Jody Phillips

Hirevision Career Coach


How to Avoid Death by Unemployment

Can being unemployed make you sick? Worse, can it kill you? You bet! According to a recent article in the New York Times, downsizing can be downright dangerous.

Forget about the unemployment statistics that are powered, in some small part, by your getting whacked.  What about the trauma that stresses you out, has you on a direct trajectory to a dirt nap?

As someone who’s worked with the unemployed, underemployed and those teetering on the verge, I know which emotion rules their psyches–fear. And what’s lurking behind fear? Powerlessness. You’ll find the core belief that survival and success lie in the hands of corporations and in the heads of politicians, out of their control.

Take Back Your Power

Not. C’mon! I helped my cleaning lady morph into a pet groomer, an IT dude become a tech recruiter for the green energy sector, and a university student create his own job stringing tennis rackets and coaching kids. And look, not one of them is bound by a Daddy. They’re all self-employed.

Easy? No. But let’s face facts. Slapping a nitro pill under your tongue isn’t exactly a trip to Disney either, is it?

Come on! Do you really believe that if Generic Co. can’t hire you, it’s all over? That if the “Administration du jour” doesn’t create opportunities, you should pour yourself a stiff one and wait for the big one?

Take a lesson from the career jockeys, the folks who are always on the hunt and who always land well. What’ve  they got that the people in decline, readying themselves for the paddles, don’t? Their own confidence and power. They believe there’s a solution. And they find it.

Unearth Your Gifts

How? Focus on your talents. Focus on what you love to do. Research the market. Ask what it needs. Even bad markets need something. Then dovetail where you shine with what the world needs.

But the first decision is the most important: the one where you take back your power and start looking at what you can do. Skip the pity party. Evict your inner victim.  Stop looking at the empty holes in the cube farm, anticipating that yours could be next. Quit commiserating with anyone who’s mired in misery. And start examining your talents. Trust me, you have something to give. It’s there.

Has your health been affected by your employment situation? What’s your story? Got any tips for reclaiming your vocational and your medical well-being?

3 Responses to How to Avoid Death by Unemployment

  1. Jamie says:

    In some ways, I am dealing with a similar sort of fear in my own career. I am not unemployed, but I am worried about what kind of career I will be able to find, if I do not finish my Ph.D. Your entry with its honest, but encouraging, advice has given me a lot to think about and a postive perspective to look at myself and what I have to offer an employer outside of the acadamy. I will excitedly be awaiting more of your entries.

    • My friend Diana, who’s an English prof at a local university, held a job fair and invited a whack of employers, all of whom were interested in hiring Engish majors. Why? The way their minds are trained. Besides having amazing research skills, they discern patterns and can hold more than one concept in their heads at a time. They link information to opportunity and have a broad knowledge base ’cause they have to know everything. 😉

      The positions on offer at that job fair were diverse and surprising–even Diana was gobsmacked!. So it turns out that it’s quite incorrect to say that an English major translates into a narrow range of jobs. In fact, every company representative at that job fair had also been an English major!

      They included an intern at the Wall Street Journal, a Master’s degree holder who was a VP at a huge insurance company, a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature who was writing corporate brochures for a bank, and at least three who had opened their own computer companies. (Apparently, English majors have some amazing computer skills: maybe it’s something to do with the way they think.) Another worked in advertising, and somone else headed up career development at a major college. Fundraisers were big employers too: one woman on the job panel did just that for the prestigous Shaw and Stratford theatre festivals.

      Jamie, you may feel stuck, like you can’t move, but take heart. Your SKILLS are portable. They go WITH you.

      Hunt for something that turns your crank. Then apply for it. When you have another career option or two, your fear will morph into pure confidence. YOU’RE driving, ’cause you pick what’s best for you. If you don’t finish your doctorate, you’re still successful. All not getting your Ph.D. means is that you may not qualify for a narrow band of jobs. You’ve got WAY more to offer than that!

      Besides, in the grand scheme of things, maybe you were meant to do something else. Sometimes our destinies unfold by closing a door, blocking an opportunity. We keep trying to push it open, because we’re unaware of the message we’re being given. Maybe you were meant to zig instead of zag. Who knows? Maybe the new direction will be more rewarding and richer for you than what you do now. What do you think?

  2. Jamie says:

    Wow! It sounds like I have plenty more marketable skills than what I thought, especially when I add my teaching skills into the mix, too. Your response really helps take a lot of the pressure that I have been feeling about what I ennvisioned as the impending doom of not finishing away. My hope is that this will translate into the confidence needed to finish my degree, but even if it doesn’t, it helps me see that I will indeed have a host of options open to me. Thank you so much for your helpful response.

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