Work and Well-being

NeverGiveUpICT (Institute for Career Transitions) held a workshop Saturday, June 23rd on the status of work and well-being.  I wasn’t there, but I wanted to share some of the highlights with you.  If you’re a job seeker, you’ll relate and realize you’re not alone.


Headlines are missing key facts:

  1. If under-employment is factored in, unemployment is around 7.5%.
  2. 15% of college-educated people earn < $15/hr and 1 in 5 are under-employed.
  3. 20% of unemployed are LTU (Long-term unemployed).
  4. 30% of age 50+ unemployed are LTU.
  5. For workers >= age 62, between the years 2005 and 2015, the % of people earning <= $15k went from 10%to 15%.
  6. Full time employment (FTE) continues to drop overall as a % of all jobs.  The % of contract and part-time jobs continues to rise.

Don’t let the headlines get you down! It’s tough out there, but keep going…your fellow job seekers are your biggest allies.

Qualitative Data:

More people are exhausting their retirement savings and/or are on programs such as SNAP.  People are turning to survival jobs- renting out rooms on AirBnB, driving Uber and Lyft.

Older, well educated workers are finding it harder to get a job like the one they had before, so they look more broadly, either going down, or transitioning to a new field.  Going down levels leads to objections that they are over-qualified; switching to a new field leads to objections that they have no experience.

A growing number of people are in emotional crisis which leads them to self-blame, isolation and heightened stress  and makes it hard to focus and conduct an effective job search.

What Works:

Networking!  It’s not easy for some and it takes time to network effectively which can lead to more stress.  Building rapport and long term relationships is “an incredibly difficult feat” for people in emotional and financial lows.

“This game sucks.”  We need to change the game, but individuals who must play the game can’t change it.  There is no Magic Formula and many job seekers are disappointed.

Ofer talked about the Collaboratory and its strategic and social/emotional benefits.  Members meet 15 hrs/week and help each other in a place where they feel valued, a sense of belonging and accountability, decreased isolationism, and affinity with others.

Someone asked about a recent Boston Globe article on older workers being unable to gain employment in this “robust economy”, and how Governor Baker’s office is building a list of older-worker friendly companies.

Ofer saw this before when he was invited to the White House during the Obama administration.  Companies included their names on a list but there hasn’t been follow through by them or the government.

The majority of workers in the USA face issues, not just the unemployed. Many are unhappy, have lost benefits, are under-employed, stressed, but afraid to quit or ever take time off.

3 Questions Asked:

As one of my clients said, “What people wrote in response to these questions is so moving and true to life.” The unemployed continue to amaze me in their perseverance, their determination to keep going, and in their humanity.  It is hard not to get emotional reading these now; I can only imagine how it was to be in the room.  Our country really ought to be serving them better…

  1. I am most proud of:
  • The friends I have
  • My unpaid public policy advocacy
  • Getting my fashion biz certificate (64 unemployment)
  • Helping people who are important to me when I don’t feel I can
  • Reinvented my career with recognition worthy success
  • Family
  • Helped others to find path to make positive change
  • Not sure anymore; there are things I enjoy; a great meal I’ve created
  • That my children are living the values that I feel are critically important to how a good life in community should be lived
  • My 401K (sounds awful to say but represents 15 years of night/weekend work invested
  • My teaching; my kids
  • Being non-judgemental and forgiving and raising my children with similar values
  • I have had the courage, repeatedly, to leave jobs that were inauthentic and treated employees as ‘pieces not people’ and creating life supporting options
  • Helping people build and develop their skills
  • My 2 adult children (boys); proud of who they are and what they’ve done and our relationship
  • Spending my life helping people
  • When I inspire others to believe and use their strengths
  • Of my achievements at previous jobs
  • Perseverance; creativity; resourcefulness; relationships where people have stuck by me regardless of my emotional state
  • Being reliable, supportive, caring, open-minded
  • My work ethic, especially in the face of adversity
  • Being part of an improv group (I am an introvert)

2. The most challenging part of being unemployed/underemployed/no meaning in work (besides financial) is:

  • All the extra stuff that fills my non-work time
  • I am so bored
  • How I feel about myself
  • Not being able to contribute/use my skills
  • Staying positive
  • Not knowing if anything  I’m doing is making a difference
  • Meaning (lack of)
  • Life is passing by and I am wasting it
  • Trying to be productive; fill your day to check things off your list; taking advantage of your new found free time
  • Meaningless job; irritation; depression; I want out
  • The feeling that I’m not hitting certain life ‘mile stones’ that others in my age group (and younger) seem to be completing or entering (owning home, married, more degrees)
  • Being perceived as a has been; defective somehow; undesirable
  • Feeling that you lose yourself
  • Isolation; missing stimulation of ideas and colleagues; not feeling comfortable knowing how to talk about ‘situation’ without burdening others or ‘complaining’
  • Not being able to contribute fully because it took too much to be managing day to day
  • Emotional challenge
  • Losing sense of self worth
  • Not using skills
  • Friends moving for jobs and to pay for less expenses; friends not understanding; periodic negativity and sadness from disappointment
  • Loss of perceived status- it really hurts to feel lesser/lower than
  • Sense of having no control; being powerless
  • I’m not doing my part to contribute- wasted resource
  • Keeping my intellectual spirit high and not mentally checking out
  • The fact that I derive so much of my value and sense of self-worth from my work and when I am not producing tangible, quality outputs, I begin to lose my confidence and experience a feeling of incompetence and less worth

If I had 2 more hours before I went to bed, I’d:

  • Write (mentioned 7 times)- write in my journal, compose, creative writing, hand write letters to friends
  • Listen to motivating Ted Talks or books on tape
  • Meditate/Guided meditation (mentioned 3 times)- meditate/reflect
  • Art/Writing/Collage
  • Read (mentioned 12 times)-about fashion, about people’s different stories, read more fiction, read without worrying, reading my journal, read for fun
  • Watch TV, watch friends stories on Instagram, watch shows on You Tube
  • Play musical instruments and sing
  • Yoga; yoga/stretch; yoga for an hour
  • Dance
  • Unwind; relax; rest
  • Do something just for me
  • Photography
  • I’d spend more time creating: canvas, painting, crafting, drawing etc.
  • Have sex
  • Be outside at night for more than 2 hours
  • Rethink the current direction of our World
  • Play
  • Improve the appearance of my home, make it more welcoming
  • Hug
  • Spend more time with family and friends

Wow, that was powerful and moving for me just to type and take in- now, what can we do about the situation?  I don’t know but I think we need to raise public awareness big-time:  About ICT and the work they do, about how companies could be hiring LTU and workers over 50 more, about what legislators could do, and about how we can retrain workers for new jobs to name a few.  What do you think?  Please share your ideas with me or Ofer Sharone at ICT.  It’s going to take a village…

I’ll be offering a free meditation session on Friday, July 13 at Noon-1:30 for anyone who’s interested.  Details are on my website…hope to see you there!