How to beat the un­em­ploy­ment blues

We live in volatile times, and un­cer­tainty ex­tends to all as­pects of our lives. What steps do you need to fol­low to en­sure that you are pre­pared for ca­reer upheaval?

Finweek English Edition - - ON THE MONEY CAREERS - By Amanda Visser

most peo­ple strive to be happy or to ex­pe­ri­ence a feel­ing of well-be­ing. Nor­mally that level of hap­pi­ness drops be­cause of some trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence such as di­vorce, sick­ness, death of a fam­ily mem­ber or un­em­ploy­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Ker­stin Jatho, one of eight qual­i­fied pos­i­tive psy­chol­ogy life coaches in South Africa, peo­ple’s hap­pi­ness lev­els re­cover and re­turn to nor­mal af­ter they’ve gone through such events, the ex­cep­tion be­ing un­em­ploy­ment.

“You very sel­dom man­age to get back to your orig­i­nal level of well-be­ing af­ter be­ing un­em­ployed, es­pe­cially if it has been for a long pe­riod,” she says.

Ac­cord­ing to Statis­tics South Africa’s lat­est Quar­terly Em­ploy­ment Sur­vey, the ex­panded un­em­ploy­ment rate dur­ing the first quar­ter of this year was 36.4%. This means of­fi­cially 6.2m peo­ple are un­em­ployed.

Jatho says un­em­ploy­ment has noth­ing to do with a per­son’s self-worth. How­ever, the per­son loses trust in so­ci­ety and may never re­gain that trust.

Louis Mei­jer, ex­ec­u­tive and busi­ness coach at Change Part­ners, de­scribes him­self as an en­gi­neer by train­ing, a project man­ager by pro­fes­sion, and an ex­ec­u­tive coach by de­sign and pas­sion.

He is no stranger to un­em­ploy­ment – a few years ago, the com­pany where he was man­ag­ing di­rec­tor was re­struc­tured down and its en­tire staff con­tin­gent was re­trenched.

When you have been in a po­si­tion of lead­er­ship in a com­pany where peo­ple looked to you for de­ci­sion­mak­ing and sup­port, you feel with­out di­rec­tion when sud­denly all that is gone. “It be­comes lonely. All the sup­port, of hav­ing to go to work and be­ing around peo­ple is gone,” says Mei­jer.

Ac­cord­ing to Jatho the most nat­u­ral thing for peo­ple who lose their jobs is to with­draw from all re­la­tion­ships. This causes lone­li­ness which is very dan­ger­ous psy­cho­log­i­cally, she warns.

“Giv­ing up is easy, and a very quick way to a down­ward spi­ral. They need to be as­sured that they are not a lesser kind of per­son be­cause of un­em­ploy­ment. It is noth­ing shame­ful,” Jatho ex­plains.

Emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence

Mei­jer says the way you ex­pe­ri­ence un­em­ploy­ment largely de­pends on what you do with all the free time you now have. He read ev­ery­thing he could lay his hands on. He also had lots of cof­fee with lots of peo­ple in lots of cof­fee shops. He says that one of the books he read gave a long list of things you should do when you lose your job. What struck him was that look­ing for a job was not amongst the top 10 bul­let points. “That was very en­light­en­ing. The ad­vice was more about how to re­lieve anx­i­ety, like tak­ing up a hobby, or do­ing vol­un­tary work. They rec­om­mend you get in­volved in all sorts of ac­tiv­i­ties be­sides find­ing work.”

The fam­ily mem­bers of the un­em­ployed per­son should re­alise this and not add to the anx­i­ety by push­ing too much. This al­lows the per­son to keep on ex­plor­ing.

Mei­jer spent months ex­plor­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties. How­ever, it is im­por­tant for peo­ple to re­flect on how long they can sur­vive be­fore “hit­ting the eco­nomic wall”.

An as­so­ciate of Mei­jer’s, who started his own busi­ness, de­ter­mined that he could last at least six months with no in­come while de­vel­op­ing the busi­ness be­fore he would hit that wall. He de­cided that he would not be wor­ried dur­ing that time. “You can­not fret ev­ery day. What­ever num­ber you come up with, work hard at not fret­ting dur­ing that pe­riod. The more you fret, the less chance you have of get­ting your­self to­gether again.”

If you do go for in­ter­views, your stress lev­els or ap­pre­hen­sion and even des­per­a­tion will show. Peo­ple will sense this. “That is the last thing you want to project when you are go­ing for in­ter­views,” he says.

Re­gain­ing con­fi­dence

To re­build con­fi­dence or re­main con­fi­dent is quite chal­leng­ing, be­cause it is a com­po­nent of feel­ing com­pe­tent. Un­em­ployed peo­ple of­ten ques­tion whether they are still com­pe­tent and able to make

The ex­panded un­em­ploy­ment rate dur­ing the first quar­ter of this year was 36.4%. 6.2mThis means of­fi­cially 6.2m peo­ple are un­em­ployed.

mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tions, says Jatho.

Peo­ple gain con­fi­dence through ac­knowl­edge­ment from others and the en­vi­ron­ment they find them­selves in. Un­em­ploy­ment de­stroys that.

She ad­vises peo­ple to work on their in­ner con­fi­dence. “Think about the things you are nat­u­rally good at. Your brain will want to tell you what you are not good at.”

Look for ev­i­dence of where you were good at some­thing. You need to con­vince your­self that you have been good at per­form­ing a par­tic­u­lar task and that you can do it. Think of mo­ments in your life that you were proud of. Even if you were not par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful at that mo­ment, re­mem­ber why it evoked feel­ings of pride. Set small goals. Con­fi­dence will only be built by set­ting small goals and achiev­ing them. Work on your CV one day, pre­pare for an in­ter­view, give your­self pep talks. Cel­e­brate your lit­tle wins.

Jatho says once the per­son feels stronger it might be a good time to re­flect on whether they want to go back into a for­mal work­place.

Look for ev­i­dence of where you were good at some­thing. You need to con­vince your­self that you have been good at per­form­ing a par­tic­u­lar task and that you can do it.

What now?

Mei­jer de­cided that he did not want to re­turn to what he had been do­ing for the bet­ter part of 30 years: “Pur­su­ing a new ca­reer can cer­tainly bring a new chal­lenge. It can also bring a new level of sat­is­fac­tion that will bol­ster your con­fi­dence. The think­ing must be: ‘I can ex­pect to bat­tle a bit longer be­cause, af­ter all, I am try­ing some­thing new.’”

He en­cour­ages peo­ple to con­sider al­ter­na­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties be­fore set­tling on a new di­rec­tion.

Net­work, net­work, net­work

While ex­plor­ing, use your net­works. You will be sur­prised at how many peo­ple you know, says Mei­jer.

He ex­plains that you will achieve lit­tle by sit­ting on your couch with your phone in your hand. You have to get out there and talk to peo­ple. “In­vest in your­self – if you have the op­por­tu­nity to do ad­di­tional cour­ses to im­prove your qual­i­fi­ca­tions, do it.”

It is im­por­tant to be proac­tive. Trust that there are op­por­tu­ni­ties ev­ery­where. “Hone your senses to see them and to go af­ter them with a sense of com­pe­tence, look­ing for­ward to the ad­ven­ture,” adds Mei­jer. ■

Louis Mei­jer Ex­ec­u­tive and busi­ness coach at Change Part­ners

Ker­stin Jatho Pos­i­tive psy­chol­ogy life coach

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