“I’VE BEEN LET GO…”
It’s a terrifying experience… being fired or laid off from a job you have done well for a number of years. It seems daily that you see headlines focused on labor, hiring, and the shortage of trained help.
While the monthly jobs numbers are heralded as a sign of a strong economy there are undercurrents of weakness. New weekly unemployment claims continue to run over 375,000. While many businesses are expressing frustration about being unable to find new employees, such an elevated level of layoffs is confusing. (1) For decades more than half of all American’s have little or no savings. In 2020 personal savings rose as people saved much of the money received due to government programs to support the economy through fiscal policy. In 2021 73% of households had saved $1,000 to $5,000. That said, only 5% of households had more than $10,000 in savings. (2) Many companies report a weakening expectation for revenue and growth. The renewed outbreaks of COVID with the Delta variant, no prospect of more fiscal support, and elevated inflation are taking a toll. (3) CEOs are concerned about the effect of oncoming changes in Fed policy and it has caused many companies to delay capital investments and expansion. (4)
Many analysts have already indicated that China is in a recession. Some expect a slowdown or recession in the US within the next 6 to 12 months. Many are looking at the current economic environment and using the term “Stagflation” … a term last used in the 1970s. (5)
With that being the case, it pays to be prepared and understand what unemployment means in this new economic environment.
The truth is as people live longer, they will experience more episodes of unemployment than their parents did. The economy is evolving, and we must evolve with it if we are to remain financially secure as we move through life. In a book titled, The 100 year life, author Lynda Gratton discusses the impact of of living longer and the need to become more adaptable. (6)
While we used to look at life as fitting nicely into three distinct phases, each carrying distinct roles and needs, namely “Youth/Education”, “Working Years”, and “Retirement”.
“In shorter lives, with relatively stable labor markets, the knowledge and skills a person mastered in their 20s could possibly last their career without any major reinvestment.” (6)
However, as we move through life in 2021 we realize that people are living longer. According to Gratton a child born in the West today has a 50% chance of living to 105 years of age.
People “now work into their 70s and 80s in a rapidly changing job market… maintaining productivity is no longer about brushing up on knowledge – it is about setting time aside to make fundamental investments in re-learning and re-skilling.” (6)
We have moved from 3 stages of life to multiple stages. The challenge is right now few people are able or skilled to make multiple transitions.
What does she suggest focusing on?
“Being flexible, acquiring new knowledge, exploring new ways of thinking, seeing the world from different perspectives, coming to terms with changes in power, letting go of old associates and building new networks.” (6) These are transformational skills that require a huge shift in perspective real foresight and honest self-examination.
In addition to improving our skill sets before and during periods of unemployment it is critical that people address their mental health and happiness as well. Unemployment is incredibly destructive to the human psyche.
“The hardest thing about unemployment is not the lack of a job, but the self-doubt, the depression that creeps in, as job applications are rejected, over and over.” (7)
So how do we keep it all together?
“I know, I know. Easier said than done, but this is the most important of all. We have a tendency to blame ourselves for things outside our control, and nowhere is it truer than in the case of sudden job loss.
“It’s all my fault” or “I deserved it” are negative thoughts that can make your day spiral downwards instantly. Don’t indulge in them! Keep a check on negative self-talk – know that you deserve that dream job you’ve always desired. This is only a temporary setback on your way to the career you’ve always sought.”
“One of the methods I used was to list two positive things for every negative thought that came to me. This tactic halted the black moods immediately, and showed me that in spite of everything, I still had things to be grateful for.” (6)
Another habit that we use to encourage grateful thinking and healing is to list three things you’re thankful for, that day. It helps rewire your brain positively, even in the midst of negativity and chaos.
Have a Purpose
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” – Viktor Frankl’s famous book ‘Man’s Search for meaning’ makes a valid point. During unemployment, it can feel like there’s no point of getting out of bed, or of sending out resumes for the umpteenth time.
Keeping to a schedule – one that allows for fulfilling, purposeful activities is the best way to get through this time.
Is there a hobby you’ve been meaning to try your hand at?
During my sabbatical, I got back to my true passion – writing. I wrote every day, without fail. I wrote articles, blog posts, short stories, poetry – anything that brought me comfort. Not only did it get me back in touch with my calling, it made me better at it – and the joy it brought into my day was unparalleled.” (6)
It’s not always clear why we are here but I am reminded of the phrase “I wasn’t born to work myself to death to pay the bills.” As we live longer lives it becomes crucial that we integrate real meaning and purpose into what we do in our working hours. Finding that purpose is a matter of self-exploration and liberation. Take it seriously.
Gary Vaynerchuk is renowned for saying the worst feeling is regret… to get to the end of life and find that you spent the vast majority of your time on earth miserable, wishing you choose a different path.
“Staying at home, day after day, is depressing. One of the things that worked for me was making myself go outside. I would head out for a walk, listen to some music in the park or simply grab a cup of coffee at the nearby cafe.
This helped me see there was a world beyond the confines of my home – which eased the sense of isolation and loneliness I often felt.
One other thing that worked wonders for me? Catching up with friends. Work can make us so busy, we often get out of touch with old pals, and this can be the best time to reconnect.” (6)
Another aspect that can help in the long run is to seek out and build new networks of connections, especially among people who are working in the field you want to pursue. In recent years a great deal of hiring has come from knowing people and knowing there is a job available, before its even posted.
Building out new connections is especially useful given the workings of the new economy. It gives you the opportunity to understand the opportunity and the needs. The pace of change is increasing and it’s important to stay connected.
In summary, unemployment offers many challenges. It is crucial to understand how society and the economy are changing to be better prepared for what comes next. If you are laid off, be proactive in addressing the issues around skillset development and mental wellbeing outlined above.
If you are fortunate to not be laid off, but find that a friend has been, help them better understand what they need to do in this new economic environment.
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2021-125632 exp 8/23
- The 100 year life, by Lynda Gratton