone for good. Forgive yourself and keep going.

 

 

Get Out Of The House


If you are out of work, you might be one of those folks who by nature retreats to where you live as your sanctuary; the place you feel safe and secure in. Be wary my friend, your decision could come to backfire on you and one day you wake up to realize you’ve imprisoned yourself through voluntary exile.

That sanctuary of yours; the one place you could relax in and just be comfortable with yourself after a lacklustre day at work has changed. Now that you spend all your day inside, your relaxation there is replaced with too much time to think, the chairs that once brought you peace now seem unusually uncomfortable. Pacing the floorboards is little better for you move around the house yet feel nonetheless like you’re stuck.

My advice to you? Get out of the house; you’re in serious danger! Sounds dramatic I understand but it’s true and for a few reasons. First and foremost you want the one place you live and return to each day to be a place where you can unwind, feel comfortable and at rest. If you seldom leave your residence, you can hardly return to it and feel that aura of safety and familiarity surround you.

While it’s understandable you might wish to limit your exposure to friends where you’ll have to address the issue of your unemployment and provide job search updates, shutting out these people can have unintended consequences. When you fail to communicate with others, you’re going to start imagining what these conversations and interactions are going to go down like. How you picture them is going to be affected by the mood you are in; and the mood you are in is…well…not so great. So how you think things will go is often worse than the reality.

Now when we are stressed – and unemployment ranks right up there as a big stressor – our minds don’t often shut down or move from one topic to another unless you’re suffering from multiple worries. Then it’s great at shifting from one bad thing to another! But alone in our house without the distractions that come from what we see, smell, hear, touch and feel, we can become consumed with those thoughts. Then what follows is often prolonged sadness, low self-esteem, self-criticism and questioning followed by anxiety and full-blown depression.

When you walk out the door and interact with your world, you take in fresh air for a start and just by moving, you get some much-needed exercise. Your brain will start receiving new information; everything from the colour of the sky and the sound of moving traffic to that small rabbit that just darted across the path ahead you’re walking on.

As you move around and your brain starts receiving all this sensory data around you, you may find that it is these little things that for a moment here and there replace your constant thoughts regarding your job loss. Building on one or two of these, you may find your attitude improves slightly; your perspective improves as well. When your thoughts return to your present situation it may occur to you that just for a few minutes you had other thoughts and how nice that was.

Getting out to see a movie for example often has the same impact. You escape for an hour or two into another world, forget your problems and find you are enjoying doing something akin to your normal routine. And from those around you, you realize you are doing something normal that others are doing too. In short, you are fitting in; and fitting in is what you haven’t been feeling with the lack of employment.

Here’s another benefit of leaving your house: you may find that when you again turn your thoughts to looking for work, you might actually have some possible solution to a problem seemingly pop up out of nowhere. Either this or the problem has actually diminished in size (perspective). “Why didn’t I think of that before?” you might ask yourself. “Of course! I could try this or that.” Try as you might you’ll never be able to figure out what it was that prompted that solution to come to you, but had you remained inside brooding about things, it wouldn’t have come.

When you get out of the house you might also notice a rise in your energy level and a lighter mood to go with it. This is not a panacea for all your troubles make no mistake, but getting out is healthy both for body and for mind. If all a person’s problems in life were solved by getting out the door and going for a walk the world would be filled with people who walked and some would never stop. It’s not a cure-all and not meant to be an over-simplification of the real issues you’re dealing with or attempting to resolve.

By the way if you do get out, here’s an interesting thing to check on. Are you walking with your head up or not? Seriously. When you are walking in what you believe to be an upright position, lean your head back slightly, and spread your shoulders. If I’m correct, you may have changed what you perceive as your normal stance to a slightly hunched forward and downward gazing one. Stand up straighter, look ahead and breathe deeply filling your entire chest cavity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When It Ends How Long Do You Wait?


The job is over and apparently it didn’t end well. How long you wait before launching a new job search largely depends on two key factors: what else is going on in your life and what state of mind are you in at the moment.

Simply put, you can be self-motivated to find a new job but find that the distractions going on around you in your life make giving the job search the focus it requires an impossibility. You could also be conflicted in wanting to work; needing to work, but so mentally fragile due to how a job ended that you’d be better off taking some time to process and resolve things first.

For many people, losing their job has a similar impact as losing a loved one. You could be in shock when it happens, angry, might even go so far as to try to plead your case to have the termination undone or pray to God to have it back. Then eventually you come to terms with things and move on. Just as different people grieve the loss of people in varying amounts of time, the same is true of mourning the loss of employment.

Now of course it doesn’t always end with a termination for a job to end badly. No, you could quit a job due to harassment or where the working conditions were so toxic and your physical and/or mental health were being so negatively impacted that you quit to preserve your safety and sanity. In such a case you made the decision yourself to leave and that decision put the control in your hands, but the fact you are unemployed and the stress that brings are still taxing.

Remember though some people have to have some things end before they can turn their attention to new and better things. So while yes many people would look for another job while employed and make a seamless transition between the two, for others the one must end before they can invest energy in finding a new one. There are after all just so many hours in a day and your hours of work may preclude a real job search if you’re sleeping when the Hiring Managers of the world are working.

We are all different though aren’t we? In so many glorious ways we differ from those around us. Were we to sit down in a room of people in the same relative situation we found ourselves in, we’d find varying opinions on how long is right to wait between ending one job and starting another.

Some people would like a week or two; seeing the time as a holiday of sorts. Sufficient time to relax a little, decompress and even spend a little money on fun things or extravagances knowing that secure income is guaranteed in the near future. These folks find the 2 weeks healthy and see it as a transition period, washing away the anguish of a bad experience and living in anticipation of a better one.

Ah but then there are others for whom the trauma is so intense it is as if they are paralyzed. These people are fragile, unstable, finding it difficult to cope with the simplest of daily tasks. Their self-esteem is leveled, their confidence shattered and they question their decisions on everything from what to eat to what to wear. For these folks, the pressure of launching a full-time job search is unthinkable. The problem is that to look at them from the outside, they may be doing an adequate job of masking all this; they look, “normal”.

Creditors, landlords, banks and other people to whom they have obligations don’t generally sympathize to the point where they are willing to forgo payments however so the pressure is on to get a job and do it quick. The outcome then is people looking for work who are not marketing themselves as they would otherwise; they are damaged, broken, wounded and reeling – but all of this internally.

Of course there are those who even when a job ends terribly have the self-confidence intact and the fortitude to pick themselves up and get out there immediately. These are the realists I suppose; life sent them a lemon but rather than making lemonade, they opt for something entirely new altogether and no job is going to land at their doorstep unless they get out there, so out they go!

On the other end of the scale however are those for whom the trauma is extreme. They may go not just weeks or months without really even looking for work but perhaps a year or more. They wouldn’t wish it so, but they are entirely incapable of moving forward in this one area of their life. The danger of course is that this one area impacts all the others; income, housing, finance, debts and assets, social integration, recreation and discretionary activities, family and friends dynamics etc.

“Just deal with it and move on” is often what people hear when a job ends badly. In a way that flippant (and often annoying) advice is the best advice in the broadest sense. “Dealing with it” however, well that’s where those who give the advice are often the ones who can accelerate the transitional grieving period faster themselves.

Got someone going through this you know? Be patient and supportive, help as you’re able and wait.