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HOW TO COPE WITH
Being unemployed at a time when you need to work and believe you have much to offer is a very difficult and increasingly common experience. If you are used to being active and valued, and if you expect to be moving forward in your life and developing new skills, then suddenly finding yourself out in the cold and going nowhere is confusing and distressing. You will have to deal with some very uncomfortable, persistent and perhaps unfamiliar feelings as the rest of the world carries on, busy and indifferent, without you. Unemployment can seriously affect your confidence, health and relationships.
Note: I've been very fortunate - I'm retired now and I never had a period of unemployment, But many relatives and friends of mine have experienced unemployment, this situations seems to be affecting more people more often, and so I sought advice from a friend who knows what unemployment is like.
I have experienced two periods of long-term unemployment in mid-life, and have learnt a lot about how to cope. Essentially my advice is to vary your activities and to plan them week-by-week. Here are some of my recommendations:
- Treat weekdays as workdays and weekends as weekends. Keeping to this structure will help you cope with unemployment and also make it much easier to adjust when you do start work.
- Get up early during the week, ideally at a fixed time. Certainly make sure you are washed, dressed and active by 9 am. Don't watch television during the day and avoid idle telephone conversations with friends or family unless that is what you've already decided to do with that part of the week. Meeting friends for lunch is good, but don't let such occasions run well into the afternoon. Don't look for jobs during the evening or at weekends unless there is a particular urgency.
- Plan each week's activities in advance. Jobseeking was always my top priority, so I would decide at the beginning of the week how much time I would devote to it and try to stick to that. But I would also be conscious that time is more precious even than money, so I would ensure that even if the jobseeking produced nothing, I would get something positive from each week. This is hard to do initially, because you feel as though you must spend every moment searching until you find something. But don't. Believe it or not, there is more to life than work, and more to you than whatever job you do. And if you do nothing all week but look for work and are unsuccessful, you will feel crushed at the end of it, and it will quickly become hard to motivate yourself for future jobseeking.
- Aim to achieve something. Don't go mad – one or two things will do. Any more and you risk inviting failure. I signed up for a half marathon even though I'm certainly not a natural athlete. I became fitter than I ever had been, and achieved something I never thought I would. And I was very surprised to find that once you get to a certain level of fitness so it's not agony right from the start, running can be very satisfying and even exhilarating.
- Take up or develop a hobby. I am not a good guitarist, but I do have a guitar. I get pleasure from it and rarely inflict suffering. There are already plenty of men with no discernible musical talent attempting to play guitar, so perhaps try to think of something else. Maybe learning a new language or a martial art? Or cooking or gardening or writing stories? The important thing is that whatever you do, do it in a structured way: don't pick up the guitar (or whatever) because you're bored, distracted or listless - decide in advance when you're going to play it, and for how long, be dedicated during that time and aim to finish the session more accomplished than when you started.
- Read. This is so important. Good books will keep your mind active and can 'take you out of yourself' for a few hours. But again, decide in advance when you're going to read and for how long. Vary your reading.
- Visit different places. If you spend all day every day within walking distance of your home, your world view will quickly shrink and you will become preoccupied with local trivia. It's good to take an interest in where you live, but don't forget the vast and complex world beyond. Try to pick one day a week where you get on a bus or train or in your car and go somewhere else, even if all you do when you get there is wander around, have a cup of tea, read the paper and come home again.
- Visit friends and relatives. It's a great time to renew and develop friendships. And you will find their support encouraging.
- Socialise. I suddenly found myself shying from invitations to social events. I worried that I would have nothing recent to talk about, or that I hadn't earned leisure time because I hadn't been working, or worst of all that my friends would think me a failure or take pity on me. I don't think you have to be especially proud or strict with yourself to have these anxieties. But avoiding socialising (unless you really can't afford it) is a very bad idea. Your world is already in danger of shrinking and belittling you in the process. Make sure you stay in touch with people and keep your friendships and acquaintances up to date. It might even provide an opening to a new job.
- Having said all that, do not spend time with people you don't particularly like or who don't make you feel good. This is not a time to be making social sacrifices for other people - life is already hard enough.
- Consider voluntary work. It can be fulfilling and might lead to better things. Also you can add the experience to your CV or resumé.
- Be very careful with your money. It's pretty obvious that being unemployed won't help your finances, and I don't want to patronise with money-saving tips, but there are a few things I think are worth mentioning:
- Claim Jobseekers' Allowance - or the equivalent in your country - as soon as you are out of work. I didn't want to, and didn't enjoy it; but I'd made years of contributions to it, and so felt entitled. It eased the financial strain a little.
- Shop daily and cook with raw ingredients. You've got time to do this, it's much cheaper and healthier, and you'll become a better cook. There's not really any excuse for pre-packed meals.
- If you have a mortgage, ask your lender if you can pay interest only for a while.
- When you get a job interview - as you will - check out advice on how to have a good interview: click here.
Last modified on 23 January 2011
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