Unemployed on Labor Day

Unemployed on Labor Day
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The rest of the world rests. Maybe even vacations. What about you?

Should you stop searching? Chances are that the automated rabbit hole where all the resumes go is locked up tight for the long weekend. All those people who don’t return your calls or emails are at barbeques or vacation cottages. So what’s the point?

There is a pain that hits the unemployed person on a holiday. And it can strike on any holiday. It’s a dull, throbbing pain that lurks in the background of the mind. It’s not like the choke hold pains that come with unemployment. Pains that wake you at any given 4:00 a.m. with the banner headlines broadcasting through your mind; headlines screaming, “I’ll loose my home.” “What if someone in the family gets sick?” or the terrifying “We’ve got enough food in the house for a week. Then what?”

The holiday pain hovers like a noxious cloud over every corner of your life with the terrifying message: “Hey you. The one without a job. You are different from everyone around you.

You’re different. Strange. And alone

Of course you’re not different. You’re in transition. Which is kind of like saying you are on a tight rope strung across the Grand Canyon. Perhaps you’re underemployed. No real connection with your job other than the paycheck. You know you’re really not different. But of course none of that helps.

What Does Help?

I can remember standing in line next to the computer terminals at a big box retailer. In front of me was a Senior VP of a major Chicago corporation. Behind me was a C.O.O. of an internet start-up. I was a Director of Organizational Development and Training—which is kind of like being a blacksmith, unless you’re fortunate enough to find a company that sees the value in what you do. And I was a former Group V.P. as well. But what brought all three of us to that line was that we were all unemployed. It was the week before Labor Day. And—we’d find out later because we exchanged contact info—NONE of us got the job at the big box retailer.

But what I learned in that line started me thinking through the 5 principles that form the structure of Finding Work When There are No Jobs. The specific principle that began to emerge through the fog of my panic was “Practicing Stewardship.” It means, very simply, taking care of something larger than you. It’s not a step, an action, or cure. Because every job search is different, it has to be applied in a way that works for you.

In the case of the three of us. We all had an interest in feeding hungry people. A cause way bigger than any of us. We were all involved with food pantries. I was in the midst of a project that would end up first as a book but then go on to be something even larger—a yearly fund raising drive. The other two guys worked with two other food pantries, also feeding hungry people, on Chicago’s northside.

And I remember thinking that the three of us were kind of a community. Maybe a “pop-up” community. 3 middle age guys with pretty strong beliefs about people going to bed hungry. Never in a million years would we call what we were doing “Networking.” We were building on common bond that would continue. And we are still in touch years later.

Searching for a word for what we were doing, I came up with “Communitizing”—turning community into an action verb. And eventually “Communitizing” became one of the 5 principles oFinding Work When There Are No Jobs.

But as the years passed, the two principles: Communitizing and Practicing Stewardship became more that principles in a book. They became, I learned in the correspondence and conversation with folks who had read the book, they became a comfort. A comfort in times when that pain of being different starts to rise in your throat.

What helps? When that pain of being different gets to be too much, find the stewardship you want to practice. Nothing comes to mind? Read a story or two from the book. They are written to prompt thinking. Like friends along your path—no matter how many holidays get in the way.Then find your community. And start doing the work of your community. Start “communitizing.”

Before you know it, you’ll be too busy for that holiday pain.

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