The pain of unemployment has become a malicious and inescapable part of our national culture. It is a silent presence in every conversation every day—even if you are employed. Jobseekers carry the bulk of the burden as they try to cope with the financial, psychological, and social impact to their daily lives.
It was unimaginable!
Susan was laid off over a year ago.
She couldn’t believe this was happening to her. She was 47 years old and she had done everything right. She had a four-year degree, 22 years of experience, increased responsibility, and great references. Surely it wouldn’t be that difficult to get a job—even in a “tough economy.” …or so she thought.
Social media had become her passion and the results section of her résumé would certainly confirm she was current and relevant. Her references would validate her market insight and business savvy. They would verify that she could increase sales on a slim budget and bring in company profit. She had everything going for her…or so she thought.
Months passed. Susan applied to select positions that were a good fit and many others that were “okay.” Her professional identity as a marketing professional was beginning to fade. She no longer felt relevant, and her self-confidence was slipping.
After 18 months, she and her husband were struggling to make ends meet. Unemployment helped, but Kim, their high school Junior was looking into potential colleges and wanted to visit campuses. Jesse wanted to go to a special science camp in the summer. It would help with her college application—just three years away. They had had to dip into the college fund just to get by. Susan anguished over the thought that they were stealing their children’s future. It was tense in the house. It was her fault.
Beginning to feel desperate, she began applying for lower level positions, anything she could find. Many of the positions were written for new college grads – community managers in social media. There seemed very little at her level. She called her former contacts but they stopped returning her calls.
Susan began questioning herself. Maybe she wasn’t as good as she thought and her job search confirmed it. Perhaps she was irrelevant even before her 50th birthday. Perhaps she was laid off because she couldn’t really cut it. She had failed at her job or they wouldn’t have laid her off. She had a few interviews. The rejections were another slap in the face. Her job search, so far, had been a colossal failure as well.
Her extended family didn’t understand. They had no idea what she was going through and didn’t seem interested. Holidays had become painful and she didn’t want to see them. “Did you get a job yet? If you’d just work harder, you’d get a job. Your nephew just landed a good job! You know, you could get a job at Walmart—nothing wrong with that!” The thought of the upcoming annual family reunion was unbearable.
She went to the grocery store, and tried again to find ways to cut the bill. When she returned to the car, she sat and cried.
They had fallen short on their mortgage payments. The bank gave them three months, which were almost up. Would they have to turn their house over to the bank? Then what?
She had to get out of the house and began volunteering at a local non-profit, picking up deliveries and helping with the distribution of clothing. It helped her feel useful and restored a bit of her dignity. But it didn’t pay the bills.
She felt scared, lonely and worthless. She had failed her family. She had failed herself.
Is pain invisible when we look the other way?
On the one hand, jobseeker pain might seem invisible; even to the jobseeker. But I think the truth may be that we are ignoring those who are under this intense pressure. We don’t want to know. Perhaps we feel responsible. Perhaps we simply don’t know what to do.
This isn’t the jobseeker’s fault.
I say it over and over again, “Jobseekers are the worst treated people in the U.S. …as if this is all their fault.
A client of mine said, “It would be better if I had cancer. Then people would surround me with their support. But when you’re unemployed, you get ignored. It hurts.”
Why are we in this economic mess?
This article from US Economy says it this way:
Irrational exuberance in the housing market led many people to buy houses they couldn’t afford, because everyone thought housing prices could only go up.”
Let me paraphrase: People bought houses they couldn’t afford so if they lose their homes today, they really had it coming. Did I get that right?
WAIT A MINUTE!
There were other players on the field, and they played a BIG role. As I see it, the real estate industry pitched a home run to homebuyers with a slick sales line about the mortgages that were being offered. They convinced homebuyers to sign a mortgage so the real estate industry could make a ton of bucks. Does anyone else see it this way?
What about the corporate sector? Employees today, many of whom do the work of three people, are exhausted as their company pushes them to do more with less.
Why is that? Because stockholders are pressuring those companies to deliver an increase. How do companies manage the pressure to bring in a profit? They lay off more people so it costs less to run the business. (Are you overworked at work?)
Do you see a common thread? If there’s something I’m missing? Please tell me!
The real reason for the economy:
We are in this situation for a variety of reasons, but every time I start tracking it down to the root cause, I come up with one underlying culprit: GREED.
Jobseekers and their families are carrying the bulk of the pain from this greed. Rarely was it their greed that put them in this situation.
We need to fight this. Washington can’t or won’t, but you and I can and should. We can adopt a healthy mindset about how much is enough. We can balance our personal and household budgets and bit by bit; pay down our personal debt. We can do more with less. We can make a difference and change the culture of more, more, and more.
If we don’t stop buying what we can’t afford, we will never raise up leaders who don’t spend more than we have. It’s up to us. We have to make the change.
Call to action:
Do what they did in Boston. When the explosions took place people ran toward those who were hurt and wounded to support and help them. The economic recession, known as the “Great Recession” has left us a hurt and wounded country. Run to those who are hurt and wounded. Support and help them.
Want to help a jobseeker?
- Be an encouragement.
- Acknowledge that finding a job is extremely difficult at this time.
- Remind them that this is not their fault and many of the elements are out of their control.
- Listen – without judgment.
- Don’t say, “I know what you’re going through.” —even if you are or have been a jobseeker.
- Consider comments like:
- “I can’t imagine how hard this is. I want to support you.”
- “I’ve known you for __ years. You’re solid. I trust you to keep trying.”
- “Sometimes I don’t know what to say. You’ll have to coach me on what helps and what doesn’t.”
- “How can I help?”
- “What can I do to support you?”
- Call regularly; let them know you’re thinking about them, and that you believe in them.
- Offer to help with interviewing skills (They give you a list of questions.)
- Instead of criticism, show concern.
- Never abandon someone you know who is looking for a job.
Do you have other ideas? Please let me know, I’ll post the complete list.