Since November 14, 2014 I’ve had more than a year of unemployment, and my time will either prove or disprove the article by Ali Berman, who quoted the American Psychological Association’s negative assessment.
To read my results, check out the article: “My Sabbatical Year is Ending! What’s Next? …and a reply to a previous article I wrote!”
This article sets forth some points and advice for people who don’t wish their lives to concur with the negative views, but who wish to use their time constructively!
Here’s a link to an article by Ali Berman, letting us know that researchers have found there are personality changes in people experiencing long-term unemployment: http://www.mnn.com/money/green-workplace/stories/being-unemployed-might-change-basic-personality-traits
“Unemployment might impact more than a person’s bank account. According to new research published by the American Psychological Association, unemployment can change a person’s personality, making some people less agreeable, open and conscientious. And those changes can make it more difficult to find work.“The results challenge the idea that our personalities are ‘fixed’ and show that the effects of external factors such as unemployment can have large impacts on our basic personality,” one of the scientists behind the study, Dr. Christopher J. Boyce, said of the findings. “This indicates that unemployment has wider psychological implications than previously thought.”Read more: http://www.mnn.com/money/green-workplace/stories/being-unemployed-might-change-basic-personality-traits#ixzz3SPuJFWAD
This can have some potentially devastating consequences for job seekers: it further underscores the prejudices against people who have been unemployed long-term.
The article didn’t indicate if the studies followed people after they had found employment, and if the participants REGAINED their ability to be agreeable, open and conscientious, or if their personalities remained the same!
How Can A Person Counteract These Possible Changes?
Being unemployed is difficult. Long term unemployment is harder; it takes its toll on us financially, physically and emotionally.
What can we do to help prevent these personality changes from happening?
In order to look at solutions, I think it’s important to identify the major triggers:
- Reduction or elimination of incoming money;
- Not having a place to go to be productive;
- Not having anything to “do”, and getting into non-productive mode;
- Not getting exercise/ physical activity;
- Taking the loss of employment personally and getting depressed;
- Health being affected;
- Loss of Health insurance can equal not being able to pay for doctors and meds;
During a period of long-term unemployment, there are certain things which won’t change (until we find employment again), and which we have little control over.
Feeling out of control is a POWERFUL EMOTION and can be paralyzing for many people.
In order to unfreeze from this paralysis, it’s important to start with the things we do have control over, and set in motion a personal plan of REDEMPTION!
I say REDEMPTION, because we can save ourselves from falling into the pit, and we can help ourselves get out of it if we have slid into it.
What Are The Things We Have Potential to Control?
Depending on our own situation, we potentially can control:
- Continuing our job search
- Finding activities to keep busy
- Finding a place to be productive
- Developing new skills/ activities
- Getting exercise/ being active
- Choosing our thoughts
Continue Our Job Search:
As an unemployed person, our biggest activity needs to be finding employment. It’s easy to feel our situation is hopeless, that we have applied for every job posted on online job boards, and that no one will hire us.
Since this article isn’t about all the different ways we can do a job search, I won’t list them here, but I will encourage you to try new ways to find job openings. If you keep doing the same old, same old and are getting no where, then it’s time to try different approaches!
I’ve found many, many informative articles on LinkedIn which speak about many different tried and true ways of finding employment, some which are fairly mainstream, and others are much more creative.
LinkedIn is a great place to start building extended networks, for learning, mentoring and helping in the job search. There are many different types of groups you can join, giving you more ways to connect with people who share the same interests with you, or are in areas you’d like to explore.
We now live in a global society, so that if you find yourself, like me, living in a small town where there aren’t many job openings, it’s still possible to create work via the Internet.
Networking and casting a larger job search net, can also bring in offers from outside of the region where we live, setting the stage to possibly work remotely via email, Skype and Internet, or even to possibly relocating to a new region.
By networking through LinkedIn, we can get pro-active in a job search, and not simply wait for a job to be posted on a job board. Having looked at the offerings there, I’ve noticed pickings are slim, and not very exciting!
What does it mean to be proactive? It means looking up all the different companies, and going to their websites to look for jobs. A good source for finding company listings is the local Chamber of Commerce website, which has a membership list and many times live links to company websites!
I’m not a huge fan of online applications, but will fill it out so they have my info on file to print out. I prefer to dig a little deeper and find email addresses of the hiring people and send a letter explaining why I like the company and why I feel I’d be a good fit for a job. I have found a number of times that even if a position has been filled, that the company will call me back at a later date when a different job opens up, since I had already made a good impression!
I’m still in the process of preparing to move with my family to a small city, in order for us to have more opportunities, but when I move I will start to attend the monthly coffee meetings with the Chamber of Commerce, in order to get to know more people in various companies and industries.
Finding activities to keep busy:
Rather than falling into TV land and watching endless hours of TV and movies, it’s important to find activities which keep us occupied.
After the job search activities have been completed, why not keep busy working on different projects? If you’ve been waiting for some chunks of time to get some things completed, now is a good time to do so. You may discover you love those activities so much, you’d like to focus on them for full time employment in the future!
During my last period of unemployment when I was helping my daughter through the baby’s cancer, I completed my book “On Becoming a Lemonade Maker“, a project I had been working on for a few years. Once the manuscript was complete, I researched how to format it for an eBook, and did the work to prepare it, and launched it through Kindle. I started a blog, and learned about what I needed to do to build my author platform, build my audience, and develop my marketing strategies.
Once I started my last job, I was able to continue writing articles in the evenings and keep active and participate in various social media groups. I prepared the paperback book and the audio book for launch during this time, as well as started uploading some of my photos to Fine Art America.com.
Many people will also choose to use their time to volunteer, which brings a great sense of satisfaction of being able to give back. Some people gain new skills while volunteering their time, which has led to new employment opportunities. (Many employers prefer their volunteers take classes to get certified before hiring them full or part time.) Volunteering can be a great way to test the waters, to try out a new area of work.
I don’t see periods of unemployment as fallow times to sit around waiting for my life to get back on track, but rather as an opportunity to switch gears, and throw my self into my projects, and get a lot accomplished, so that when I’m back to working full-time, I can keep the momentum going an hour or four in the evenings!
Finding a place to be productive:
It’s important to find a place where you can be productive. It’s about a sense of place, something we miss when we’re no longer employed, but a spot we call our own even if its a chair at a table, helps us have a feeling of continuity in our life.
The place or places you find for yourself will depend on what you’re working on, your personal needs and what is available to you. I sit in my easy chair while I work on my laptop, and keep an eye on the kids. Working from home is fine for some folks who can keep focused, but if you find yourself easily distracted by the fridge, the TV or mundane household chores, you may need to find a place out of the house to work.
For some people who work better out of the house, they become regulars at cafes with Internet, other people like the local library. Do check and see if your community has a job club, because that can be a great place to go to for your job search to keep on track, at the same time allows you to connect with people in a helpful way.
If you decide to take a class or classes, the library or other lounge areas can be upbeat places to work.
Developing new skills/ activities:
If your skills are out of date and need brushing up on you may find that taking classes to be very beneficial on a few levels. It gets you out of the house, you’re doing something very positive for yourself which then helps push away depressed feelings.
Do check with your local unemployment office with criteria for meeting your job search, where you need to be ready and available for interviews and work opportunities. Taking night classes may be a great alternative, and since it doesn’t interrupt a 9-5 schedule, my understanding is that its okay, but you’d have to check that.
Losing a job is a great time to examine our direction in life… is it time to return to school full time perhaps and get a degree or certification in the occupation which is really calling you?
I used part of my unemployment time to continue to learn Photoshop, and to practice on some projects, which I incorporate into my blog pieces, or upload to Fine Art America!
If the lack of a GED is the issue in your life, by all means use this time to explore how you can tackle this. When we have a day job, it can be very difficult to take time off as an hourly worker to make an appointment with a counsellor to get the ball rolling, but now that you have a lot of time, why not do this for yourself?
Taking classes isn’t always about focusing on what you need for your career. Maybe your skills are great and up-to-date, but you got laid off due to company cut-backs. This may be the time to just take personal interest classes to finally be able to do what you’ve dreamed of doing, but kept putting off. Developing a hobby or an interest adds spice to our lives and helps us feel our lives are so much more worthwhile!
Please don’t worry if others just don’t ‘get it’! This is what you do for yourself, for you’re the one living in your shoes!
Getting exercise/ being active:
Being sedentary, as we know, is bad for our health. It is responsible not only for weight gain, but many other issues. If we get too much into couch potato mode, we can become so much more susceptible to depression.
When we get our blood moving through mindful exercise, whether it’s walking around the park, swimming laps, yoga, boxing, etc., we not only create those wonderful endorphins which help us to feel better, but we help our lymphatic systems cleanse the impurities and toxins from our blood and cells.
Whether I’m employed or unemployed, I do my best to get in my walking time. During bad weather when I can’t walk in the park, I’ll go to one of the big box stores, and get my walking in there. That’s not always a great idea, since I invariably see something I need to buy!
Walking helps me clear my head, helps my body to feel alive, which helps me deal with my emotions and keep the negative thoughts away!
For me an added bonus of walking in the park, are the photo opportunities! I carry my little snapshot camera with me, and lately I’ve gotten an iPhone, which takes great pictures. (With our AT&T plan we can pay it off monthly, so there isn’t a huge upfront cost.)
Choosing our thoughts:
It can be very challenging to keep our thoughts focused in a positive way, because many of us are programmed to beat ourselves up when our life has a setback, or what we see to be a failure.
The negative self talk is a difficult loop to get out of, but as you may notice, I’ve left this point to the last, since if we apply the first points into our lives, we have so many positive things to feel good about!
Love yourself by being gentle with your thoughts.
If you are stuck in ‘bad’ habits, dust yourself off, give yourself a boost and get going!
You’d be surprised to see how many of the negative talk loops start to fade when we are doing what we need to do for ourselves.
The more you practice these things, the easier it is to quiet the old negative self talk: “Look! I’m doing it! I’m doing a good job” you can tell yourself.
To Wrap up:
Unemployment can be a VERY ACTIVE and FULFILLING period, if we use the time which has been given to us in POSITIVE and PRODUCTIVE ways.
This time can be a great gift, and not just a difficult challenge to wait out.
When we’re working on doing things which make us a more employable person, or a happier person, I don’t believe we will fall prey to becoming disagreeable, less open or less conscientious!
Rather, I think we can show the OPPOSITE to be true! So, don’t let this time of unemployment be a tearing down time, but instead set in motion your new plan to improve your life, give yourself permission to seek new heights in yourself and in your growth!
Peace to you!
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