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Careers

Managing Unemployment

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Albertans have been waiting for the price of oil to go up; a signal that the economic and employment crisis will be over and we can all go back to normal, to the way things were.  And while the price of oil is up and we are hopefully seeing the employment market relax a bit and release more opportunities for work (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-economy-bmo-report-gdp-growth-2017-1.3794548), there is still a pervasive feeling of gloom and uncertainty around town.

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For so many people, the challenging economics have influenced their livelihoods, their lifestyles for them personally and for their families, but also their sense of well-being, of ability and capability, as well as their feelings of worth.

For those who have been laid-off, there are most certainly financial considerations and the logistics and time spent looking for a job, navigating through Employment Insurance requirements, etc.  The individual may have lingering questions and concerns about what their role was in loosing their job.  What is something they did or did not do?  Were they not performing to the best that they could have?  Why did the company choose them instead of their colleague?  And then, I should feel bad for wishing it was someone else other than me….  Often these questions go unanswered and for many, we accept responsibility for loosing our jobs when in many cases, it was simply being on the losing side of economics.

Our Identities

Think about when we meet someone for the first time.  Generally, we introduce ourselves by our names, ask each other how we are doing, and then ask, “What do you do?”  Much of our identity or first impression of people is wrapped up in what we do for a living and we get used to being identified as the engineer, accountant, nurse, restauranteur, etc.  But for the unemployed, there is a certain amount of shamefulness in saying, “I am unemployed currently, but I am an engineer” or maybe “I am between jobs right now.”  Suddenly we have this sense that we must explain why we are between jobs or defend our worthiness as individuals, that we are apparently productive members of society, and that we do not have some character flaw that has caused us to lose our jobs instead of the colleague next to us.

For many of us, we have not lost our jobs before, we have not experienced unemployment, we have been generally, more or less successful in our careers, in our educational endeavours, and so on.  How does losing our jobs influence how we see ourselves?  For some, do we know how to manage failure?  What does it do to our self-esteem?

Our Partners and Families

What we also overlook is that spouses are affected either through sharing the worry and concern of adjusting to a different lifestyle, and perhaps having to find a job themselves to help support their family.  Partners in the relationship may find themselves with new roles within the family and may have mixed feelings about the changes in responsibilities.  This can bring about challenges in our relationships including confusion about each others roles, anger or resentment, blame, and even a sense of insecurity and uncertainty about letting your partner down.

Why Me?

So how do we move past these troubling feelings?  So many of us will continue to ask, “Why me?”

As a Human Resources professional I can tell you that for a company, it is generally about economics or circumstance.  The company will be watching its bottom line and make decisions to ensure the viability of the organization.  Or more simply, your role ran out of work.  And while these seem like cold and thoughtless decisions that do not concern the individual at all, the good news is that the decision had nothing to do with who you are as a human being (and you can relinquish responsibility for that decision as a result).

As a Psychologist, I would ask you to consider your other identities.  Perhaps you are a husband or wife, a son or daughter, a brother or sister…. Nurture these identities, evaluate the importance of your work identity in comparison to your other identities.  Consider how you could introduce yourself differently….

If, however you are feeling like your self-esteem and your self-worth have taken a blow, or maybe you are feeling ashamed of experiencing a job loss, contact a counsellor.  They can help you to work through some of your feelings associated with your job loss and also to help you to redefine your experience and your path to wellness and re-employment.

Please stay tuned for my next article that discusses the experience of those that have stayed at companies that have experienced reductions in their workforce.  For survivors of work force reductions, there can also be difficult feelings including grief, guilt, and a sense of lack of control.

Career Woes?

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I would like to challenge the common belief and mass marketing sell that is insisting that our jobs become careers full of passion, meaning, and fulfillment.  Is it fair to put such grand expectations on our jobs? Why do our jobs need to be intricately connected to our calling and our passion? For some of us they may be, and for others, our meaning and identity for ourselves just simply is not connected to a job.

Instead, could our jobs be a means to an end to travel maybe, to retire early, to give you an opportunity to spend more time with your children, or to find better balance in your life?  There are so many other acceptable reasons to have and keep our jobs; we do not necessarily have to have the job that checks all of the passion and fulfillment boxes that everyone is telling us that they need to.

What we need to decide for ourselves is what are our boxes that need checking in our life?  Is it that travel box?  Or maybe it is the spend more time with family box….

The news feeds on social media and career networking sites continually perpetuate the notion that we must find fulfillment in our jobs.  If we do not find this fulfillment, are our jobs not good enough?

Many of my clients have by all measures good jobs that provide good or excellent pay, great benefits, vacation and some semblance of work life balance and they are still not finding fulfillment.  What they are experiencing is a sense of guilt for not being more appreciative of the job that they have that they were supposed to strive for.  There is an incongruence in what they thought their jobs were supposed to provide to them, what society is telling them their jobs should be, and how they feel about them.

My challenge then is this…

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Get curious about what a job or career should mean to you.  If your career is important to you and achieving certain milestones in your career brings you fulfillment, then by all means work towards finding those in your current role and nurture those.  Think about what it means to you to achieve those milestones and relish in the achievement.  And remember, even if your job is your dream job there are certainly going to be days where your job feels like work and takes more effort than normal.  If instead a career is just a means to an end then make it that.  Think about rejecting the pressure to have a meaningful career centered around your passion if a career is not of primary importance to you.  Use the need to have a job to fund those things that bring you meaning such as your family life, travel, retirement, whatever it is.  And if that means to a end job is still not working for you or allowing you the opportunities to pursue your life goals and meaning, then it may be worth exploring what kind of job will help you to achieve those things.  Possibly then, if you have a job that is allowing you to live the life that you want, you can love your job just a little bit more too.