Why don’t you have a job?

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Job Market - — Marco Buscaglia, Ca­reers

It’s easy to get in a rut when you’re out of work. You’re low on cash, out of your rou­tine and quickly los­ing self-es­teem. But with a job mar­ket that’s run­ning on all cylin­ders, there’s a chance you won’t be out of work for long. “It’s dif­fi­cult to main­tain con­fi­dence over the long haul, that’s for sure,” says Robert Buck­ley, a 42-year-old soft­ware sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive who spent four months out of work last fall. “Four months may not seem that long but I was ques­tion­ing my­self ev­ery day. I started fall­ing back on some bad habits and re­al­ized that I re­ally needed to take care of them or I was go­ing to have prob­lems.”

Buck­ley, who lives in Bloom­ing­ton, Ill., says his own bad habits in­cluded stay­ing up late and sleep­ing in the next day, in­creased fast-food meals and avoid­ance of any phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. “The com­pany I worked for had a great health club in the base­ment of the build­ing. We had free mem­ber­ship so I worked out at least four days a week. It was sec­ond na­ture,” Buck­ley says. “Once I was home and I lost that mem­ber­ship, I didn’t do much of any­thing. I put on a few pounds but worse than that, I felt like an ab­so­lute sloth.”

Mind and body

Natalie Costa, 25, had a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence but says her bad habits came in the form of TV and movies. “Net­flix might as well be de­signed for peo­ple who are out of work. You can binge-watch a series a day if you want. I got into a re­ally bad habit of want­ing to check out ev­ery show I had ever heard of or read about so I was watch­ing tele­vi­sion for 15 hours a day, seven days a week,” says the Chicago res­i­dent. “My room­mates told me I was I was prac­ti­cally in a coma, just sit­ting there on the couch when they left for work, when they came home from work and when they went to bed.”

Costa, who re­cently started work­ing for a friend’s mar­ket­ing com­pany, says she left a job in the in­sur­ance in­dus­try and was par­a­lyzed by not know­ing what she wanted to do next. “I had two ways of look­ing for jobs: I sent re­sumes to ev­ery­one to see what stuck or I would do noth­ing. It would sort of al­ter­nate from week to week,” she says. “By the time I was fi­nally se­ri­ous about go­ing back to work, a friend sug­gested that I could help her with some ba­sic ac­count­ing, which has turned into more of an ac­count man­ager role, so I’m very happy.”

But dur­ing the seven months she wasn’t work­ing, Costa says she put on 12 pounds, ran up $6,000 in credit-card debt and felt “my brain turn­ing to mush.”

Feel­ing alone

Me­lanie Nel­son, a ca­reer coach in Indianapol­is, says it’s easy to let a bad sit­u­a­tion get worse, es­pe­cially when you’re lack­ing a net­work of friends or col­leagues who would lend their sup­port. “It’s dif­fi­cult to go through any­thing alone but a job search can be es­pe­cially hard,” says Nel­son, a for­mer HR spe­cial­ist for Gen­eral Mo­tors. “you lose con­fi­dence by the day and ev­ery po­ten­tial job that doesn’t pan out seems like a di­rect in­sult. You’re es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble and if you don’t have some­one who can help keep you fo­cused and of­fer some struc­ture and sup­port, you’re go­ing to have an es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult time.”

Nel­son says it’s im­por­tant to keep a clear head and to seek out as­sis­tance. “There are so many re­sources avail­able to peo­ple who are deal­ing with anx­i­ety or de­pres­sion or a gen­eral feel­ing of malaise,” she says. “The first thing you have to do is re­al­ize that you’re in over your head. If you are wak­ing up in the mid­dle of the night com­pletely stressed out or hav­ing panic at­tacks, it’s essen­tial that you seek some as­sis­tance.”

Help­ing hand

Buck­ley says he turned to out­side help dur­ing the time he was un­em­ployed, thanks to his sis­ter, who rec­om­mended a psy­chol­o­gist she had worked with in the past. “My first visit was trans­for­ma­tional,” Buck­ley says. “You hear your­self say­ing the things you’ve been think­ing but not re­ally ac­knowl­edg­ing. It was re­ally help­ful.”

So help­ful, in fact, that af­ter four weeks of meet­ing with his doc­tor, Buck­ley no­ticed not only a change in his at­ti­tude, but also his de­meanor. “Be­ing laid off and out of work put me in a funk,” Buck­ley says. “If you’re lack­ing con­fi­dence, it shows. When I went on in­ter­views, I felt like I was of­fer­ing them the sec­ond or third best ver­sion of my­self, so of course, no job of­fers. But when I was able to get my con­fi­dence back, that’s when I started killing it again dur­ing in­ter­views. That’s when I knew I’d be back at work soon.”

Buck­ley also started rid­ing the sta­tion­ary bike in his base­ment and eat­ing bet­ter. “It’s im­por­tant to main­tain your health, both phys­i­cally and men­tally,” he says. “When I did that, ev­ery­thing started to come to­gether.”

With unem­ploy­ment num­ber slow, it can be frus­trat­ing when you haven’t landed a job and friends keep ask­ing why. Maybe it’s time to ex­pand your search and try new op­por­tu­nites — which may lead to a bet­ter ca­reer.

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