Whenever I tell people I’m out of work and looking for a job, I receive a wide variety of responses: sympathy (if they are emphatic) , understanding (if they too are out of work), indifference (if they frankly do not care), or discomfort.
I don’t understand why some people would feel uncomfortable about the subject of unemployment. I suppose it’s because I’m comfortable with my own transition from gainful employment to being unemployed: what happened made sense, and I felt it was a fitting closure to my last position. Having said this, do not assume I’m lazy. While I am comfortable with what happened, I realize, like everyone else who has not “struck it rich” yet, I need a job that pays the bills and puts food on the table, otherwise I’m homeless. As mentioned in the very first post of my blog, I’ve been trying very hard to find work since the end of December, 2009. I just haven’t found a job yet.
One guess I might make is that it reminds some people about their own tenuous situation at work, and what will happen if they lost their job. I can understand that trepitation. A job supplies income to pay for your children’s care, your mortgage and bills, any emergencies that come up, and so on. If that person closely associates their job with who they are, a job also gives a raison d’être (reason to exist). Fro those people, losing a job means losing purpose in life and, in the most extreme situations, a reason to live.
Part of that discomfort, especially if one has been out of work for so long such as myself, comes from the belief that maybe there is something wrong with the person who is unemployed. Maybe that person got fired, so they deserve to be unemployed. For those people who believe that, I say that’s absolute nonsense. Being unemployed is not a form of punishment. While it is true that being fired leads to unemployment, it’s only one cause of unemployment. Someone unemployed may have been laid off, may have been forced to quit for health reasons or had a boss or co-worker from hell, or have experienced sexual harassment or racism in the workplace. Perhaps it was an issue about their work-life balance because their job was impacting their personal time and happiness. A new situation that has recently come up on the workplace radar is the subject of constructive-dismissal. I’ll address that in the next blog post.
Even if someone was fired from his or her job, I don’t think that should be a permanent roadblock to return to work. I admit there are exceptions to what I just typed: if someone was dismissed from a nuclear reactor facility because lives were endangered, that person should not be allowed to work in future positions that involve public safety. Having said that, that person should still be able to find work in other professions.
Whatever the reason, none of the above should make people consider unemployment like something out of “The Scarlet Letter”. It’s not something to be ashamed of, but recognized as a social problem that needs to be solved, especially if we have a stubbornly high unemployment rate. If you know of someone who is looking for a job, offer them a temp job or at least some job search tips at the most, or words of encouragement at the least. Both will work wonders.
Thanks for reading
P.S. I found some really interesting links regarding why some people quit their jobs that I’d like to share with you, since I touched on some reasons in my blog.