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Archive for the ‘Job Loss’ Category

BookCover_v1Unemployment has more than just an economic impact on our lives. M. Harvey Brenner (1973, 1999) in Mental Illness and the Economy estimates that every 1% gain in unemployment over 3 years is accompanied by 20,240 cardio failures, 495 alcohol deaths, 920 suicides, 628 homicides and 4,227 admissions to psychiatric hospitals. Yet, little attention is paid to the psychological impact of unemployment.

In my new Kindle book, How to Stay Up in a Down Job Market: Survival Skills for the Unemployed, I address 9 strategies you can begin implementing immediately to start fighting the emotional storm that often accompanies unemployment. This concise book is not meant to be a panacea; I can’t give you a 30-day money back guarantee. However, I can assure you that there are psychological strategies you can learn to employ that will prove helpful. Because unemployment is such a threat to our well being, it is critical that you reduce the psychological impact of job loss. While it is hoped this book will be helpful, it cannot replace the help a physician or mental health professional can provide when needed.

The research clearly indicates that unemployment creates a level of prolonged stress which can be debilitating in terms of one’s physical and mental wellbeing. There are a number of simple strategies presented in the book that focus on reducing the stress you are experiencing.

Central to my approach is that if we want to change how we feel there are two buttons we can push. We can change our thinking and/or change our actions. When an event occurs, we immediately begin to evaluate it. Our evaluations might be rational and helpful. Unfortunately, sometimes they are irrational and lead to emotional upset and self-defeating behavior. This can especially occur when confronted with adversity. The book addresses how you can challenge irrational thoughts and the necessity to replace them with positive thinking. A simple example would go something like this: “I lost my job, I’ll never find another in this economy.” A more helpful and rational thought would be: “It will be tough to find another job and might take awhile. I better work on it everyday.”

If we want to change how we feel, we also need to focus on our actions. Of course, we need to engage in job search activities, but the book emphasizes the need to also engage in activities that improve our mood and motivation. In my opinion, it is critical to include activities such as reading, gardening, walking, exercise, or anything else you enjoy.

We can use such activities to reinforce the completion of less inherently interesting chores like searching job boards each day. It has been my experience with clients who find themselves really stuck, that focusing on activities proves more useful at first than attacking irrational thinking. For one of my unemployed clients, taking the time some mornings to drive her children to school gave her a sense of satisfaction and helped start her day. When she was working, she never had been able to drop them off or pick them up. Another client, an unemployed father for the first time could help his children with homework. It helped him feel he was contributing to the family’s welfare even though he was out of work.

While we know that finding a new position takes hard work, we often ignore our physical and mental health. Just reading this book will not change how you feel. If you want to limit the potential damage of unemployment to you and your family’s well being, you will have to work just as hard everyday to sustain your physical and emotional health. The book is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

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Social isolation is a major threat to people who have been unemployed for a prolonged period.  One obvious cause is the loss of daily contact with co-workers and other professional colleagues.  Another cause arises from people withdrawing from friends and family because of embarrassment and/or the need to cut back on the expenses associated with socializing.  Certainly, there are other possible factors.

The devastating impact of social isolation was highlighted in a recent “60 Minutes” telecast entitled “Platform to Employment” which described a successful program to help long term unemployed gain re-employment.  Interviews of the participants brought home the debilitating psychological pain, which often accompanies unemployment.  Repeatedly, those interviewed referred to the loss of self-confidence and self esteem as well as feelings of shame and embarrassment.  Over time they began to view themselves as failures.  One participant shared her biggest worry; namely, for the first time in her life she feared she would not be able to take care of herself.  It is feelings such as that which cause the unemployed to slowly withdraw into themselves and become more and more socially isolated.

Our bodies are programmed to respond to danger – or threats to our security — by releasing the hormones which lead to the Fight or Flight Response.  We are built to endure short periods of stress.  Prolonged stress or worry has been shown to lead to physical and mental illness.  In his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert M. Sapolsky refers to research, which indicates that social isolation for prolonged periods can lead to elevated levels of stress hormones.

In today’s economy, the unemployed can be subjected to prolonged periods of worry and stress.  The resulting self-doubt and loss of confidence leads to their social withdrawal and inevitably increases their stress levels.  It therefore is critical that the unemployed seek social support, which Sapolsky recommends as an antidote to stress.

A few years ago, I presented a workshop for at a local community college.  The workshop focused on psychological strategies that could be effective in combating the emotional storm of unemployment.  It quickly became clear that an unintended benefit of the program was providing participants with social connections.  In fact, on the last night of the workshop, the group decided to approach college administrators to request a room so that they could continue meeting on a regular basis.

A couple of months later, I presented the same workshop to a similar group, which had been meeting at a church.  It struck me that this group was coping better with the stress of unemployment because of the support they provided each other.  One example of their efforts was a clothing drive for members to replace worn out items as well as obtain acceptable clothing for interviews.  They also canvassed local merchants who were willing to provide unemployed members with discounted services and products.

My experience with these two groups convinced me to encourage unemployed people to find or start support groups.  To find an existing support group, consult the community activities section of your local newspaper, or look into nearby faith organizations.  I have found these support groups to be open to anyone who is interested, regardless of religious affiliation.

If you want to start a group, a faith organization, community college, or volunteer fire department is a good place to start looking for free space.  Topics can range from helping one another with resumes, to providing job leads, to discussing strategies for salary negotiation, how to explain gaps in your resume, or how to handle tough interview questions.  Material need not be prepared in advance.  My bet is that you will be amazed at how many really good suggestions can be inspired by people of like minds.

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For some of us, resuming our career during these turbulent economic times may seem challenging, for now. However, equipped with a strong mental attitude, perseverance, and patience, we have to believe our new career opportunity is right around the corner. In the mean time, this is the perfect chance to allocate some of our down time to enriching ourselves physically as well as mentally.

Let’s face it unemployment is going to produce some level of stress for everyone facing it – for some more so than others. Developing and following a basic exercise plan, something many people “intended” to do but never had the time, is a great way to release stress. Exercise helps the body to feel better by releasing hormones called endorphins that make you feel good.  Ever hear of runner’s high?  Endorphins are the reason.  Additionally, there are numerous health related benefits associated with exercise such as improved cardiac strength, and greater endurance.

Your exercise regimen does not have to be hours long and so intense you have to crawl into bed afterwards. It can be as simple as a brisk walk in the park, as productive as an hour doing yard work, or as entertaining as a game of tennis with a friend. The psychological benefits of exercise include a sense of well being and accomplishment.  This positive attitude and vitality can boost your spirits and come through during interviews.

Take this time to establish a new habit that will benefit you for the rest of your life, you’ll be glad you did! Of course, it is always recommended to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Chris Christian is a certified personal trainer who instructs on fitness and nutrition for the City Colleges of Chicago.  He has been pursuing his passion for over 30 years and enjoys helping others enhance their lives.  Chris’s articles on fitness can be found at fitness.suite101.com.

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That’s what you think! And it’s all in your head. Sure, you may not catch up with the best of the bunch, but you should be able to beat the pack.

A lot of people believe that because they think they don’t have certain skills, they’ll never get those skills and a good job. And many are afraid to try because they don’t want to be seen as a failure. Sadly, not trying locks them out of opportunities. Have you ever known someone who wasn’t very smart yet was very successful?  It happens all the time.

Most likely you’re pretty smart and excel in lots of areas, but you think there are areas you just can’t master. Notice we said, “think.” Why “think?”  Because lots of really bright people think that if they can’t grasp something right away, they never will. They’re wrong.  The key is effort.  That’s why people who are not smart slog through learning a new skill and ultimately master it.

Few of us can do what Einstein, Michelangelo, Mozart, Newton, or Shakespeare did, but to get a great job we don’t have to. So how do people without such “gifts” succeed? Research makes clear that effort or persistence is just as important and often more important than intelligence when it comes to success. As Einstein pointed out, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Successful people believe if they work hard at something they can “get it.” And if they don’t get it right away or perfectly, they don’t see themselves as failures.

Guess what: if you have the ability to learn anything, you have the ability to learn just about everything. All you need do is apply yourself, and stick with it.

Here’s the big picture: if you think you can’t learn something new, you won’t.   And it’s unlikely that you’ll get a top job.  So here’s our advice: “Don’t believe everything you think.” Do what you need to do. Then let us know how you achieved something you thought you couldn’t.

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True, you shouldn’t worry about stress; you should do something about it. Medical science has shown that physical and emotional health cannot be separated.  Being stressed over a long period of time has been linked to problems like depression, heart disease, diabetes, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, and many others. Stress can even make existing medical conditions worse. And no one has to tell you that being unemployed is highly stressful.

We strongly suggest you work on controlling stress every day. There are a number of proven techniques to lower stress quickly and effectively. They include, but are limited to: exercise, yoga, relaxation tapes, seeking social support, and even the simple act of laughing. (If you can’t reduce stress on your own, it is important to seek professional help.) Did you notice we mentioned laughter? While on the computer go to you favorite search engine and type in “laughter yoga.” You will discover why science has shown that laughter is great medicine. Why not try it today? Watch a funny movie and let us know how you feel afterward.

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The phone on my desk started to ring.  I picked it up.  The conversation didn’t seem real.  I was told I was being laid off.  My immediate reaction was numbness. It was November of ‘09.  I had been looking forward to the holidays.  There didn’t seem to be a cloud in the sky.  I was listening but finding it hard to relate to what was being said.  I did not know where to turn but luckily I decided to call my wife. Her support was immediate.  She instantly pointed out that we would get through this layoff and suggested I come home for lunch.  I was in such a daze that I don’t even remember driving home.  Then anger set in.  “How could they let such a hard working guy like me go?”  It took a couple of days, but I soon realized that anger wasn’t going to get my job back.  Instead it motivated me to “show them” what a mistake they had made by finding an equal or better position.

In addition to severance, the company was decent enough to give me several weeks’ notice.  During that period I came to understand the practical side of the company letting me go.   Being a team player by nature and knowing that I had a reputation to protect, I continued to work hard, especially at helping my replacement transition into his new role.  During the exit interview I was cordial and did not express bitterness toward the company or anyone in it.

Once off premises, I put a full-court press on getting a new job.  I read as much as I could about job search techniques, attended career seminars, became friendly with career coaches, got active in several professional support groups, and networked, networked, networked.  All the while I kept a positive attitude, and never spoke disparagingly about my former employer.  In fact, I positioned my dismissal as a gift; an opportunity to counsel and motivate others in transition while seeking a job that met all of my criteria for satisfaction.

Throughout the job search process I shared my thoughts, feelings, and concerns with my wife.  The open dialogue encouraged her support and made it easier for me to cope with the uncertainty I was facing.  Getting support is vital, either from family, friends, or your peers.

So how did I get my new job?  Believe it or not, the same company hired me back to work in a different division.   I had maintained contact with fellow co-workers who let me know about the open position.  The HR people knew that I had been an asset to the company.  They remembered how well I handled being phased out and how helpful I was to my replacement. And, they were aware of the work I was doing to help other people in transition.

If asked what were the most important strategies that helped me get another job, I would point to my positive attitude and networking.  It took a couple of days to resolve my anger.  Once I thought about the company’s decision from a business perspective, I realized I got caught in the perfect storm.  As I clarified my thinking, my attitude changed.  If you remain angry or down in the dumps, it will come through in all your job search activities including networking and interviewing.  In the end, it was my attitude and networking that led to some income from consulting and ultimately a new position.  I didn’t look back.  Rather, I focused all my attention on my job search.  Once you recognize your old company is not the enemy and neither are you the enemy, you can begin to use your anger to motivate yourself to intensely pursue your next position.  Reaching out and helping others in the same situation keeps you socially connected. You will likely to get back more than you give away.  And above all, do not let negativity get in your way.

Matt Levy is an HR Professional/Recruiting & Talent Expert/Innovator. He blogs at http://mlevy2222.wordpress.com

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You’re not alone. Current studies of people who are out of work show that a sense of isolation is very common. People report less contact with friends and former coworkers. Work plays such a large role in our lives, not only financially but also socially, that job loss presents a real threat to our emotional wellbeing. As a result, the unemployed become more withdrawn over time. In reality, we are responsible for creating that sense of isolation by not reaching out. It is important to recognize this threat and work on maintaining social connections. Friends are a wonderful source of emotional support.

Another way to guard against social isolation is to join a support group for people who are unemployed. Local faith communities and civic organizations are a frequent source. These groups often invite guess speakers who offer helpful information on a variety of topics. Members help each other by sharing personal experiences. If a group does not exist in your community, try starting one. Lots of organizations will gladly offer space for you to meet. We think you’d be surprised how well such an effort is received. Let us know if you belong to such a group and how it formed.

Today, the Internet provides lots of ways to stay connected though social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Social networking makes it easy to stay in touch. It also provides the ability to share job leads and other important information.

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