I recently read an interesting article ranking the most stressful jobs in 2010 . First off, I’m not saying we should take such lists too seriously. Don’t be offended if your profession didn’t get on the list. Many of the ‘obvious’ professions didn’t either, the not so nice comments at the end of the article proves that. (Feel free to add your voice). Production and industry line workers didn’t make the cut. Nor did the overly-happy-to-see-you cashier at the Burger King counter, who gets to hear exactly how everyone has their burger their way for an 8 hour stretch. Air traffic controllers, nurses, janitors, dishwashers and garbage collectors didn’t even get an honorary mention. And while if you’re a Roustabout you might officially have the worst job of the year , you don’t seem to have a stressful one. Go figure. So let’s not put much faith in it, it’s all relative. But while working is stressful, which it is regardless of where you’re working or what your job is, is it possible that not working is even more so?
I was standing contentedly in the patio sipping my morning mug of coffee. It was such a lovely morning, pretty and peaceful and the only interruption was the sound of the garbage-truck making its intermittent stops as it slowing progressed down the street. Nothing beckoned my urgent attention, I have no job to rush to, so I waited for the truck to appear. I waved to the driver when he came into view, he smiled and nodded a polite reply. The worker was distracted by the bins for awhile, but as he passed me, our eyes met. As before, I smiled over my mug and waved. Caught up with his work he didn’t reply. It was some seconds later before our eyes met again. By then my mind had wondered and my smile had faded, replaced by a furrowed brow and the soft beginning of a frown. He stared for a moment and I can only describe his expression as a scowl. Shaking his head in despair, he leaped onto the truck, slapped the side powerfully, twice and along with truck and driver disappeared from my view.
He snubbed me.
What was that about? Now I was disturbed. His look bothered me. I stood there for awhile listening to the fading sounds of the truck and feeling the heat in my mug cool. I seem to have offended my garbage-man. I believe he mistook my pensive look for pity. If only he knew. I was at the moment he caught my contemplative stare, envying him, his work. I was thinking that his job is a hard one and I wondered if his boss praised him. I wondered if he had a family and if his family appreciated his efforts. I wondered in those seconds how much he was paid and if all his bills would be settled. I did not look down on you my dear garbage-man, I admired you, your work.
I almost dressed and ran after him to explain but by then I couldn’t hear the truck any more. One day I will help him understand. He is working and I am not. In the land of the unemployed, the garbage-man is king.
It started like any other day. The sun rose, the birds chirped, the dogs barked, the morning air was fresh. I half expected Mr. Rogers to open my bedroom door and burst into “it’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood”. So when the mailman showed up it was just in keeping with the theme. Until, that is, I inspected the mail a little closer. Let’s see, bill, bill, thank you note from church I attended with invite to come back (not likely, they were weird), bill and ah, why yes, a bill. And just like that my glorious morning turned gloomy.
While unemployment generally sucks, every day isn’t the same. Some days you’ll awake ready to conquer the universe. Some you’ll be quiet and reflective. On others you’ll busy yourself with chores, and the sense of accomplishment that comes from a clean house will minimize the rejection you feel from an empty in-box. There are days of despair, loneliness and confusion. Days of optimism, faith and hope.
And then, there are days like today. When going back to bed and starting over seems the only sensible option. Apologies to those who were expecting some profound note of wisdom, today I have none. I’m going back to bed and to sleep. I’ll try again tomorrow. We’ll go hunting together then. Promise.
With 15 million unemployed and an estimated 10 million more to follow by the end of this year, job competition is rough. To put it mild. And it’s not just those of us who aren’t working that are job hunting, businesses are reporting that staff morale is at an all time low, workers are extremely unhappy, so the employed are job-hunting too. And, here’s the real kicker, there are less jobs available than ever before.
At first, many corporations tried, (bless them) to reduce staff hours per week, then days per week, then weeks per month. Wages fell, salaries fell, then staff reductions began. For many businesses the projected financial “upswing” didn’t come, recovery was impossible, bankruptcy inevitable and many an organization closed. The other problem is that some of those won’t be reopening. Ever. And the ones that do may not resume business-as-usual, so don’t anticipate those jobs will reappear. It seems gloomy. Well, that’s the sad truth.
So what are we to do?
Here’s my take.
1. Keep hunting, the season is still open.
But don’t wait for the deer to fall out the sky. Do the usual, check the newspapers, the websites etc. Look for one full-time or many part-time jobs. But keep looking. And also do the unusual. Stalk if required. (Yes, I said it). Don’t underestimate the power of the ‘phone-a-friend’ lifeline. It doesn’t even have to be a friend, so what if you don’t remember his last name, he came to your Christmas party, call him. Network. Truthfully I didn’t do much of this at first, so if you don’t feel up to mingling I understand. But I got over it and you will too. Let’s suck it up and get to it. See you at the next shindig!
2. Put your hobbies to work.
We’re all good at something. Stop scratching your head and give yourself a break, it’s true. Whatever that is find a way to put it to use. It may be a little odd or end but all those odds and ends add up pretty quickly and still pay a bill or two. I do manicures and pedicures. (Yes, that’s a blatant ad. It’s my blog. Call me!) If you bake well ask permission and set up a table outside your church. If you bake poorly Betty Crocker can help. Can you sew, paint, teach, play an instrument, walk a dog? Even a karaoke competition is fair game right now. Find it, use it.
3. Become your own employer.
Seems almost obvious, but for a lot of us, this is really hard to do. Many companies are looking for part-time consultants instead of full-time staff. If you have the experience to do this, have a go at it. Bear in mind however, that this may take start-up funds. So that part-time job or those cake sale funds will come in handy.
4. Take time for you.
Extended unemployment is one of the hardest things some of us will face. Losing your job will affect your finances, but also your confidence, energy, faith, peace, sleep, appetite and your joy. It’s not a happy time but it’s down time you can turn into up time. Remember the things while you were slaving away at work you said you’d like to do? Have an impromptu picnic in the park, take a swim at the beach in the afternoon, read an old classic you liked at school, sleep? Take time to do it and really enjoy it. The ones who are working wish they could do it and don’t have the time. Hey, just because they can pay bills, doesn’t mean they should have all the fun. Keep living.
And just for the record, while I used hunting as an analogy I don’t endorse it. Live and let live. (Bambi ain’t do you nothing.)
Welcome to unemployment. Join the club. Unfortunately the club is surprisingly and frighteningly large and you don’t get anything for joining. It just sucks, big time. Take it from someone who’s been a member for a while now. There isn’t an honorary status before you ask. How long you’ve been in or frequently you come back doesn’t make a difference. Membership is non-discriminatory, open to anyone, from anywhere, of any colour, class, creed, race, height, social, financial or spiritually background and where you did or didn’t go to school doesn’t matter either. Here, we’re all the same. Broke.
In the beginning it’s not too bad. Sort of like a mini-vacation. After-all, you’ll be working again in no time so why not enjoy the break. You stay up and sleep in, eat when you feel like and generally do what you like. Day time programming is exciting. At first. You take yoga, eat ice-cream, and browse the classifieds being very selective, looking for that perfect job. At first. Then the bills come in and the funds get low and the daytime programming gets to be too familiar and boring. Staying up late is silly, only re-runs show and you’ve seen the re-runs too many times now. Before you know it, it’s been months. And some of those jobs you may have glanced over get your full attention now. And then you start sleeping in. Waking up is harder and less frequent. And no-one else seems to get it. People who love you want you to get out of bed, get dressed, come out, watch a movie, laugh a little, be yourself and other such drivel. All you want to do is disappear. See it’s all very confusing. Your world doesn’t make sense anymore, it changed without warning and it’s been too long now to still have faith, but somehow, life seems to have gone on.
For those who still dare to venture outside (careful, someone could see you), just walk past a news-stand and see covers with Stars still showing up on red carpets. All the best glossies are still printing the evidence of this fact and hark!, dare to tell who they wore and worse yet, who they arrived with. Staying in? Me too. But turn the telly on and find the wrong channel and a super cute and wonderfully insensitive host will help you recreate one of those same red carpet looks for less. Less? Seriously? I’ve got less and it isn’t enough to help me look like that. Not that I can afford to go anywhere.
Of course the reminders that you’re not in the land of the gainfully employed are evident in little things too. Instant coffee has replaced the morning double double espresso from the café. Flip flops drag around instead of heels. Nail polish is chipped, hair needs a trim, designer liquid soaps are replaced with the economically sensible bars and steak for dinner means burgers. Your Facebook account is so private you’re the only one who can see it and you don’t Tweet no more.
Feel like a loser yet? You’re not. You are someone who has lost but you’re certainly no loser. Some of us lost one thing or two as a result of unemployment and some of us lost a whole lot. Jobs, then furniture, light, heat, phone, water, furniture, cars, homes, spouses and every combination of the above. And all of it hurts. Hurts bad.
Inhale, one long, deep breath…now exhale.
Whatever your loss, it’s time to start moving on. Every day won’t be the same. Trust me. Some days you’ll get up and others you’re still going to want to sleep in. Go with it. You’ll still be hurt, maybe angry, you may cry. The key thing is not to be down on yourself. You’re not a loser. And there’s over 15 million of us, you’re not alone.
Embrace what it is. By not going to the café you can drink your Jamaican Blue Mountain brew without saying false hellos to people you don’t like. Walk past the newsstand without looking. But should you have to glance, remember they’ve all been airbrushed anyway. Flip past the silly channels but if you can’t, only watch the commercials. Stick buttons on your flip flops and start a new trend or just wear your heels to the supermarket. Trim your own hair, if it goes wrong post it on Facebook and start a new style. Bars of soap keep the bathroom scented and let’s face it, burgers rock! Oh, and about that Facebook page, you don’t have 3,000 “Friends”. You really don’t. Keep the essentials and block or delete the rest. Hey, unless they’ve been helping you pay bills, buy food or stay chipper you during this time, you don’t need to care what they think about being deleted. Tweet happy thoughts and stay positive.
When all else fails, find a fellow member to talk to. If no one else gets it, I do.