Why Aren’t You Working?


There are many reasons why people aren’t working; what’s yours? Some possibilities are:

  • Not looking for work
  • Physical or mental health restrictions
  • Poor interview skills
  • Weak resume
  • Unsure what to do
  • Attending school full-time
  • Raising pre-school age children and unable/unwilling to find childcare
  • Required as a primary caregiver for a family member
  • Not motivated

This isn’t an exhaustive list of course, just enough to stimulate some thought, give enough possibilities that some of my audience is captured and yes, perhaps enlighten those that think there’s only one reason anyone would be out of work – laziness.

The first and last reasons on my list – not looking and not motivated one could easily argue are so related they are really the same; ie. not motivated to look for work. For some people, this is absolutely true. Would you agree there are those who aren’t motivated enough to seek out a job? I mean, I know people who fit this category and I suspect you do as well. They have shelter and food provided by someone or some organization, their needs are modest, their motivation to work to earn enough money to support themselves just isn’t enough to get them going.

Perhaps it’s a phrase in that last sentence that is the real issue for many; the idea that money to support themselves is the motivation to work. Money does of course, provide the means to acquire housing and food, as well as the discretionary things in life which for many improves their quality of life. However, working to support oneself when you’re already being supported isn’t much motivation. In other words, if you’re not working but getting housed and fed, you might not be motivated to work 7 hours a day just to get housed and fed – something you already have.

Work therefore, or more importantly, the motivation to choose to work, has to come when there’s more to be gained than just money for basic support. For some it can be an issue of dignity vs. shame or embarrassment. Support yourself with your own source of income and you feel independence, a sense of being in control of what you do, where you live, what you do with your money, who knows your personal business and who doesn’t.

For some people, work provides social interaction. Be it with co-workers or customers, there’s some connection to other people, which stimulates our feelings of inclusiveness; we are part of something and not isolated. Feeling isolated, left behind, left out, missing out – these are common to people who don’t work in some cases. Of course, other unemployed people will tell you they get all the interaction with people they want; many of those they ‘hang with” themselves being unemployed.

Feeling a sense of purpose is one thing employed people often tout as the best part of their jobs. What they do is significant and important to some part of our population, and this feeling of purpose gives identity to the working person. The problem for some who struggle to find a job is in fact deciding on what job to do; in other words, they are focused so much on finding their purpose, they get paralyzed waiting for it to materialize.

The irony is that when you’re unsure what to do with your life, often the best way to discover it is to start working! It is through work that you learn where your skills are, which skills you wish to develop and improve on, what you like and don’t. You learn through success and failure what you’re good at, where you make a difference, where you’re appreciated for your service and what you do and don’t want to do in future jobs. The idea that at 20 years old you should have the next 43 years all laid out clearly before you is a myth. You’ll change jobs and careers in your lifetime – perhaps 7 or 8 times or more and this is normal.

For some – and you may not like this truth – it is a question of not trying hard enough. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not painting everyone with the same brush, and I’m not saying some people who are out of work don’t put in huge amounts of energy and time. However, if you’ve gone at your job search seriously with no success for a long time, its high time you partnered up with someone and get the guidance and support you obviously need to increase the odds of success. This is precisely the action many don’t want to take and that’s a puzzlement.

The crux of the thing is it’s essential that you’re honest with yourself when it comes to why you’re not working. What you tell others who ask may not be the real reason; what you know to be at the heart of why you aren’t working is the truth. So what is it?

Good questions might be:

  • Why aren’t I working?
  • Am I genuinely happy not working?
  • What’s stopping me? (Is it really me?)
  • Where could I get help and support to find work?
  • What would make me more employable?
  • Who might help me discover my strengths and interests?
  • How do I get help with childcare, transportation, the issue of my age?
  • Would volunteering somewhere be the best way to start?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue; whether it’s you or someone you know out of work.

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Have You Failed By Taking A Short-Term Anything Job?


Suppose you’re one of those people – and there’s a lot of them out there these days – who have some education beyond High School. You’ve planned all along on pursuing a job that makes use of that education. However, with a widening gap of unemployment on your résumé matching your growing frustration at not working, you’ve found yourself finding the idea of just taking a job – any job – more and more appealing; something you thought you never would. There’s this nagging notion that you’ve failed though that keeps you from actually applying for work outside your field of education. So have you?

The short answer is no, you haven’t. Exhale and breathe a sigh of relief. Do that a few times and read on.

There’s a lot of common sense involved in doing exactly what you’ve contemplated and like I pointed out in the beginning, you’re one of many who are well-educated and unemployed. It is not only understandable that you’d be looking at broadening your job search at some point – perhaps where you are at the moment – it’s also a very good idea.

So how come? I mean, Employment Coaches and Counsellors often say you should stick to your career plan and never give up on what you really want. Doing anything else is just settling isn’t it? What happened to finding your passion and not letting any setbacks get in your way of going after what’s going to make you truly happy? Flipping burgers, selling clothes, walking school kids across busy intersections: these aren’t the kind of jobs you thought you’d give more than a passing glance at. Could you ever imagine you’d actually be seriously thinking of going after one of these jobs at this point having finished College or University?

Hang on and settle down. We’re not talking forever here. No one is suggesting that you start your first day down at the fast food outlet and pump your first shouting, “Yes! I’ve arrived!”

The jobs we’re discussing here have been in the past called survival jobs. More and more they are also called transition jobs; work that bridges the gap of time and space between the present and a job in the future. These are typically short-term positions outside your field of training and education.

When you find yourself browsing these ads more and more and seriously thinking about actually applying, may I suggest you change your line of perception. Instead of thinking that you’ve failed; that your post-secondary education was a waste of both time and money, consider the positives of these transition jobs.

First and foremost, the income from a job – any entry-level job – will stem some financial bleeding. Admittedly while likely minimum wage, money is money and some is better than none. Perhaps more important than money however is the inclusion factor. Right now you’re outside the workforce; remember feeling that everyone has a job but you? That so many people you see from your window seem to have somewhere to go, something to do, while you sit and grow despondent, frustrated and perhaps depressed? Uh huh. Yep, getting up, showered, dressed and out the door with a purpose is always good. That routine you’ve been missing is more important than you might have thought.

Now if you’ve looked at that School Crossing Guard advertised on some Municipality’s website and scoffed at it, think again. First of all those hours; before school, at noon and late afternoon leave you two chunks of time – mid-morning and mid-afternoon – to continue your targeted job search. Of even more significance perhaps is that once you land a Crossing Guard job, even though you’re working outside, you’ve at the same time become an internal employee. Had you considered that? Yes, you’re now able to see and apply for the internal jobs with that Municipality; jobs that up until now you had no access to. Full-time jobs that pay much better and perhaps come with benefits too.

That Crossing Guard job might be one you have to take for 3 or 6 months before you’re eligible to apply for anther internal job. Okay so be it. Do the job at present and do it with a positive attitude. You’ve got this job so you might as well enjoy it and keep telling yourself you’re in transition from this to your next job – the one you really want.

Remember you don’t have to add a short-term job on your résumé, but consider doing so because it does bridge a gap. In your cover letter or at an interview you can certainly state with confidence that you took the short-term job where you are working to pay the bills but you’re highly motivated to seek work in your field as this is where your passion and strong interest are.

A failure? Far from it. You’re wise enough not to let pride get in the way and perhaps it even demonstrates your belief that no job, and certainly not the people doing them, should be looked down on. Perhaps it’s helped you learn humility and an appreciation for the hard work involved which you’d previously overlooked. Perhaps too you’re actually better for the experience and will be all the more grateful for the opportunity to work in the field of your choice doing what you love.

Suddenly, you might be more attractive to your employer of choice.

 

Make Staying In Touch Your Responsibility


Just two weeks ago now, I wrapped up an intensive two weeks working with a group of unemployed people who were job searching. While 4 of the people in that group obtained employment, 6 are still looking.

One fellow in that group previously worked in the field of IT. He shared with me that he had battled some personal issues with depression and anxiety, requiring him to actually exit the workforce for just over a year and take care of his mental health. When like him, you open up and trust someone enough to share such private information, you do yourself a huge favour.

For starters, you openly acknowledge a setback, demonstrate trust in others, and because the language you use is past tense, you even help yourself by realizing you’ve moved forward from where you were. Movement you see, is critical to repairing self-esteem and ones confidence. Overcoming such an obstacle and personal barrier means you can similarly overcome other barriers too because you’ve already done it; and unemployment is a barrier to success.

So he spent two weeks applying for work with some professional guidance and ended up with a few interviews. As it turns out, those interviews were with people representing placement services, and in his mind they weren’t really equating the same as an interview directly with an employer. I’m happy to say that he recently achieved just such an interview.

The thing I want to point out because it’s significant is that this fellow is doing something which the others in the group who are still looking for work have not done to date and that is staying connected. He has sent me a few brief emails keeping me advised on the job search, success obtaining interviews etc.

In response to one such email, I replied with, “So how did the interview go?” Now how long do you think it took me to prepare and send that email to him? Not very long is it? Yet that brief email to him communicated more than the six words alone. It sent a message to him that I am interested in his job search, interested in his success; interested in him.

When you are looking for work it can indeed be isolating. I’d venture to say that almost all the people whom I’ve had in my employment workshops say that what they truly appreciated from the group experience was the support of others, the feeling of being included and valued. When a brief two weeks comes to an end the key for those still looking is to maintain momentum by continuing to use all those great ideas and tips they picked up but it can be very tempting to fall back into poor daily habits.

I received a reply to my email by the way. In his response he mentioned how things had gone in the interview, and how he found he wasn’t as anxious as he’d been previously. This was no Recruiter, but an actual employer. I smiled as I read that the person doing the interview had trouble maintaining eye contact and seemed more nervous than my job seeker.

I was so proud of him because he told me that he’d been asked what he knew of the company and he’d done his homework in advance like never before and was confident in his answer and thinks he really impressed the interviewer. Awesome! He was still therefore continuing with the discipline and putting into practice the concepts I’d shared and it was paying off. And then he thanked me for my ongoing support.

Did you catch that? He thanked me for my ongoing support. You see that means a lot to someone who has been struggling, gains some measure of inclusiveness and then is back on their own again looking for a job. It’s like that song, “Don’t forget me when I’m gone” by Glass Tiger. And I haven’t.

Some really solid advice for anyone working with a professional Job Coach or Employment Counsellor is to always take the initiative and responsibility to stay in touch. Let’s face it, most professionals these days come into contact with a huge number of people either on their caseload, or through their daily exposure to job seeking clients. The reality is that you’ve got 1 person to stay in contact with, while the professional might have 50, 75, 100 – maybe 170, with more added every day.

With those kinds of numbers, it isn’t that you’ve been forgotten, it’s that there isn’t sufficient time to take care of ones daily tasks and then think to phone or email all 170 or so people and say, “Thinking of you…what’s up? How can I help you out?” So if you crave that ongoing support, you’ve got to take the relationship on as your own to invest in and make it your goal to stay in touch.

If you are in need of ongoing support, (and not everyone wants this), drop in unannounced, make an appointment, place a phone call, send an email. Share what your successes and struggles are. Go so far as to ask not to be forgotten! Staying visible keeps you in their mind if opportunities arise that you might be perfect for.

One last idea is to drop a line when you do succeed and are working long after you’ve notified that person you found a job. Tell them how you are doing. That could be helpful down the road!