In our post-Great Recession landscape, the contours of the job market are still re-forming. People who saw their life savings and retirement plans eroded by the shattering 2008 meltdown are still feeling the pinch. Wage stagnation and underemployment linger. Millennials stagger under the weight of student loan debt. Gen X-ers are likely to identify as the sandwich generation – simultaneously responsible for children, selves, and and aging parents.
Long gone are Gone are the days of Mad Men and Don Draper, when people were “company men," rewarded for decades of service with a watch – a world where women rarely worked outside the home.
For those who are feeling the pinch in this new era, some see the glass half full and view the new landscape as being full of opportunities for landing back on their feet. But often it can be difficult to remember the ground while in free fall. Those who are inclined to the glass half empty view see this new employment landscape as dangerously uncertain. They worry about being downsized before ever reaching a pension.
The loss of a job today is a devastating event for any worker. People who lose their jobs are at heightened risk for anxiety and depression. They report feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and despair about the future. The loss impacts their family as well. If the person was the primary breadwinner, there may need to be adjustments to the duties of partners and changes made to parenting roles.
Financial stressors are often the biggest triggers for marital stress. If childcare is an issue, there may no longer be a budget to afford babysitting. In this case, families need to get creative with childcare. A lack of a date night can lead to less connection and less intimacy between partners. Maladaptive coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol can occur as a result.
For those looking to support someone who has lost their job, providing emotional support is critically important. Do make sure to check in and touch base. It’s also helpful to encourage people looking for work to develop a schedule that helps them plan a daily job search. Scour the Apple app store for useful tools. Make sure that they do things that lift their spirits. Ensure that their resume is updated, and that they have had a practice interview if it has been a while since their last one. In short, don’t let them get stuck.
And if at all possible, make sure to lend a hand with basic needs like childcare or check in about basic household necessities. There is nothing quite like the gift of a full refrigerator when a budget is running on fumes.
For those struggling with feelings of worthlessness from long-term unemployment or underemployment, making sure that they don’t withdraw is essential. Hikes or excursions to a movie or concert can help maintain a healthy perspective. Buoying spirits and sharpening job skills are two welcome antidotes to the kind of isolation and depression that understandably accompanies unemployment.
Remember, whether half full or half empty, the glass is always refillable.
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