…and most jobseekers already “feel” vulnerable. A simple question or comment can cause a flood of emotions to overwhelm our thoughts. It seems that this holiday can bring out the best and worst in people, especially those who are closest to us: our family and friends. Insensitive comments and oversights take on new meaning. Not getting an invitation to a family event, or an off-hand comment, “Have you found a job yet?” can be heartbreaking, frustrating, and bring intense feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
Get in the holiday spirit….really?
“I would be better off if I had cancer than being unemployed. If I had cancer, my friends and family would come alongside of me and try to help. They would find ways to show that they cared and indicate their support. But being unemployed is just the opposite. Friends and family turn their backs and find the door. They don’t “get it” …and they don’t seem to have any desire to do so.”
The holiday season is the most stressful time of year. The American Psychology Association reported that up to 69% of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time”, 69% are stressed by perceiving a “lack of money”, and 51% feel stressed out over the “pressure to give or get gifts”. They described stress as:
“the perception of pressure, tension, worry, fear, dread or anxiety. The way we respond to stress can exacerbate, or even create physical and emotional problems.
UGH…and that’s without the added weight of a job search. Managing emotions during the holiday season in addition to unemployment has to be one of the greatest challenges a person can go through.
For most people in the U.S., the season brings a variety of programs, family traditions, and many memories—some warm, some painful. Regardless of your situation, the season is known for its heavy emotional intensity, the highest stress and the greatest social challenges. Add being jobless to these predictable stresses of the season, and the situation can cause even the strongest people to fold.
For those who want to work, not having a job is a sign of failure. At a time when we think of giving to others, jobseekers generally feel they have nothing to give. An unsuccessful job search seeps into their innermost being, rips apart their sense of self, and leaves them exhausted both emotionally and physically. They never thought they would be in this situation.
My favorite eye roller…
…spoken to a CEO of a non-profit: “Jim. You’ve been out of work for over a year now. If you’d just try harder, you’d get something! They’re hiring at WalMart. There’s nothing wrong with that!”
Uh huh. WalMart is going hire the CEO of a non-profit…to do what?
Setting the Record Straight:
- Hiring someone from a high-level job to a lower-level position is called a “flight-risk”. The business realizes that when something better comes along, that person is going to leave and they will have to hire someone else. It’s expensive to lose employees. AND if the employee is laid off or finishes a temporary contract, their lower salary may greatly affect their unemployment eligibility.
TIP: Jobseekers can and should consider temporary and part-time positions where the flight risk is less. (Remember to check with the unemployment office to understand the ramifications of taking the position.)
- Industries have an ebb and flow. There are times when hiring is hot and there are multiple positions open, and then there are times when the industry is flat or is shrinking. In 2008, I noticed that the full cycle lasted about three months. That meant that six weeks would pass with very few job openings. Today, in some industries the cycle is as short as a month to six weeks.
TIP: When the industry is hiring —apply! When it is waning —network!
Rubbing salt in an open wound…
For jobseekers, this is the time of year when their friends and family inadvertently rub salt in the open wound of unemployment.
It’s still a time of giving…
…and many jobseekers don’t “feel” like they have much to give. Christmas is a time of giving. We donate to the poor. We reach out to those less fortunate. Gift exchanges are part of office celebrations and family traditions.
Exchanging gifts is almost a universal tradition, regardless of the personal significance of the holiday. If you are jobless and can’t give or participate in the way you have in years past, you may feel like you are a failure. You may know it isn’t true, but the feeling still remains.
It’s still hard. Very, very hard.
Q: What can you do?
A: Assess success differently.
- Success doesn’t have to be about how much money you spend on presents.
- Success doesn’t have to be measured by how much money you make.
- Success can be measured by personal growth.
- Success can be learning new skills.
- Success can be garnering new sensibilities like compassion, mercy, and being gracious in the face of hardship.
- Success can be valuing deeper, stronger relationships.
- This season, protect yourself emotionally as best as you can.
- Gear up for friends and family who may cause hurt, disappointment, and frustration.
- Determine how you will respond before you find yourself in an awkward situation.
- “Thanks for asking. I’d rather not talk about that today. What are your hopes for the new year?”
- “It’s harder than I ever imagined. I’m learning a lot and trying to stay positive. How is your work going?”
- “They say the economy is loosening up and I’m hoping that will help. How have you been doing?”
- Choose to be gracious and let inappropriate comments roll off.
- If you have children, remember that they are watching.
- They too will have hardship and you are teaching them how to get through it.
- Remember that you will get a job, if you don’t give up and continue to learn about your industry, keep your skills sharp, and learn about the hiring process.