By Tova Jaffee, Career Services
What could be worse than unemployment? Long term unemployment. It almost sounds like a punch line, but there’s nothing funny about it.
With the recession that began in 2007, unemployment is still at 9.6 percent. 41.7 percent of those unemployed are considered “long term unemployed,” having been out of work longer than 27 weeks.
The strain is staggering, both for society and the individual. Young people graduate but can’t find jobs, thus postponing their ability to acquire new skills that they may not have even started to use beyond an internship or volunteer work. Their energy and youth are an advantage, but their lack of experience and contacts a detriment to their marketability.
Older workers who have lost their jobs may be able to manage financially if they have unemployment benefits or severance, or if they can access savings and credit resources. But the impact on their egos and sense of worth, and on children and marriage, can be devastating.
The longer an individual is unemployed, the more likely he or she will develop a sense of giving up, a “what’s the use” attitude of passivity, and a feeling of shame or stigmatization. Maybe one’s identity was tied up in the social status that job held and the respect one received. Now that person may feel like a case number compelled to go through the bureaucracy of filing for unemployment and reporting in.
What did your job or going to school give you? Perhaps a sense of structure, camaraderie and interaction, teamwork, productivity and accomplishment. You may have gained a sense of meaning, accountability, responsibility, and goals. All of these benefits are going with you to your next job; you are not leaving them behind.
Whatever your job gave you, or what you hope to acquire if you have never entered the job market before, is yours for the making. As an individual you were never the sum of your job. Now it is time to reinvent yourself. If you view this blip in your life as an opportunity, then you will have much more to offer, with the added bonus of personal and professional growth.
How to deal with long term unemployment?
1. Don’t be bitter. This attitude has a way of seeping through and tainting what could be an otherwise positive interview. Be upbeat, energetic, enthusiastic. There is nothing more attractive to an employer than a qualified candidate with these traits. A positive attitude generates positive results.
2. Invest in yourself. After long term unemployment, it is likely that your skills are outdated. Upgrade your marketability with enhanced skills and training. Ironically, you may now qualify for FAFSA or other grants or scholarships. Consider an internship or a VISTA program like Public Allies.
3. Brainstorm. Maybe your profession is still suffering from the recession. What transferable skills do you have? Examine what you enjoy doing. Could you teach or consult? Do contractual work? Maybe consider two part time jobs, or start a small business while looking for your “day job.”
4. Structure your day. Your job now is to look for a job. Get up early, get out of bed, and dress for success.
5. Assess your life. Take a realistic look at your finances. What can you do to bring in some money? Think small and big. Sell or rent the house, or rent out a room? Cut the cable? Do you need the land line if you have a cell phone? Could you drive carpools for people or run errands to make some extra gas money while looking for your “real” job? How about a yard sale? Clean out the closets and bring your unworn good clothes to a consignment shop.
6. Feel like a mensch. Be good to yourself. Exercise, get out, be active and engaged. Treat yourself, every now and then, to something that makes you feel special (as long as you can afford it).
Remember, no job defines you or your self worth. Long term unemployment isn’t what you asked for, but how you deal with it is always your choice .
By Tova Jaffee, Supervisor, Career Services, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD
JCS offers a full range of career services to help individuals find and maintain employment, whether in one’s chosen field or in building a new career. JCS Career Services also offers career assessments, resume and cover letter services, career development workshops, and more. To learn more about these and other ways JCS can help, visit http://www.jcsbaltimore.org, or call 410-466-9200. Jewish Community Services is an agency of THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.