Thursday, September 3, 2015

Unemployment, Indignity & Lessons in Plan B

My husband was let go from his job in February due to budgetary cut backs. It was sudden & unexpected and it was far too close to his layoff in 2010 where his company moved it's manufacturing to Mexico. If you have experienced job loss in your family, you understand losing your job is an interesting predicament and process. If you have experienced job loss more than once in a few short years, you know all too well that sinking feeling of Oh no. Not again. After the questions of, what will we do for health care? and How will we pay our mortgage? arise, you begin to hammer away at the budget, do away with all non-essentials and my least favorite part - sit your children down and inform them, There are going to need to be some changes...  This loss came at a peculiar time, as I had just left stable employment in September to stay home with the kids and work out my entrepreneurial spirit.   Eventually, after the shock wears off, we move back and forth in the 'grieving' process. At any given time, we vacillate from bitterness to sadness, from panic to promise. There is no exaggeration in the descriptive terms I use here. For us, this job loss was more than a mere financial inconvenience and blow to the ego. This was certain financial devastation and a scarlet letter.

The process of job loss is more than determining next financial steps and the search for new employment. It is working through feelings of worthlessness and shame. I recently attempted to articulate this to a friend and the best word I could find was indignity. It sort of encompasses it all. For a man who wants nothing more than to provide for his family so his wife can stay home and care for the children, there is disappointment. And when new employment has not been retained as quickly as one suspected it would, frustration and embarrassment. There are those relentless inquiries from those who care but unknowingly poke the wound with, Have you found anything yet? Are you interviewing? Seems like it's taking a long time... 

The first time we experienced unemployment, we learned humility through the generosity of others. We learned how to completely trust God and his provision. We were covered in mercy. We saw the hand of God working all the time. 

This time around, the lessons have been more difficult to discern, but I may be [finally] getting a glimpse. Yes, there is incredible indignity in job loss and financial insecurity, but when stripped down, the discovery of who you are is really quite revealing. I think we often don't know what we are made of until we do away with the stuff and security and get into survival mode. I have some aspects deep within I have loved discovering and others I now know I really need to work on.

While my husband is employed for the moment, it is a less-than-ideal situation for a number of reasons, but we are grateful, nonetheless. We are interested to see where God leads us next and appreciate where we've been so far.  Since this chapter in our story is still being written, I'm at a loss for how to end this post. If you've never experienced job loss, you may not know what to say or how to encourage those in this particular kind of trial so I will leave you with some of what we have and have not found helpful in this position. 


Don't: Ask how the job hunt is going every time you interact. 
Do: Let your friend know you are thinking of them or praying for them. Trust me, they will let you know when they have found a job!

Don't: Stop inviting your friend to go out. 
Do: Invite your friend to affordable outings and allow your friend to determine if he or she can afford to go. Your friend may NEED to go out. 

Don't: Exclude or avoid your friend for lack of knowing what to say or how to interact. 
Do: Know that time with friends is a great distraction and is a good way to show them love. Laughter is good medicine and people in the midst of a trial often feel isolated and abandoned whether that's reality or not. Help them get off the island. They need to know they are loved. 

Don't: Say, "Send me your resume, I know a guy" unless you really know someone and you will really forward the resume. 
Do: Share the resume with professional contacts in a related field if you're able to. It really is all about who you know. 

Don't: Say things like, "Can't you just take any job?" or "Well, at least it's a job!". 
Do: Understand that a resume has to be explained. The cover letter cannot paint the entire picture. The job trajectory is important. Each choice for employment is critical. Sometimes, unemployment pays more than taking 'any job' and provides flexibility to search for the right job. Ever start a new job and start asking for time off to go on interviews? 

Don't: Ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit in prayer or generosity. 
Do: Act on the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We have been on both the giving and receiving end of both tangible and intangible gifts. You have no idea the impact of simple things like prayer or a gift card. Just a cup of coffee and a chat can be a wonderful thing. 

Have you been unemployed? What was helpful for you in the process?