Unemployed at 40, 45, 50
Employment is a huge issue in midlife. Coping with unemployment during a midlife crisis is a very common problem.
If you have been recently laid off, facing unemployment or having a bit of a problem finding work, then this article is advice of my own experience and from lessons learned in helping others improve their lives in times of crisis.
A quick snapshot of some midlife crisis employment/unemployment issues can include:
- At around 40 years old many workers reach a plateau in their salaries.
- It isn’t uncommon to face a job change or forced adjustment in how one has to work during times of midlife crisis.
- It isn’t easy to find new work at the same rate of pay like the old job.
- Statistics show it takes longer for older workers to re-find new work.
- The unemployment rate for people over 55 is at a record high in the United States in the decade of 2010.
- Many times a person is in a midlife crisis due to divorce or separation. This often means having to find work for the first time after years of taking care of a family.
All this means, that in addition to having to cope with figuring out a new life, many times people in midlife crisis have to face hard choices on how they need to work.
As a result, I spend quite a bit of time helping people in midlife crisis figuring out ways to better find work, revamp their businesses, close a business down and start a new business.
Advice for Facing Midlife Unemployment.
Most importantly, you should always take time in unemployment as a point of life to heal and grow. This point should be weaved into every aspect and part of the process of how you go about finding work that matches to your life.
Also know, when unemployment first happens, most people act with fear. Acting to fear often rushes a person into worse situations. So, discovering how to release fear and the stories that come up from fear is a major part of the process.
So from these two points understand you are in a longer more complicated process. Don’t make a mistake to think this moment of life is as simple as going out to get a new job. Many different aspects need to be worked upon and explored thru in this time of readjustment.
18 Lessons Learned From Being Unemployed
(1) Realize unemployment is not a reflection of you, rather it represents a point of change. Don’t try to re-do what didn’t work before, switch it up a bit now.
(2) Don’t oversleep… Sleeping too much creates depression and then that sinks you further away from helping yourself.
(3) Often unemployment causes depression. Don’t share your depression with another person with depression. Depression * Depression = misery.
(4) Exercise every day (it helps keep you fresh and also helps prevent depression).
(5) Consider a part-time job as an option. Don’t turn down opportunities in the form of part-time work. It can make a huge difference in self-esteem and also in stemming the tide of bills.
(6) If possible or if inspired use it as a chance to shift your life into new habits and patterns.
(7) If possible start at the ground up at a new type of work… which you are more interested in doing than your “primary” skill base. Use it as an opportunity to step sideways and then literally into unexpected paths.
(8) Simplify. Remove anything from your life you don’t truly need anymore; this helps make you more portable and able to transition into unexpected opportunities later.
(9) Take the time to clean up, repair or catch up on anything you were behind in life for other reasons. Do so in ways that minimize money use also, get creative in how you do this. At times this in itself will be the key to give you an insight or an opportunity to use as work later.
(10) Never push too hard into applying for new jobs. The big mistake many people make is either over-react or under react to over unemployment. So pacing yourself is critical in how you find a path thru unemployment. If you over apply for jobs, you just become frustrated and then undercut yourself on the job applications that matter. Likewise, don’t under apply either. My rule of thumb is I tell people to explore three pathways (not job types, but larger lifestyle options of how to live/work) at once. In those three pathways.. don’t over apply for jobs. Only apply for 1 -3 three job opportunities at any one moment, in any given pathway at once. (so in reality working on 3 to 9 job applications at once, personally, I always would only submit 3-5 applications at once) This helps create more options, without overdoing it.
(11) At the start of the unemployment take a day or two to just freak out a bit and get it out of your system. It’s at first a significant blow to the ego, and no advice saying it isn’t won’t feel right. A bit later in the process, you will realize it isn’t a reflection of yourself. To begin exploring and turning it around as an opportunity. A few weeks in you will need to take some time off to heal for yourself. Exactly when depends on each person.
(12) Don’t over-rely on others; you will quickly burn out friendships or family if you do. Do reach for help when you need it! Pride isn’t something you can live on. The balance of reaching out and holding back is a very hard line to maintain. No magic formula exists, rather you need to practice awareness and do your best to balance out the situation.
(13) Have your hobbies but don’t lose yourself 100% on any one thing. Moderation is key in all actives. Don’t push in any one thing over 75%. You are at a fragile point of living so pushing too hard or hiding too much… just doesn’t help you live better. Often people in unemployment situations end up getting themselves into unbalanced lifestyles. So making sure you have some routines, have some freedom and striving to grow in a balanced manner is a tough balancing act. Be aware of this and strive for a balanced lifestyle.. simple but balanced.
(14) Avoid alcohol or drugs. You are at a fragile point in your spirit. Alcohol will depress your spirit and make it harder to move into a new life, and drugs will twist your lifestyle quickly out of balance.
(15) Don’t judge yourself based on what you do, begin to discover yourself based on who you are. Many people don’t like themselves; they lose themselves at work. So when being unemployed, they then tear themselves apart. Don’t do this, explore yourself and strive to help yourself expand.
(16) Volunteer to help out at various places. Just connecting with others will create new options and help keep you connected to life.
(17) Don’t hide from friends or other. Push to be part of your community.
(18) Don’t live to fear. Unemployment stirs up fear, and that fear undercuts everything you do. This is a day by day process. Whenever you feel fear: then go exercise, then reach out to be in community or volunteer. Part of the process is learning again how to be on your own. Fear only undercuts your nature.
The hardest part is releasing personal self-judgment on how you define yourself to a successful job. That is a major dance in itself. Western culture hammers into each person to mainly be their work, and so you are working to release decades of that unconscious training. Realize, most people will feel shitty for a while as they take time to relearn who they are. You cannot hide from feeling bad, rather you address it and learn how to be a better person. That can be almost impossible, especially when you might have a huge pressure to support others.
But know you are not alone in unemployment: Countless people have faced similar problems from unemployment and found a path back into a stronger life. No matter how impossible it may feel, know this:
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!
The more impossible it feels,
The more it means you have to switch up what you are doing to be even more yourself.
But since midlife transformation is all about change and flexibility: a person can often shift in surprising manners to better improve their employment situation. Ironically it is possible to use your midlife crisis to help improve your work situation!
Understand part of the process is PATIENCE, to give yourself time to re-adjust to yourself. It takes three months for your emotional state to come to balance after a major change like this. For many people, it can be a year or two in the process of redefining themselves. So Patience is key. Quite a bit of the above advice is geared to help a person make it thru a longer duration of an unemployment situation. If you try to rush to find a new job, conditions won’t change, nor, will you change your habits and patterns for later when it happens again. Chances are you will experience unemployment again, so it’s best to pace yourself and get some good habits under your belt the first time around.
So you have to use the unemployment as an opportunity to grow and change yourself to be a more aware person. Once you get it down, you will discover flexibility. Then as your life unfolds in the future, you will shift as needed and change your jobs more fluidly to always be in the balance between yourself and society.
This is a starting point for what over the years I have found to work. Be aware, depending on where you live and your culture, there will be many variations to what I have written.
Re-Examine Why you Work
I will next walk you through looking at why you work. I came up with this exercise for myself when I re-invented my life.
Working as a Taoist in the United States has been a challenge. At first, I went with the flow: having a career which would have been labeled an ideal lifestyle as shown thru parents, friends, the educational system, and general culture. In time I rejected a cash flow work ethic where companies and workers rush about to maximize profit. The basic dilemma I came across is: how does a person support themselves and family, stay true to personal values/needs while working in environments that strip them of those same values? Many angles exist to this topic. This section will only focus on the following aspect: How people define their nature to work itself.
Two questions: Listen carefully for the difference:
Question 1: What do you do?
Question 2: What do you do?
To most people, these questions are the same. For instance: I can answer to question one:
What do you do? I am an author.
Compared to the vastly different question:
What do you do? I am a poet.
Seemingly the difference is the answer, yet no, the basic difference is in the two questions: The first question asks a person what their job is, the second question asks how one lives life.
An author is a person who writes to earn cash, with all sorts of job-related issues of publishing, royalties and other such yada. An “author” is a job. It’s about cash flow.
A “poet” refers to a lifestyle. A poet lives in happiness & sadness, mixes & explores the world thru living and at times expresses commentary within poetry as an attempt to understand the daily grind of what is called life. Being a poet is not about cash, as much as about experiencing life.
This distinction is very important. Defining a person as a job will end up defining that person’s life as the job. This is the ultimate in de-humanization, I am not a person. Nope! I am only a worker: all I do and will do suddenly gets forced by that one statement.
Many very basic examples exist of this defining of our nature to a job. Look at the many generations of last names carrying a tradition in labeling people to their work. Smith, Carpenter, Koch (cook), Mason. Showing this is something which isn’t unique to the modern age. While last names rarely shift much today (children aren’t labeled John Programmer) identifications to work still happen at the earliest ages: “Oh, you want to be a Doctor when you grow up!”
People tend to identify themselves to a job automatically.
What do you do?
I am an electronic radiation shielding specialist, hair beautician.
Of course, this is logical, as on average a person spends more time at work than even with family. Work is a very important aspect of human society and always has been. Nothing new here except the refinement of the high art of modern business economics.
Where does this leave us?
First and foremost, let’s go back to the two questions: What do you do? This should be truly two separate questions: 1) What trade do you perform, and 2) Who are you. Western culture merges the questions. The “who are you” question tends to get dropped as knowing our nature typically takes a lifetime in learning. It’s easier just to label oneself as a “Job” and not worry about life’s trickier and often unanswerable questions in small talk.
It’s very important to untangle these questions with a change in understanding.
We are not a job! Work is performed as a method to survive in society. Now here is the change in understanding: A wise man once taught me sometimes you just need to change the question you are answering. In this case, the question should be shifted to:
Why do we work?
The main reasons to list could be the following
For the work itself
While no classification is perfect or will cover all possibilities. These five categories are an excellent starting point to help understand the relationship between ourselves and the reason for working. In exploring these with friends, an interesting fact became clear: when people work for reasons that matched their nature, they tended to be content. When people work for reasons against their nature, they tended to be discontent. The job itself wasn’t as important as the reasons for working.
A few examples:
• Some people don’t like to work; they only work to survive. These individuals, to be happy, will work just enough to cover what they consider basic needs and then live appropriately for their survival.
• If a person is a true consumer, who enjoys living life as an expression of consumption, then a person’s job should be geared to support consumption. If you live to ski, then work in such a way so you can ski. Nothing is inherently wrong in being a consumer, life is a fire, we burn to live, we consume, and it’s a natural state. However, consumption has limits, so a balance needs to exist lest we turn the planet and ourselves to ash, but life is as we live it.
• A direct example from my life working in the drug abuse treatment field: I know many social workers with a passion for helping addicts recover from drugs. Without the passion for helping others, this job burns out most people in the first few months.
All this might seem basic. However, how often is the question seriously posed, “Why do I work?” with an attempt to then try to find a balance between the job and life. Usually, people are chasing dollars or expectations of rewards. Or more tragically and universally true: they need to take any job possible as they are starving, supporting a family and have no outside support. Yet know, understanding why we work is more important than the job choice itself. Once we understand our nature, in why we work, then it becomes much easier to find work, a job, which fits your lifestyle and needs. Of course when people are taught to think the job is more important than the reason for work, then people will cling to or be attracted to jobs which will continually cause discontentment, as they will be working cross purposes to their own needs.
The point simmers down to: people are not a job. We have lives and work is an important aspect of life. Yet work and life shouldn’t be thought of as meaning the same thing. Attempting to separate our identities and work can be very complicated since the two can become very entangled in a day to day life. To help find answers, it becomes necessary to change the question slightly first to understand why you work. Once understanding why you work, it becomes possible to balance work and lifestyle in a more acceptable nature.
To work as a Taoist means to live fully as a person. To work means working to your nature, to support your nature.
Part of the problem is we think a job is a path to walk down in life. Work is not a path. The actual path is living life. Work is merely an activity within life. The second someone substitutes “a path of living” to be “a career path”, often becomes the moment of birth creation of a cog in the uncaring machinery of a working society.
Are we a job or are we living humans? We are always the latter; work is always an activity to support our lives. This is one key to finding a balance between work and life.
Pondering Area for Frustrated Workers
Why do you work?
Go ahead list the reasons here:
What is important for your own expression of your humanity?
Don’t worry about connecting the two questions here. Just let the two different questions simmer after writing down initial answers. Opportunities typically present themselves, provided a person opens their awareness to the larger world while beginning the process of understanding their nature.
Handling a Layoff
I just got an email from a friend whose company started layoffs and will continue layoffs due to the credit bubble coming apart.
Back long ago when I was paid to make paper airplanes and play checkers (strange story – for another time), I used to work at Boeing. Boeing is a company that lives in boom/bust cycles and layoffs were a fact of life.
An interesting fact I learned is: it’s not a bad deal to be in the first lay off wave since it’s easier to find new work (the markets haven’t been flooded yet by other people). Also you tend to get better incentives to go at the start of any problem. Ironically, I found it to be a problem that I was considered “valuable” and not laid off. The company used fear on its workers, telling us to be happy since we had a job and then treated workers without respect. So I did some calculations and determined it was best to leave in the first wave and not the other waves. This is often true unless of course, you love your job, then you should stay. So when I stopped liking the job, and it stopped being fun, I left immediately since bullshit is bullshit and is not worth pay in the least.
So I need to reinforce this lesson to anyone being laid off:
Don’t take it personally. It’s not a reflection of you; it’s a reflection of poor management practices and chaos.
It would be only a reflection of you if you were doing a poor job. If this was the case. This means you are probably not in the right job to fit who you are. This leads me to the second lesson:
Being laid off from work can be good for some individuals. If you were not happy in the job or were doing poorly, getting laid off can be the event or burst of energy required to help a person redefine their life. Not towards work, but towards what you want to be! I know many people who are doing what they love now in their new work, because of the energy given to them from being laid off.
The lesson being: be open to possibilities. When something seemingly bad happens, it’s always possible, always, to make it a positive event! It isn’t easy, but it’s a good way to approach the problem while looking for new work.