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The Devastating Impact of Unemployment

Research reveals growing unemployment causes depression and scarring.

The work we do can have a huge impact on our mental health. Conversely, the work that we don’t do can have an even greater and more deleterious effect on our mental health. Continued research reveals that unemployment and underemployment can cause depression and “scarring.” While there is societal pressure to work and reinforcing narratives such as the, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question popularly posed to children and its adult counterpart, “What do you do?”—there are more fundamental and human essential needs that work fulfills.

Work provides:

· Meaning and purpose

· Receiving recognized value for one’s contributions

· Sense of accomplishment

· Self-efficacy

· Self-esteem

· Connection to community as provider and contributor

· Greater enjoyment and appreciation from the rewards of rest

· Fulfillment of basic needs

The individual and societal costs can be great when unemployment comes along due to economic threats, eradication of an industry, permanent and seasonal layoffs, discrimination, lack of ability and/or educational attainment, and bad luck. No wonder the first citation in the Roots of Violence, cited by Gandhi in 1925, is “Wealth without work.”

If you are reading this and have been without work, or you feel underemployed or you hate your job and want to find something else, this post contains a few suggestions. Before I jump into the solution, I want to share two key findings from international research by renowned neuropsychologist and a former mentor, Dr. Dominique Clavier. He found that 86.5% of people who succeeded in their career had a life plan that corresponded with their company’s plan. The 85.5% of people who were failing at work (yes, they were employed, yet on shaky ground) did not have a life plan that fit with their work.

What I find amazing about these two statistics is that the people who tend to do well have an internal desire and plan that is consistent with the work they do—and they’ve coordinated their life goals to fit the alignment of their company’s overall plan. Whereas, there are a bunch of unhappy people doing jobs they may not want to do—and they may not even know what they want in the first place.

It’s somewhat similar to the movie, Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts. The following clip shows Richard Gere confronting Roberts about how she claimed her favorite types of eggs always mimicked the man she was seeing: youtube. Later in the movie, she takes time to find herself and do what she loves for work—and samples every egg dish to genuinely finds what she prefers best rather than pleasing someone and picking their favorite.

Similarly, sometimes a person’s career path follows many starts and stops until they discover their core truths and, once discovered, can select a job that better aligns with their truth, values and abilities.

A suggestion for doing this is to return to the list that work provides and begin writing your needs for each category. Here’s the list again, along with further explanation:

· Meaning and purpose—Try writing your own personal mission statement here. What values do you have and what would you like to accomplish (broad or specific) and for whom (group of people, animals, environment, spiritually, etc.) in your lifetime?

· Receiving recognized value for one’s contributions—What kind of compensation for your efforts would you like to receive? Before you go answering millions of dollars, it might help to know what dollar amount is not sufficient for you (your bottom line). Also, keep in mind that compensation can be in form of money, benefits, stocks, and trade.

· Sense of accomplishment—What work would make you like and respect yourself each night as you lay your head upon your pillow and reflect upon the day?

· Self-efficacy—While every person benefits from the others around them, what work enables you to feel more independent and less dependent and in debt? In addition, how can you manage your spending to live according to your current income?

· Self-esteem—What work helps you feel good about yourself and what work makes you feel miserable or bad about yourself?

· Connection to community as provider and contributor—Can you expand your vision to recognize how your work is helping others (directly and indirectly)? Can you feel the gratitude and community connection when driving on the road in your community and seeing all the ways your tax dollars have contributed to others?

· Greater enjoyment and appreciation from the rewards of rest—List activities for rejuvenating down-time that renews your Spirit, including any vacations you want to experience.

· Fulfillment of basic needs—What are your basic needs in a job? This can include budgeting yet goes beyond money and looks at your personal needs on the job. For instance, do you need a mentor? Can you work in isolation or an open office? What cultural fit works best for you? What can you do and what are your limits for compromise? How about transportation and travel?

You can now compare any job opportunities to your personal needs and vision. Pay attention to the people, places and opportunities that spark your enthusiasm. Be aware when you get a heavy feeling and begin pretending that you are someone you are not just because you want a job. There might be another better fit waiting for you. If you feel stuck, keep looking. Join job clubs, networking groups, and professional associations in your area. Keep learning—about you and new skills for the job. Be sure to help others in their job pursuits and share what you’ve learned and what you’re continuing to learn, as the process of helping others tends to magically reveal the benefits of the ups and downs along the journey (perhaps one's deeper Soul work).

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