Monday, September 6, 2010

Coping with Being Unemployed

Labor Day seems like a good time to talk about coping with being unemployed. It helps to remember that being unemployed while seeking work is a transition, especially if you were previously employed, attending school, or voluntarily not working. Transitions tend to elicit feelings of loss and uncertainty. Yet, even when painful and difficult, transitions are a time of opportunity.

First, build a foundation of self-care from which to take advantage of your state of unemployment. Attend to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Here are some simple, yet powerful ideas that will likely improve your mood and confidence, increase your productivity, and decrease your anxiety.

• Create structure in your life through a daily and weekly schedule. Each individual functions best at a different point on the continuum between a rigid and flexible structure. Experiment with what works best for you, and be honest with yourself about it—in other words, find what works and hold yourself accountable.

• It’s usually best to awaken and go to sleep at consistent times all or most days of the week.

• Eat nutritiously and at consistent times of the day.

• Choose an enjoyable form of physical exercise or activity to include in your daily schedule.

• Stay connected to family, friends and acquaintances, including in-person time. Don’t isolate.

• Make time for hobbies or other activities you haven’t had time for in the past.

With this foundation in place, you can focus on activities that will boost your “hire-ability” and your chances of finding work. Use your current wealth of time to grow your professional expertise and your professional network. Think: education.

• Research and read about areas within and outside of your field that interest you. The internet is a vast resource for learning.

• Contact professionals within and outside of your field whose work or organizations interest you. Learn about their work and how it is connected to the work you’ve done or would like to do. You might find that professional connections and relationships that you form while unemployed will continue to develop even after you find work.

• Consider volunteering as a way of learning about a new field, or keeping fresh in your current field. Volunteering can also lead to paid work. Similarly, consider taking a part-time job or a contract job.

Finally, seek help and support. If funds permit, consider hiring a career counselor or coach for direction, guidance and support. Or consider forming or joining a support group with others that are looking for work. If you find yourself debilitated or bogged down by depression or anxiety, consider counseling. Counseling can help you get out from under thoughts, feelings and actions that are getting in the way of making the most of your present circumstances, and help you to take advantage of the opportunities that your situation provides.

May this time be one of growth and development for you, and lead to satisfying work.