We Are Never Unemployed

Posted September 26, 2009
By Clay Cerny

There is a great stigma related to being unemployed.  Part of the negative feeling is surely driven by lack of income and purpose.  But a bigger problem for many people is shame.  They identify themselves as losers in the job game.  Not having a job becomes a weight that hinders professional prospects and personal relationships.

We need to reorient our thinking about the periods when we are between jobs.  Unlike our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, it is not unusual for someone to change jobs every 3-5 years (sometimes even more frequently).  In those periods of joblessness, we are employed in one of the hardest jobs – finding new work.  We need to keep a positive attitude, or we will lose time and money thinking about a past we cannot change rather than what we want to do next.

In the great book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, a psychologist and Holocaust survivor, challenges readers to find a way to live with suffering and turn it into meaning. Unemployment causes many people to suffer.  How they deal with that suffering determines their future success.  Frankl writes that one of our “last freedoms,” the ones that cannot be taken from us, is the ability to choose our attitude toward a situation we cannot control. 

When we lose a job (our choice or the employer’s), we should not say we are unemployed.  We are “pursuing new opportunities.”  Choose an attitude and language that is forward-looking and positive. Frame your thoughts and words in a way that respects your skills, contributions, and achievements.  Respect yourself – and what you have to offer.