Welcome to May! Hope the last four months have been great. I should have posted this yesterday (May 1) but my tablet was unavoidably absent. More so, I was blessed with a long day at the 7 Star Worker Conference held at the Muson Centre, Lagos, Nigeria (it was fantastic!).
But while the rest of the world extol the virtues of the workforce and employees bask in the joy of the 3-day weekend, my mind turns to those on the other end of the spectrum – the unemployed/underemployed youth. Statistics from various sources vary but the bottom line is the same – youth unemployment is a massive problem.
I totally relate with the unpleasant feelings that come with being unemployed or underemployed (having experienced both myself) and that empathy compelled me to share a few thoughts on dealing with this ugly situation.
If you’re in between jobs at the moment or underemployed, I hope these words pass on some valuable insights to you. Here we go.
#1. Detach your self-worth from your employment status.
True, being unemployed can be very frustrating and make you feel mediocre but it’s up to you to disconnect your sense of personal worth from your employment status. A job title is not the measure of your value to society. Understand that you’re valuable, first as a human being before anything else.
Irrespective of how long you’ve been without a job or been underemployed, refuse to succumb to self-deprecation or questioning your intelligence and abilities. You are valuable. Refuse to let anything tamper with this truth. Not even a job.
#2. Don’t Isolate Yourself.
Feelings of inadequacy force some job seekers to retract from others especially old friends and ex-classmates (moreso when they seem to be faring better than you).
You know, the longer it takes, the more embarrassed you feel when asked “So what are you doing? Where do you work now?”. So you decide to spare your blushes by avoiding them as much as you can.
Don’t fall into this trap. You cannot stay hidden and expect life to come find you. Keep in touch and be open about your status. There’s no need for pretence (“oh, I’m doing great. Just doing some stuff on my own for now” when you know that’s not e-x-a-c-t-l-y the true position of things with you). The old song Lean on Me says it best
No one can meet those of your needs that you won’t let show
#3. Don’t just be willing to start small. Go ahead and start small.
I can’t forget my first job after completing the compulsory national youth service program. It took close to an hour of negotiations for my prospective employer and I to reach an agreement on a salary that was less than my earnings as a Corps member! That should give you an idea just how small I had to start.
It’s not enough to be willing. Go ahead and do it already. Deflate the bloated ego but retain your sense of dignity. Remember, he who is faithful in little will be faithful in much.
Some of the panelist at the 7 Star Worker Conference (told you it was fantastic) shared incredible personal stories of having to accept pay cuts and lower positions just to get their foot in the door. Today, the story is different.
#4. Maintain a strong, positive attitude towards life.
Here’s my observation – grouchy, grumbling folks rarely get those ‘lucky breaks’ life sort of throws our way occasionally. I wish I could explain it but I can’t. There’s just something about being negative that repels good things.
Your reality may be that you’ve tried unsuccessfully for months or years to secure decent employment but do your best to keep your spirits up. Focus on what you want – a fulfilling career, rather than the negative circumstances in the present. When you hear about someone else’s success, celebrate it. Keep your heart free from anger, resentment, comparisons and yes, envy.
#5. Keep your mind and hands fresh and engaged.
Yes you’re out of a paid employment now but your life need not be placed on hold. There’s so many other things you could do with all that free time.
Perhaps this is a good time to hone a natural talent, pursue a passion/personal project or pick up a completely new skill. Stay informed on trends in your prospective field and global issues at large. Read wide and read deep. This is not the time to spend mindless hours on social media! Keep developing your capacity. Now may even be a great time to revisit some of your undergraduate textbooks and brush up on a few things. Your mind is like a muscle; fail to use it and atrophy sets in.
What about volunteering? Have you explored that option? Observe I mentioned keeping your mind and hands engaged. Both are equally important. Yes, study but don’t forget to also DO things. Sharpen what I call your ‘executive ability – your capacity to actually get things done. You’ll need it on that job.
There’s too much stuff going on for you not to be productively engaged in some way. Ask relevant questions. Search for it. You may just find many open doors.
Being out of paid employment is no joke and I do not make light of it in any way. But we cannot sit and moan about our lot. Blaming and complaining only poisons your spirit and stifles your initiative to find a solution. We must take action to initiate the changes we desire. And while our first attempts may not always turn out as we’d like, with some feedback, adjustment, effort and a steadily positive attitude, I’m sure you’ll ping me with the good news soon. Others have. You will too.
Happy May Day (in arrears)!
Live by Design.
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