I’ve always advocated for the causes of the downtrodden, the unlucky, and the beset upon – In short, the have-nots.
Bad things happen to good people. This is certain. Sure, bad things also happen to bad people, but I refuse to believe that this is the norm.
I’ve been gainfully employed for most of my life, but I’ve always seen the world through the eyes of those were not as fortunate as me. Being out of work was something that I could easily envision, since our jobs are not guaranteed. That I have been able to avoid being in that predicament, by finding the right jobs, is due as much to good fortune and being at the right place at the right time, as to anything else.
Those who disagree with my assessment can point to individual instances in support of their claim, but that kind of empirical evidence never made any sense to me.
Who would choose to live on less (or none) if they were able to work?
Extenuating circumstances always seemed a more plausible explanation for unemployment than to simply dismiss, as lazy, those who found themselves waking each day with nowhere to go.
Now that I have been unemployed for several months, I see that I was right all along.
My job does not define me.
I’m still the same person that I was when I was working. I have the same responsibilities and the same worries – although those worries are magnified now that a more uncertain future has been added to the mix. Throughout these months, the world hasn’t skipped a beat – moving onward without me.
That’s what the world does.
My mind is as sharp as ever and I possess the same skill-set that I had before. The only difference is that no one is paying me at the moment. The job market, at least the market within a 60-mile radius of my home, has dried up. The process of trolling job boards, applying for the positions in my field that would sustain me, and interviewing is interminable. Each promising lead that fades takes a piece of me with it, leaving me to feel a bit more vulnerable; a bit more defeated.
But I’m still me.
I’ve hesitated to write about this topic because I wanted to avoid the inevitable pep talks from well-wishers. It may seem harsh to say, but words of encouragement, no matter how well-intentioned, don’t help. But I’ve decided to use my less than enviable position to write about the process and what it does to a person who is experiencing it.
Working vs. Finding Work
I’ve discovered that there is no correlation between job performance and the skills required to find a job. While working, your job performance is its own barometer of accomplishment. However, when searching for a job, you have to convince someone, who does not know you, that you are as competent as you claim, without actually doing the job – a very different proposition. If you are unaccustomed to selling yourself, you’re in big trouble.
The interview process is fraught with possible pitfalls. Be confident, but not cocky. Be aggressive, but not pushy. Stress your proficiencies, but don’t brag. The list of Dos and Don’ts is long. If you focus on them, it can lead to paralysis and self-doubt. Yet ignoring them can also be fatal to your chances of success.
The Experience Trap
By far, the question that comes up most often is “Why would a person with your experience want this job?” The follow-up to that question is a discussion of the prospective employer’s concern that I will leave for a better job at the first opportunity.
If I’m too experienced for the available jobs, what am I to do? The concept of starting over cannot be foreign to prospective employers, can it? I point to my employment history which depicts long stints of several years at each company, but that does not convince them. It’s a no-win situation. Clearly, I will move on to another position eventually, but isn’t that a universal aspiration?
I’m often left feeling that nothing short of indentured servitude would sway them.
Easily, the first casualty of any job search is the applicant’s confidence. How could it not be? Regardless of the reasons given, rejection is tough to take. In the short-term, it’s easy to dismiss those rebukes, but as they begin to pile up, it becomes impossible to justify them to ourselves. The negative thoughts seep in and begin to wear away at our resolve.
For me, confidence had never been a problem, but it’s easy to be confident when things are going well. I feel tested each day. I don’t always pass the test.
I know in my gut that I will find a job and that things will eventually get back to normal, but knowing that doesn’t make this time in Limbo any easier. Until then, I will try to stay positive by believing that my long career to date has been more than some happy accident, and that someone, somewhere will recognize that I still have much to offer.
Have you endured a long period of unemployment?
How did that experience affect you?