Advice dealing with a reader’s fear surrounding being jobless
Sunny in Miami Fl writes:
I’m a true believer in the power of intention, work to keep myself centered in these trying times and strive to be a agent for peace and positivity in my little corner of the world.My question – how do I stay sane and centered and positive when I’ve been unemployed for 6 months and seriously risk losing everything that I’ve worked for? I really don’t want to be homeless and it’s a real possibility. I’ve looked everywhere for work and nothing nothing has come yet inside or outside areas that I qualify for.
Dear Sunny in Miami
Being unemployed triggers survival instincts and primal fears.
By genetic design, your fear sees joblessness and possible homelessness as a threat to survival. The purpose of this fear is to motivate you to take immediate action which creates the solution.
But we are human, and we humans are complex enough to thwart even the most entrenched biological imperative.
When we were hunter-gatherers, our fear and action modes enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. They worked well together when life’s decisions were simpler. Not any more though. Modern society demands a far greater dynamic range of coping skills to live effectively.
We put ourselves through daily ordeals that our forefathers could never have imagined.
Yes, technology reduces our physical labor, but the infrastructure that supports that convenience taxes us, psychologically and emotionally, more than any hardship it has mitigated.
Today is the most challenging time in human history for the average person trying to survive and prosper.
I suppose it has always been like that; life challenges each generation more than the last. That is how our species progresses. But the primitive part of our brain that worked so well for our ancestors is not programmed to deal with the nebulous challenges we now face.
Hunter-gatherers in your situation would have just kept looking for what they needed. When they found it they either ate it or built their home out of it — they didn’t have to submit a resume or ask for permission to consume it or use it.
You are on that very same hunt as your ancestors were, but your instincts are thrown by all this asking for permission and applying for survival stuff. That was never part of the genetic contract.
Because you can’t just seize and claim what you find on your job hunt, you are short-circuiting your action mode, and your fear of losing everything is creating a feeling of impotence and hopelessness. When action is blocked, your fear becomes destructive instead of motivating.
Action is King when unemployed
Understanding this relationship between fear and action helps, because it tells you why you feel you have reached a stalemate in your job search. It also explains why fear and action are no longer working together. And it helps because it tells you that you can eliminate this stalemate you feel, and the impending disaster you fear, by taking massive action.
Action is always the main solver of problems. Though you don’t state in your letter just what actions you have taken, I am guessing that you have taken quite a bit of action in your job search.
The question is: is the direction and quantity of possible actions, limited?
Your dominant fear would have you believe that they are, and that you have already reached that limit. But in this world, actions are infinite. In your case, you can take action on several fronts.
First, let’s look closer at your letter.
Self-examination determines the order of action
Your letter shows that you are normally a well-balanced person who values positivity and mutual support. Your only question is how you can stay sane and centered when your job hunt is going so poorly, and you risk losing everything.
It might help to examine the order of the points you made in your letter. Sometimes, the order in which we say things implies the order of importance of those things.
Your first sentence describes your normally positive perspective. Your second sentence implies that you feel your balance slipping away because of your inability to find a job. Your third sentence describes your dread of being homeless as a result. And your forth and last sentence describes the effort you have put into your job search, and it also acts as a justification for feeling the way you do.
We can then break your four sentences down into four points in descending order of importance to you.
- Your self image and identity.
- Your fear of losing your grip on your self image.
- Your fear that the worst may happen as a result.
- The actions you have taken to find employment and their lack of effectiveness.
The above order implies that fear has risen beyond its ability to mobilize an equally powerful positive action.
In your letter, you speak of action in the past tense, and you place it at the end of the order of importance. When the complexity of a task and the emotional drama of the possible outcomes stop action, fear will rise like this and create an imbalance.
How do we create balance when there is an imbalance?
Well, Your automobile runs on a mixture of fuel and air to provide combustion and forward power. If there is too much air and not enough fuel the engine will run too lean, causing internal damage and poor performance. To remedy this, we could increase the fuel to balance the mixture.
The same applies in your search for employment. Fear has overwhelmed your action mode to the point where your fear is now destructive rather than motivating. So if you have too much fear, what can you do? You can increase the action. More action will balance your fear, and your fear will become a positive motivator again.
Here then are some suggestions on five major action fronts:
Staying sane and centered while unemployed
Since you put this first in your letter, we’ll place it first in this list of five action fronts.
- Make efforts to understand how fear and action work together. Measure your particular mixture of fear and action to determine how you can achieve a productive balance.
- Develop a support group by communicating with friends, family, and former coworkers. Don’t try to go through this alone. Always have people at the ready that you can talk to when you feel fearful.
- Take time out to recharge yourself. Feeling guilty about taking time to enjoy yourself is destructive. Creative time out will charge up your battery for productive action.
- Seek the advice of an employment counselor to help clarify your employment goals and aptitudes. A good employment counselor can also help you deal with the stress of finding employment in a tight market.
- If you have certain habits or practices that normally help you remain relaxed and balanced, now is not the time to shelve them. Now is the time to really use them. Maybe you are a runner, you practice Tai Chi or Yoga, or perhaps you enjoy photography. Whatever it is that you do, make sure that you get out and do it. It will help keep you sane and balanced.
Network to find work
- Broadcast your job search message. Get in touch with every person you know and tell them about your situation. Let them know what you are looking for. Ask them for their help in finding employment. You don’t know what they know or who they know. When you ask for help, it conveys to people that you value them. Most people will readily appreciate and respond to that. They will be glad to help if they can.
- Contact former coworkers. They know your qualifications and they know the industry. They may know of positions available that you haven’t run across.
Make some noise about your job hunt
- Be bold and rock the boat a bit. Campaign for yourself. By your letter, it sounds like the job market in your city is tight. If that is true, then many people are experiencing the same problems and fears. Is there a story there that can attract public attention? I think so. Many people are seriously concerned about the economy.
- Find out who the editors are that handle the business pages of your local newspapers. Write them, call them, or visit them. Tell them your story. It may become their story as well. The results might surprise you
- Contact radio and television stations. Offer to be a talk show guest on one of their programs. Be part of the solution for this nightmare that so many hardworking people like you are going through. It might just make good airtime for the stations, and if you handle yourself well, it will be fabulous exposure for you — for free.
Hunt and stalk your next job
- Forget about asking for a job. Stalk your next job by ignoring the want ads, and instead, targeting companies that you would like to work with. Hunt them down, research them, and approach them on your own terms rather than on theirs. The article Is Your Job a Highway to Personal Development or Despair speaks more about this.
- Develop a massive action plan to target these businesses. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t currently looking for help. If you would really like to work for them, and if you have value to add to their operation, then convince them of that.
- Stick to a weekly schedule on what actions you are taking on this target list. No matter how you feel, take the actions. Keep it logical. Keep it organized. Keep it going.
Be creative about alternate means of survival
Lastly, and probably least important, are fill-in measures to shore things up, just in case. Some ideas are:
- List your marketable skills. Can you create a part-time temporary business using them? Can you obtain contracts to do work that you are skilled in?
- Can you offer to take some of the workload off a corporation to complete in your home office? Many corporations outsource work to private contractors. Sometimes it only needs a well-placed and well-timed suggestion. What problem can you solve for a company, as a private contractor?
- Have you fully researched any available government financial aid programs that you can tap into to help if the need arises? You’ve paid for these programs through your tax dollars. Use them if you have to
- Research also for programs that can help you apply your skills in another industry through specialized retraining. If the market has turned down on your industry, as has happened to many industries in North America, perhaps it is time to refocus your talents more productively. Government programs can help you through that process.
- Take in a boarder. Consider renting out a suite in your home to a temporary tenant. This may be a disagreeable option to many, but it beats losing your home to the bank. The extra income can help pay the bills and buy you time. With a little reorganization of your home, some free advertising, and networking, you should be able to line up a dependable rental income.
Massive and creative action will always lead to the right solution
Because action is the primary building block in this world, unremitting action will always produce results. When action stops, production stops, and when building stops, what is already there begins to deteriorate.
Constant massive and creative action will always bring about positive resolutions to any problem, because the nature of this action is positive. It is forward driving.
Whenever you find yourself overwhelmed by fear-based thinking; when you speak of action in the past tense, then it is time to get that natural fear working for you again by balancing it with more action.
Your letter was very brief, so I hope that I have covered enough here to give you some things to work with. There are thousands of people in similar situations, and they feel similar fears. There is nothing worse than to feel hopeless or powerless.
If nothing else, please accept this one sentiment: Action creates hope and power, and fear should be a positive motivator. Adjust the mix of each to supercharge your search for employment.
Over to you now…