In our need for a sense of control during uncertain times, we are deeply driven to keep a sense of identity – “who we are.” We cannot deny we describe ourselves in terms of the work we do along with the type of family relationships we currently are in: “I” am a Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher or Engineer; “I” am married, single, or divorced. Throughout our lives, we have learned this type of classification and when the situation is changed or lost, our world is turned upside down.
Last week, the Labor Department reported that employment rose by 166,000 in October, yet, unemployment remained unchanged at 4.7 percent. Strong gains in both services and government jobs offset declines in both manufacturing and construction. According to the Labor Department, Professional and Business Services created 65,000 jobs (mostly temporary help), 45,000 jobs were added in the Leisure and Hospitality category (mostly food service), Education and Health Services added 43,000 spots (mostly ambulatory and health care), and Government payrolls increased by 36,000 (mostly at the local level). Manufacturing lost 21,000 jobs and construction payrolls declined by 5,000, led by a loss of 21,000 jobs in residential construction that were only partially offset by an increase of 15,000 in non-residential construction.
The flexibility of the labor market is generally considered a source of strength for the US economy. However, some people remain jobless for a long time. A recent report from Congressional Budget Office (CBO) illustrate the dynamics of unemployment. In 2006, an average of 2.6 million people became unemployed each month. On average, about 1 in 6 unemployed people in 2006 (1.2 million) were unemployed for more than half a year, even though the overall unemployment rate was low. As a result, unemployment may have lasting effects, such as losing the opportunity to earn income, gain work experience, and, in some cases, receive health insurance and other non-wage benefits provided by employers. CBO also found that African Americans and Latinos/as were much more likely to have been unemployed than whites. Moreover, higher percentages of them had at least one long-term spell of unemployment.
Not all unemployment begin with a worker leaving a job, nor do spell nor do always end because the person were looking for another job. According to CBO found that long-term unemployment appear to have resulted from job loss, rather than from the workers quitting their jobs. Psychologist Edward Diener found that there are two life events powerful enough to derail a person’s normal sense of well-being: loss of a spouse and loss of a job. Diener noted:
It takes five to eight years for a widow to regain her previous sense of well-being. Similarly, the effects of a job loss linger long after the individual has returned to the work force.
One could argue that equating job loss with the loss of a spouse is like comparing apples with oranges. However, the emotional impact of losing a job has a powerful symbolic meaning. A threat on this type of symbolic value can produce devastating and lasting emotional consequences.
According to psychologist Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness, there are three components one needs to find happiness – pleasure, engagement, and meaning, with the last two explaining why losing a job can be so devastating to a person. Seligman defines engagement as “the depth of involvement with one’s family, work, romance, and hobbies,” while meaning refers to “using personal strengths to serve some larger end.” Having a job brings “meaning” in the sense of one’s personal worth and identity. As a person loses a job, they suddenly feel they have been stripped of both; leaving them a gap that needs to be filled. This explains why the initial response is profound shock, following with depression, and in some cases, anger directed towards their former bosses.
Since we do go through life labeling every facet of our lives, the type of response we give – “what we do” – becomes the heart of numerous subtle judgments, ranging from a person’s worth, financial status, intelligence, education level, ambition, and social position. Nevertheless, if one no longer has that “label,” we have no status.
Language can be a bane of human existence. So just imagine, if you no longer have that magical “label” is looking for, we are not only admitting to ourselves but to the world, “I don’t do anything,” which many see it as an equivalent of saying “I am nothing.” Depending on how long a person is unemployed, less value is put on you.
Do we automatically imprison ourselves, as soon as we turn to classifications? Many presume that, if you are unemployed, you must be either “lazy” or “defective” because we have been taught that if a person who does not a job, they lack meaning. When we persist in these identifications, we thrust ourselves into those labels so eagerly that we make them come true, which can lead to feeling vulnerable and eventually hopelessness. The hardest part about being unemployed is not letting the games your mind will play on you.
In these circumstances, there is a tendency to withdraw, feelings of shame and lack of self-esteem. This extends to a decline in the libido, insomnia, a loss of sexual desire and an inability to respond to or give affection. In contrast, where the victimized worker socializes their private discontent and converts it into a public problem, they are more likely to join social movements, which channel aggression outward towards the status quo.
Two years ago, I was laid off and since then, I am still unemployed. I guess it is really all a question of will power, to remain upbeat. Thanks to being unemployed, I have become the master of will power. I have become very good at maintaining self-control of my feelings, smiling and avoiding the question or making up ways to fit neatly into the social mainstream when people ask me. I guess I do this not only to avoid my own embarrassment but also the person who is asking.
Being unemployed and in my 30s, I am seen as social pariah. Telling people, many of them back away quickly with looks of fear in their eyes, and terrified that I will some how infect them with the job-loss virus.
Because the December holidays have come around one more time, the emptiness has slowly begun to take over. It has become a painful reminder what has been missing in my life. There is so much that one can do in a day pore over job sites looking for that small glimmer of hope that somebody actually thinks you are good enough to work for them. I have applied for literally every job I felt I qualified for, and nineteen times out of twenty, I didn’t hear back. We are talking about jobs for which I knew I was the ideal candidate. During the year, I have been a finalist for several, but never got the position, because either, I was told, “how intelligent I am, but …” or the job went to another person who knew somebody in the inside. Even in jobs where I knew somebody in the inside, I was passed over because the person who was hired knew somebody higher. Each time I am told, it has reinforced my own internalized inferiority complex that has overwhelmed my heart with feelings that I am under-educated, unqualified, skill-less, useless, and worthless.
Maybe it is the holidays that are making me so melancholy, because the rest of the time, I have found it easier than to live without caring what people thing. Or maybe I beginning to feel that that I am not contributing to society by blogging. So I have come up with an idea that is a social media experiment. I got this idea from Evelyn Rodriguez at Crossroads Dispatches.
About a year ago, she asked bloggers to help a person get home by using online tools.
Part of my idea involves getting bloggers and the like to videoblog him each day as he wends his way back to Nola in a “connective” manner.
And maybe we’d help him get to the next leg on his journey using online tools (whether Craigslist to score a ride to Austin, or MySpace to post his music and get a small audience following him on the road, or CouchSurfing.com for a place to crash, etc etc).
The fact is the web has changed how we define the meaning of friendship. It is clear that our entire concept of friendships has evolved due to the web, which has led to a change how we experience friendship. With all the different online resources, people whom I would have considered to be an acquaintance, I now consider them as a friend.
I believe that everyone brings something to the table. So why does it have to be a physical preference? If Web 2.0 is about connecting people, ideas and resources, then I would like to utilize it. Most of us have embraced online applications to do the bulk of our work, while at the same time we rely on the power of social media sites to stay in touch with our peers and build our extended networks.
My little experiment is to see if people actually are willing to walk their talk. Let’s face it we talk about being activists, helping people in need. Well, I am in need. I have never really asked people for help, but at this time, I am looking to this venue for help. I am not talking about getting a foot in the door, that has been done, I am talking about being employed.
When I was in college, I often heard heard the benefits of joining a fraternity or sorority. One of their selling points was that not only are members informed about a wide array of opportunities, but the purpose of the organization is to get members into positions of power and have those members hire other members. What I am hoping in conducting this little experiment is to see if this is true or not.
The way I see this, we must be willing to tosses each other a bone. Web 2.0 is about utilizing all the online tools at our disposals to get the word out. It is easy for people to rally around an issue, but when it comes to individuals, rarely, are we willing to take a chance. We have been conditioned to believe that we should kick the little people to the curb. And for good reason, this has occurred very often.
But the question I think we really should ask ourselves is why do it? Why do we continue to prove this idea correct? Have we really lost faith in each other? Better yet, have we lowered the level of expectation we have on each other?
Here are the basic facts about myself.
EDUCATION: MSW with a concentration in Macro Social Work and Community Development
WORK EXPERIENCE SKILLS:
- program evaluation;
- assisted in a variety of reports through writing, editing and formatting as needed;
- researching social service trends;
- data analysis for agency reports;
- advising program coordinators on identification of appropriate performance indicators;
- assisted in the research of potential funding opportunities;
- assisted in the grant writing process through writing, editing and formatting as needed;
- managing the organization’s information systems, including computer operations, systems programming, applications programming and networks;
- analyze the needs of the organization;
- identified Federal, State, and local funding sources;
- assisted in variety of written community development and neighborhood plans, reports and working papers through writing, editing and formatting as needed;
- developed project proposals in the areas of housing and community development;
- advised agency planners and administrators on relevant government regulations and industry trends;
- provided assistance to the department’s annual request for applications for funding process
Project Administrator of HUD’s Continuum of Care Planning Process at the local level. Fiscal Year 1998, 1999 and 2000)
- organized applicantsâ€™ orientation and training conference;
- provided applicants with technical assistance on application process;
- provided applicants with technical assistance on outcome measures and program evaluation;
- developed training materials for proposal reviewers;
- trained proposal reviewers;
- compiled summative project report
- responded to general and specific technical information requests generated through mail, email, and telephone contact
If you know of something or somebody, please contact me.