Life on the unemployed side

From WHYS listener Julia

Hello, my name is Julia and I’m in Portland, Oregon. I first contacted BBC when they asked the now oft repeated question “Have you been affected by the economic downturn?”.

Their question was posted the day I was laid off from my IT position that I’d held for 9 years, this happened in October of 2008. My response to their question was obvious, a resounding “YES”. WHYS contacted me that evening and through an emotional, raw conversation I was allowed to briefly tell my story and to hear other stories from around the globe. Now, after eight months without a job, I’d like to talk with those of you going through similar hard times.

I’ve always been fortunate enough to have had very short breaks between positions, no longer than a couple weeks at the very most. Since I’ve been off work for going on eight months, I’ve been thrust into an environment totally alien to me, highs, lows and unknowns. There are frustrating, depressing, emotional days and then there are those little rays of light that make it seem not so bad.

My biggest frustration comes from not receiving any response good or bad from the applications I send out. You can start to feel like you are sending resumes and applications into a black hole. (To those very few employers who do respond, even when it is to say ‘no’ – I thank you!) The depression and negative emotions seem to hit when you start to worry that this environment is some big cosmic judgement on your own personal value, I think this is the hardest part to fight.

The rays of light that I have found in all of this are the people, the people who have helped me get back to who I am and what I love about life. I fight the depression and negativity by realizing that I am not alone in this. I have friends who lost their jobs the same time I did and we support each other, we help each other to remember that this isn’t personal and the whole world is being affected by these events. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a family member who has lost their job or been furloughed. If the unemployment rate was two or three percent and I still wasn’t able to find work, then I’d start to think there was something really wrong with me. But, when you have literally millions of people around the globe struggling to make ends meet and to keep or find a job, people who really truly want to have work and contribute to their communities, then you cannot take it as a personal failure. (Although, it is still difficult to remember this sometimes)

To cope, I try to get out and do those free events that I never had the time to do because I was working. I go for walks, bike rides and accept the generosity of family and friends. I still have bad days, but I do my best to keep looking for work and get out, see friends and do something, anything to keep me from wallowing in self pity. I may not always be entirely successful at this, there are just some days that it is okay to lay in bed, watch a movie and eat ice cream…I just try not to do that very often.

I know that there are people struggling everywhere with this, Great Britain, Africa and all over the globe. What do you find the most difficult thing? The endless job applications? Or just trying to keep your self worth? Have there been any unexpected upsides? How do you go about keeping hope alive? Please share your story with us and let us know how you are doing.

6 Responses to “Life on the unemployed side”

  1. 1 Ann
    June 9, 2009 at 09:53

    Hi Julia

    Sorry to hear you’ve had such a difficult time. Sounds like you’re coping pretty well actually, but that is not to minimise the frustration, anxiety and depression you have felt.

    I’ve never been made redundant, but have been unable to work for the past 7 years because of ill health, so I do know how hard it is to adjust, to cope with the loss and stay positive. So I’ll offer a few suggestions that worked for me…it’s a bit long sorry ๐Ÿ™‚

    1)First and foremost is to keep telling yourself that your self worth is not dependent on your career or how much money you have.

    2)Hold on to your dignity in the midst of the financial struggles. Unpaid bills are worrying, but they are not a reflection of some kind of failure in you. You can only do your best – try to take some comfort in that.

    3)Having a daily routine also helps to build a sense of direction and purpose. Accomplish tasks that you are able to do.

    4)Keep your brain active – the time to study and learn is a bonus ๐Ÿ™‚

    5)Don’t stick your head in the sand with all the financial problems – face them head on. You’ll feel better for it.

    6)Do something nice for yourself everyday – it doesn’t need to cost anything.

    7)Stay in touch with friends and relatives – it’s all too easy to become isolated and depressed.

    8)Use the time to get to know ‘the inner you’ – take up meditation, yoga etc whatever suits you.

    9)Take up a new hobby – scientifically proven to fight depression ๐Ÿ™‚

    10)RELAX – contrary to what our culture teaches us we can’t control everything. We have a choice to either fight and battle against fate or to learn to gently accept adversity when it comes.
    All things pass – even suffering.

    And good luck!

  2. 2 globalcomedy
    June 9, 2009 at 16:21

    I’m looking for a new (and better job) as well. Here are some things that have helped me:

    Keep a balance between a creative job search and time for yourself. Looking for a job 20 hours a day will only burn you out.

    Stay as healthy as you can (both physically and mentally). Do something nice for yourself.

    Stay away from negative people as much as possible.

    Also, build up extra income streams. There are niches everywhere that can be filled. Lay the groundwork now. So when the market bottoms out and comes back, you’re that much forther ahead.

  3. 3 Tom K in Mpls
    June 9, 2009 at 19:49

    Gee, guess why I post here so often now. One basic philosophy I have is that nothing and nobody is all good or bad. Here is the good side of what cost me my job.

    Needed and properly managed businesses are growing. I am seeing a major growth in some industries.

    Prices are falling on elective/luxury goods and services.

    I have a good excuse to change careers.

    Recent investments in needed businesses are growing fast.

    Labor costs for successful businesses are dropping as they grow.

    This is why I strongly oppose financial bailouts. Good business doesn’t need it. Successful banks are returning the money without have used any of it. It applies to people,species and governments as it does to business, we all need to adapt or die. Financial Darwinism, aka capitalism.

  4. 4 Dan
    June 10, 2009 at 20:24

    I understand your struggle and encourage you to keep fighting, fighting, and fighting some more for your happiness, and for your right to contribute to society through a job that make your sense of self-worth and confidence bloom.

    I am 39 and I have lived most of my life between France and the US (I am a dual citizen). I have had long periods of unemployment in France where my age group’s unemployment rate has swung between 10% and 25% throughout my professional life.

    Just tell yourself that America is now experiencing something that has existed for a long time in many other societies and people have learned how to cope with it even though it remains a difficult thing to leave through.

    I have found solace in going back to the roots of what employment and unemployment mans to a human being at large. For me, employment is more than a job and paycheck. It’s truly a way of saying “we need you” from society, your peers, the people who live around you. Unemployment doesn’t mean “we don’t need you” however. It may mean many things such as:

    ” we need you but can’t afford you” ; “we have been unable to understand how to apply your skills to our needs, etc.” ; “regulatory, legal, or economic constraints make it risky to employ you at the moment”, “we didn’t know you existed, we missed your applications” ; “we need your skills but we need you to take the lead and create your own business” ; etc… Make sure you understand what keeps you from landing these jobs. Take every email or letter with an employer as a chance to ask something like : “Thanks for your reply. I understand your decision and appreciate your taking the time to inform me of it. Please help me improve my job search strategy and my chances of landing my next job by telling me why you have chosen a different candidate? Thanks”.

    In all these and many more cases, you can see that employers and employees sometime fail to find themselves and agree to a an employment contract because the context (legal, economic, social, hiring practices, etc.) are not well adapted to the situation. But once you understand these obstacles, you can try to knock them down with what you can control:
    – you can always change gradually your job focus to a type of job that is more in need,
    – you can always consider alternate employment types including self-employment, temping, etc.
    – it is sometimes easier to find a job at the level above your previous position, than trying to find the exact same job (ex: outsourced software development operations still need good product managers and team leaders to lead foreign developers ; while simple programmer positions are harder to come by),
    – you can always simplify your resume and not publicize all your skills if you think employers might think you are overqualified (recruiters always advise against this but that’s normal since they work for employers – not you),
    – moving can sometimes help, including abroad! Consider it, but make sure to analyze very carefully all the impacts of a specific move (financial, personal, cultural, etc.)
    – And many more solutions you can create once your understand the obstacles you face, etc.

    What kind of job are you looking for by the way?

    I have been in your shoes in the past and I wish you to best of luck! May the force be with you ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. 5 Colleen in US
    June 11, 2009 at 13:50

    unemployment can be motivation – for the wise – to use the time for retraining or re-educating; thus, broadening their job possibilities.
    people choose, to some degree; what they do while unemployed. if you don’t choose to try to better yourself in some way – by volunteering time, pursuing a new degree or certification, or taking advantage of job retraining programs – then continued unemployment due to lack of compatability between skills needed and acquired – may be your own fault.

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