By Tova Jaffee, DORS Team Leader, Career Services
I can see the logic: after all, you’re the one who is underemployed, laid off, or even terminated. Therefore, it is your job search, right? No one should have any say in how you conduct your search, when you look for a job or how much time you devote to it; it really is nobody else’s business.
Actually, it’s not so simple.
Unless you have no relatives, friends, loved ones, landlord, neighbors or acquaintances, you can be sure that someone will have an opinion about your unemployed or underemployed status.
What you are dealing with can be divided in two categories: Expectations and Accusations
Your own expectations, on top of the expectations of those directly impacted by your job situation, can leave you feeling alone and put a big dent in your self-respect. Thoughts like “I’m supposed to be the main breadwinner in this family,” or “Why didn’t I take that other job when I could have?” or “What do my in-laws think of me now?” start to plague you. “Shoulda, woulda, coulda” thinking becomes annoyingly persistent.
Accusations can feel like a relentless adversary determined to keep you down. Whether real, implied, or imagined, these voices are telling you: “You’re not doing anything, so would you go pick up the laundry from the cleaners?” “Your career coach called. When are you finally going to call her?” “You don’t seem to be trying hard enough; you would have had a job by now.” Sometimes the accuser is even your self!
Shame can plant itself like an unwanted guest determined to stay. With the accusations come guilt and worry about the impact on your family. You may feel you’ve disappointed your kids when you’re no longer able to provide some of the perks they had before. Your children may worry and even imagine the worst.
Does this truly sound like it is just your job search? Like it or not, others are involved. Once you acknowledge that people close to you are being affected, what can you do to make this challenging time better for them and for yourself?
Include those who are affected: Family members and other people who have an interest in your situation need to feel included. Perhaps it’s for practical reasons (such as your perhaps owing them money). Often it’s because they care, they love you and empathize with your pain, or they too are in pain.
Seek support: Ask relatives, friends and colleagues for practical advice, networking contacts, assistance with proofreading cover letters, etc. It will go a long way towards sharing the burden. Then follow up by taking action.
Clarify expectations and boundaries: By asking for support, you can empower those around you to feel like they are part of the solution. Mutually agree with family to have only respectful dialogue worthy of adults. As long as your actions reassure them that you take this period of unemployment or underemployment very seriously, and that you are “owning” your job search, your spouse, partner, parents and friends will feel calmer and reduce the pressure on you.
Recognize the emotional impact. As the job seeker, you may actually be grieving several losses: your job, professional identity and social status, a lifestyle you can no longer afford to maintain, and your role in the family. What may appear to others as reticence on your part to discuss the situation may actually be a need to mourn, process, reassess, and form a new identity. If those close to you can try to understand this and allow you some space and time, this will help the healing process. At the same time, some realities can’t be ignored. Landlords and bill collectors won’t care about your emotional needs, but they do appreciate specific payment plans.
Communicate openly: As much as you can, communicate frankly with those directly impacted by your job search. For example, sharing your job search schedule with your family will let them know you are doing all you can, and by the way, it will also help keep you motivated.
As you look for a job, maintaining open communication with those close to you can strengthen the relationships that matter most. With mutual respect and greater support, you won’t be dragged down by expectations and accusations. Instead, your job search will be energized and more likely to succeed.
By Tova Jaffee, DORS Team Leader, Career Services, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD
JCS offers a full range of career services. For more information about JCS Career services click here or call 410-466-9200.