Career Transition: Recovering Self-Identity Amidst Long-Term Unemployment

Dave GallisonDave Gallison, MS, LPC
Dave specializes in a short term, action-oriented approach to providing career management solutions to clients seeking to choose, change or advance their careers and reach their professional and personal potential. His unique strength as a career counselor is preparing you for informational interviews and directly assisting you in gaining access to employed contacts within desired organizations.

Recovering Self-Identity Amidst Long-Term Unemployment

Dave Gallison, MS, LPC

This topic, recovery from long-term unemployment, gets harder for me to write about the longer the tail of the “Great Recession” drags on.  As a career counselor in private practice, I see the devastating effects on my clients who have been unemployed six months or more, particularly those in their forties and fifties.  The frustration and shame is etched in the contours of sorrowful faces, down-turned shoulders and low voices that come from multiple rejections and being forced to tap retirement accounts to meet current living expenses.  I haven’t just observed the personal suffering and loss in others:  my own most recent layoff occurred in mid-2011, so the shock, depression and daily struggle to adjust and re-invent are in my bones.

From years of work in career counseling and outplacement, I am well-versed in how to teach my clients all the ways to access the “hidden job market,” network effectively, and find new opportunities.  But the sheer scale of this Recession—at the current rate of adding 144,000 new jobs a month it will take 15 years just to get back to pre-recession levels—suggests the employment landscape has been altered by a tsunami. Unfortunately, the latest April-June quarter showed job growth at only half that monthly average.

Without a job, who am I?  While the best-prepared or fortunate few may get back into the workforce at some semblance of their former employment, for many—middle-aged men in particular—the reduction in income and job status may prove to be permanent. More importantly, the involuntary job loss affects not just financial viability, but cuts to the core of identity and meaning in life.  This is succinctly captured by a recent book title, Without a Job, Who Am I? (Abraham Twerski)

Life as those former job holders knew it, and the world of work, will never be the same again. Indeed, counselors like me are advised to recommend that “all future jobs are temporary” and can end at any time.

If you are dealing with such a radical, frequently painful change in your external world, you may be forced to face inward, to your self-identity, the last remaining place that is under your control.  This possibility of self-renewal is essential to moving forward.  Job loss and sustained unemployment sap confidence and undermine quality of life, feeding a vicious cycle that inhibits employment prospects as well.

Proceed in parallel.  What to do?  With clients who come to me, I proceed in parallel tracks—develop and execute a job search campaign that is more focused and effective, and help clients adapt to the major changes in their lives and rebuild their sense of meaning and identity.  Job seeking for long-term displaced workers in this period of sustained record unemployment is, in itself, a subject for another article, let alone several counseling sessions.  However, if we can progressively address the emotional, physical and even spiritual effects of job loss, then one can begin to reverse the spiral of self-doubt that stifles effective job-seeking behaviors.  Look to my next blog post to go further in depth. [End of Part 1]

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  1. Getting Past “No” in Job Search | Career Transition: The Inside Job - November 10, 2014

    […] The longer your job search has gone on, the more discouraged and desperate you feel with each post-interview ‘No.’ It takes a toll on your emotions and identity (see “Recovering Self-Identity Amidst Long-Term Unemployment”). […]

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