Chris Osborne didn't expect his life to turn out like this.
He'd worked for more than 25 years in IT and was in a well-paid job he enjoyed. He was newly married, and a comfortable retirement was nearing. Then, in mid-2012, his job as a senior project manager was culled as part of public service cuts.
After picking up some on-again, off-again contract work, he has now been out of a job since November 2013, despite applying for more than 400 positions and registering with every IT job agency he could find. In that time, he has had only six interviews. "I've lost my confidence and self-esteem, and basically, my career is gone," he says.
Now 62, he thinks his age is putting off employers, although he has not experienced any direct discrimination. Sometimes he tries to disguise his age, by removing older jobs from his CV.
Being out of work for so long has made him question many things, including the importance of work. He has experienced depression and his marriage has suffered.
" I have discovered that a lot of my self-worth and sense of who I am was more tied up into my career than I believed. There was more to it than I had been telling myself."
Long-term unemployment (being out of work for more than a year) attracts little media or political attention but for both the young, without skills and experience, and the old, in particular, those in declining industries, are being badly affected.
Being out of work for long periods is not just about the loss of income, although that can be crippling. There's another aspect, which is little talked about.
Many people suffer as much from the loss of social worth, status, and even shame, as they do from the loss of income when they are out of work for long periods. This can affect their health, relationships and has even contributed to suicides.
Osborne says the experience has knocked him about, despite his attempts to help himself.
"When I'm down in the dumps I don't want to talk to people," he says. "Emotionally I've been suffering from depression, so what I've had to do is take up voluntary work to keep myself busy."
"My wife got pretty upset with me sitting around in the lounge, so I took over the housework and weekly shopping. She's settled down now, she says 'I don't care what you do as long as you're occupied'."
Chris continues to search for work to fulfil his needs while he approaches retirement.
The experience of long-term joblessness does not discriminate and can prove extremely challenging. During these times there are still things you can do to try and keep busy while looking for work;
Start by Giving Yourself a Break
A seemingly simple concept but certainly not easy to execute. Stress is inevitable during unemployment, but you must make the best of the circumstances. Maintaining a calm mind and body will not only make you less anxious but also allow you to be more creative.
Giving yourself a mental or physical break whether it's meditation, journaling, listening to music, taking a bath or going for a long walk will give you the ability to think and feel more clearly. The key is to commit to staying relaxed. It's surprisingly difficult but try to check your feelings often. A peaceful mind is a happy mind.
Use the Free Time to Reflect but Not Dwell
Think about what you liked and didn't like about your last job and what you'd like to change this time around. The last thing you want to do is find yourself in a similar or unsuited situation just because you're anxious to get a paycheck. The better you know what you want, the easier it will be to communicate in your interviews and ensure that your next experience will be more satisfying. Take time to reflect but try not to dwell on the negative. Once you've identified what you'd like to change or improve, focus on the process and leave the past in the past.
Make a Change, Big or Small
When you feel blue, why not try something new? The change can be significant or subtle, either way, change, no matter how small, is progress.
Examples of a big change could be taking a trip, moving, or getting further education. These options require money (something you might not have in excess during your unemployment), but if you have the means to make a major life shift, it might be the thing to inspire, reinvigorate, or redefine the next step in your career path.
If you're not ready or able to make such a bold jump or financial commitment, there are simpler solutions. Rearrange the furniture in your room, apartment or house, to mix up your living environment. Read a new book to expand your perspective and thinking. Take a class to enhance your resume or for your own personal enrichment.
Set and Keep a Routine—Especially Because You Don't Have To
Without a job to structure your days, it's natural to feel a bit directionless. Set up an easy morning routine you can commit to on the weekdays. While waking up early, making breakfast, and checking jobs for an hour may seem minor, it gives your day purpose. They are small victories but victories nonetheless. Keeping busy and feeling productive will help you to relax and focus.
Stay social and set weekly plans with your friends to keep yourself on an evening routine. It will not only give you something to look forward to, but it could be a way to subtly network and learn about new opportunities.
Focus on Spending Time with Good People
You are the company you keep so during this time it's best to be around positive and supportive beings. Reach out to close friends and family that you feel comfortable talking to about your tough work situation. Let them distract and ease you with jokes or a fun outing. Don't be afraid to reach out to your trusted mentors for advice or to hear their own work stories.
Keep away from those who make you feel ashamed or negative. Their energy will only cause harm and diminish the confidence you will need to find a fulfilling position. Perhaps you know someone going through the same dilemma. Commiserating together might be okay in the beginning but quickly commit to empowering each other on the quest for new work. Propose group work sessions. Edit each other's resume and cover letters. Practice mock interviews.
Having a solid support system will boost your morale, maintain your interpersonal skills, and most importantly remind you that you are not in this alone.
Being active keeps you feeling strong and is a healthy way to fill up your day. Working out doesn't have to be a drag or a big feat. Sign up for a class that interests you or simply take a 20-minute walk around the neighbourhood every day. Just keep your body moving. Some fresh air won't hurt either.
Embrace and accept the situation
Sure, unemployment might feel like one long uphill battle. But instead of denying it, why not embrace it? If you're working hard in your search, you will find a job. It will happen.
So be nicer to yourself. Remember that most of the things you say to yourself, you would never to a friend. It's quite unlikely you'll see any positive changes if you keep beating yourself up.
The fact is, life is long and forever changing. The best way to survive and enjoy it is to accept that it is hard, but you will overcome it.
Full article available at The Sydney Morning Herald's "The quiet shame of long-term unemployed" written by ben Schneiders Tips provided by https://www.careercontessa.com/advice/long-term-unemployment/