Author: Don Oehlert
The word sounds kinda ugly, doesn’t it? It sounds like a judgement – and not for the better, either. It sounds like you’re just not good enough. It’s kind of a scary word, because you don’t really know when it will end. It’s an empty word, full of angst.
It rings of loneliness. It can be thought of as embarrassing.
And yet, if you’re married and have children, it doesn’t just affect the unemployed breadwinner in the house only.
The whole family suffers.
The spouse/significant other feels bad for the person that’s unemployed. They feel pressure if they have a part time job, to get a full-time job so they can pitch in. The kids seem to sense something is up. Younger ones may not know what it is, or what it means, but they’ll sense something isn’t quite right.
Scary, but not shameful.
One other thing to remember is that when you’re unemployed, it’s no longer a stigma. Over the last 25 years (since 1995), most of the workforce has been unemployed for some stretch of time, at some point. Y2K issues. Dot.com bubble burst. The mortgage crisis of 2006-2009 and resulting recession. Now, especially this year (2020), with the COVID pandemic, even more people are feeling the pinch of unemployment.
Given that, many people that are working and looking for employees are giving the unemployed a pass. Holding onto that stigma and guilt is unhealthy and adversely effects the whole family even though they’ll keep supporting you.
Yes, in the recent past, it has been thought of as “Well, if they weren’t good enough for their former employer, they must not be any good at all.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. There are always reasons why people are unemployed. Notice I used the word “reasons” and not “excuses.”
They could range from market swings, to poor decisions, to product staleness, to viral new products from a competitor. It could be due to an election. Maybe due to a natural disaster. It could be due to a war or terrorist attack. There are any number of other reasons.
Let’s think of it this way.
Let’s take a fictional character named Harry. Harry has been with ABC Office Machines for over 20 years. He’s always done great work since the day he got there – his reviews have always been positive. His customers love him, and request him all the time. The only problem is, Harry is the top guy at the company when it comes to fixing typewriters and fax machines. To the younger set out there, these may sound like horse-and-buggy technology. In today’s world, I guess it is.
Anyway, back to Harry. One day in 2007, Harry is brought into the office and is dismissed just shy of his 20th anniversary (and resulting pension benefit). “It’s for business reasons, Harry!” (much like the “it’s not you, it’s me” saying from a rom-com – only in this case, it really isn’t Harry’s responsibility).
Is it Harry’s fault that he was laid off or fired? Not really, and certainly not due to his performance. ABC Office Machines didn’t see the end of faxing. They didn’t plan for the complete collapse in demand for typewriters. I mean, there are still forms (in triplicate) to be filled out, right? What works better than a typewriter to do that? One can say nothing. But one can also say that the high-speed laser printer can make three copies of a specific document almost as fast as the typewritten form can be filled out, aligning all of those blank lines to fill out. Carbon paper to straighten. Etc.
How much of any of that is there around today? I’m going to posit that many of the younger crowd doesn’t even know what carbon paper is!
You always have options.
The point I’m trying to make is, there are people on the street now (and there always have been) that have been victimized by many things beyond their control. And if it’s beyond your control, there’s no reason to feel like you are responsible for the outcome. And if you’re not responsible for the outcome, there’s no reason to feel bad about being laid off.
You can always network more (I know – just when you feel least like it). Perhaps you can always hire a career coach or resume writer. You can update your LinkedIn profile to reflect your status. Ask the whole family to give you suggestions. Strike up a conversation to someone behind you in the grocery store line. So maybe you can join a networking group or a faith-based job club. You can go to the local state/federal workNET Center.
Now if you stay laid off, that’s inside your control.
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