A friend just lost her job through no fault of her own. The company was forced to make massive budget cuts, and her department was ‘dissolved.’ Though she was not the “last hired,” she (along with other members of her group) was among the “first fired,” solely because of the type of work she performed.
I opted to ditch the typical, required phrases. I knew that:
- “Chin up”
- “Something will turn up”
- “There are a ton of jobs out there”
and any number of other useless things people say in this type of situation would come across as forced and awkward. She didn’t want to hear that, and I knew it.
Who You Know
Unfortunately, I am not in a position where I can offer much assistance. I have an okay job, but I’m certainly not ‘middle-management,’ let alone a decision maker of any kind. I just show up to work every day and pray they don’t decide to can me, too. I have a quality network of family, friends, and professional contacts/acquaintances, but none of them seem to know of any jobs, either.
These days, everyone is trying so hard to keep their own livelihood, they just don’t have time to be looking or ‘connecting’ elsewhere. That, of course, creates the exact scenario my friend is now in.
No Good Deed…
She worked her ass off for these people: stayed late, came in early, worked weekends from home, on vacation, etc. I’m not trying to be her cheerleader here, and I realize that many, many people do and have done this for years.
The thing is, during this time, she wasn’t ‘networking,’ wasn’t keeping abreast of changes in the job market, perhaps was even too busy to “see the writing on the wall.” She knows and admits all of this, so I’m not talking behind her back. Add to that the fact that the only really close professional contacts she knew were her (now) former co-workers, and they are in the same situation!
It’s tough to get job leads from someone with the same skills and experience as you. Even in the rare occasions where people try to be nice and tell each other of an opening, you know they’re not going to do a damn thing to help you out, since they need the job themselves.
Unemployment is the New Employment
In my adult life, I have been out of work for two long stretches of time: once for eight months, and another time for seven months. I know that’s ‘peanuts’ to the length of time many folks today have been unemployed. During that time (especially the ‘second round’), I realized a sort of pattern start to emerge.
After three months, people stopped asking if I had found work. They likely didn’t want to hear my complaining, and they probably also realized they wouldn’t know what to say when I told them I was still jobless. You can only recycle those ‘phrases of encouragement’ before they start to get stale.
After six months, I started to ‘crack.’ I noticed that I was sleeping in later, taking afternoon naps, spending less time actually searching for work and more time playing on the computer, (window) shopping, cooking, etc.
This is Your Life
Before long, unemployment had become the norm. I even had developed a sort of schedule. Schedules are a good thing, of course, but in this case, I had almost accepted the fact that I might never find work again.
So, I would:
- get up around 10a
- search for jobs ‘til lunch
- have a long lunch while watching The Price is Right, Judge Judy, and other daytime TV
- take a two hour nap
- play on the computer
- window shop/cook/etc.
- watch evening TV until about midnight
- go to bed and hope for a job to ‘magically appear’ the next day
All the while my savings were being rapidly depleted, I was getting fat, my social life was reduced to chatting with the cashier at the grocery store, and — though I wasn’t about to admit it at the time — I was depressed. That’s when I decided I had to make a change…. and I did.
Get Up, Get Out
I decided to “get out there,” as they say. I got a minimum wage temp job (which was still more than the $0 wage I was making!) which lasted for six months. In my ‘free time’ I started volunteering. Then I went to a career coach… and she kicked my ass!
Being an ‘adult’ is funny. There is a tendency to ‘wave off’ any constructive criticism. You might figure, since you’re not a kid anymore, no one can “tell you what to do.” But when I was finally fed up with being unemployed (and down to my last few dollars), I was receptive to what my career coach had to say. In fact, when I eventually landed a job and went to thank her for her assistance and guidance, she said I more open to taking advice than others she’s worked with.
Sure, she could say that to anyone, but I don’t think she’s that type of person. Why anyone would resist someone who is willing to help them land a job when that’s exactly what they need (and for free to boot!), is beyond me.
I Am, I’m Me
The ‘moral’ is that you have to be able to take a long, hard look at yourself, notice any necessary changes to be made, and then make them. Don’t take it out on family or friends, or ignore any good advice they may have to offer. Be open to the idea of a career change. Sometimes volunteer and freelance opportunities can show you that your true talents and passion lie in a different field or focus.
And remember to ‘give back’ once you finally get a new job. The first focus, of course, should be toward getting back into the swing of things in the working world, and showing your new employer that they made the right choice in hiring you. But a few months down the line, you may want to reflect on your time of unemployment, and help others through this difficult time (but only if they want help!).
Build up your contacts list, don’t overlook the importance of networking, and shift your mindset toward making yourself indispensable at work and advancing yourself: professionally, socially, and otherwise.
To Every Thing…
I have realized in chatting with my friend that now is clearly not the right time to offer this kind of guidance, and that’s okay. Everyone works through this process at their own pace. But when she’s ready to make some changes and jump back into the working world, I’ll be there. Be there for your unemployed friend/family member, too!
by Ericka Ng
Residential Life Magazine