Stigma Attached to Unemployment and its Solutions
Updated : December 11th, 2016
Walk into a dinner party with strangers and the conversation starts with what you do for a living, children from kindergarten to near adults in high school are constantly faced with the question of what their parents are and what they do; by and by our identities are inseparable from our field of work, position and employment status. Looking at the flip side, each of these casually made remarks holds within them the reactions of shock and pity when the other is unemployed for the time being.
Stigma in the society when it comes to unemployment, for however short a time it may be, can cause distress to the individual and their loved ones – pushing them to their limits both physically and mentally. The proportional relationship between unemployment and physical health is undeniable, but the way it impacts social behavior can often be trivialized and overlooked even though it is just as or even more important. From a simple act, such as living a double life to hide one’s idleness or keep financial distress from your family by continuing to live a lavish lifestyle through credit and debt, emotionally destructive decisions such as these can both waste time as well as curb positive results.
From clinical depression, alcoholism to cope, and even increased rates of suicide, the situation seems grim, but know that unemployment isn’t permanent and the consequences can be dealt with, as can the societal stigmas. The issue is two-fold, both which exist as two sides of a coin.
1. Questioning Self and guilt
Though it is easier said than done, it is of utmost importance that you do not link your self-worth to your employment status. Blaming oneself for the lack of a steady income, or for being laid-off, can keep you from even getting out of bed every morning, consequently cutting down on your proactive actions to solve the issue at hand.
What’s worse, doubting and guilt can keep you from accepting support or help, and even imagine stigma and persecution where there may not be any.
2. Stigmatization and pity from others
The reaction of people around you can cause anguish in a large way as well; negative perceptions and even pity and sympathy can function as then looking down on you. It’s all about dealing with the situation at hand, making it essential for you keep your head up high and work towards objective and constructive solutions.
Working through unemployment
The solution to social stigmas when it comes to being a part of the unemployed section of society, even for a few months, is primarily to do with perceptions. Even from the opinion of a potential employer, the need to keep occupied and productive in one way or the other is seen as a positive use of time, not to mention being engrossed will keep you involved, distracted and usefully engaged.
Building upon a curriculum vitae and resume in the present job market isn’t about only official work experience and recommendations, in fact, an out-of-the-box involvement in activities is greatly appreciated and makes your resume stand out – pointing towards your active participation in community projects and exercises even at a time of difficulty.
Look to spread out to areas outside your comfort zone and field, focusing on skills such as teamwork, community interactions, multitasking, and initiative – all skills that an employer is bound to notice in an application. Social stigmas and an employer’s hesitation can be handled with one swift sweep, showing both the other and yourself that you aren’t one of the lazy and languid unemployed.
Even as a direct result, a mere volunteering project and a non-profit initiative can lead to employment opportunities – allowing you alternative modes of networking and relationship building and pointing you towards areas you may not have considered before.
Sharpening your gray matter
A few months of losing touch with constant work can make you lose speed and skill – it is not always like riding a bike and adjusting in your new place of work can be an issue for a while. If you are out of work, keep updated on the current activities in your field, keep your brain cells working and try and explore opportunities in freelance and apprenticeships that may not pay much but will at least keep you in the loop.
Alongside, it is an idea to extend your skills as well, taking certificate courses and updating your resume through learning as opposed to only clear-cut work experience. Stagnation is the greatest worry when one is unemployed, and adding to your aptitude and expertise can only ever help.
Dealing with the hiring process
The constant job hunt is a given through the period of unemployment, and the stigmas often translate into difficult questions in the scenario of a job interview. When and if you are faced with questions regarding your not having procured a job in the given amount of time, steer clear of negative answers that may blame the situation or other agencies. Instead of mentioning the economy of the country, the increased unemployment status of individuals and a company that should have hired you but didn’t, try and bring the conversation back to your achievements and how you have worked through your time without a stable income.
Negative approaches to answering questions, as well as a general defensive attitude will most certainly be counterproductive. Both in handling conversations with family and friends, as well as with potential employers, it is important to stay sharp and positive and not allow yourself to be shaken by remarks that may be inappropriate.
While employers being discriminatory or tactless about your employment status can be unfortunate, the fact remains that the need is ours at the end of the day and we don’t have much choice but to work around their insensitivity and direct the dialog in more optimistic, constructive and beneficial directions, for both.