Unemployment is Scary, But Returning to Work Is Not Easy

Last Updated Sep 13, 2011 9:34 PM EDT

For all the talk - and rightly so - about the high rate of unemployment, there is little discussion about what it's like to go back to work after a long layoff.

One professional, speaking on American Public Radio's Marketplace, returned to work on the one-year anniversary of when she had been terminated. Good news, for certain, but she also acknowledged she was feeling nervous. And she isn't alone.

Many people who found jobs after a long absence from the workplace will feel apprehensive--and with good reason. Some have accepted jobs at reduced pay, and responsibilities. And if you have been out of work for more than six months, it is not a cakewalk to suddenly be back in the office. It is a major adjustment.

If you are honest with yourself, you will realize that some aspects of unemployment - free time, for one - are not all bad.You likely had developed routines to keep yourself occupied. Gone will be the sending out of resumes, but so, too, will be drinking a second cup of coffee while reading the paper. Or walking your child home from school.

So how to make the adjustment easier?

  1. Be thankful. The jobless recovery is all too real. Millions are looking for work and millions more have abandoned the search. You need to be thankful that you have the skills and the talents others want to utilize.
  2. Reflect on what you have learned. Being unemployed for many is an exercise in slowing down. Between bouts of angst, maybe you had time to reflect on the important things in life. Also, consider what you learned about yourself. Think of how you can apply that mindset to the workplace.
  3. Give yourself extra time. You may not be as familiar with the way to work. Get up a bit earlier, and hit the hay earlier. Also, do not make a lot of after-hours plans. Give your body a chance to rest up.
  4. Develop new skills. Going back to work is not like riding a bicycle. Make time (even after hours) to get back to speed on work productivity software. Once you reacquaint yourself with your skill set, look to broaden them.
  5. Swallow your pride. This one is tough, really tough. Some senior management types are now working in cubicles; they may have no direct reports. Some talented engineers and designers are working on projects they used to manage. If you want to remain employed, you will need to learn to be collegial. You are not the same person you once were, but you still have much to offer your employer.
  6. Congratulate yourself that you survived. Being unemployed not only erodes savings, it tears away at self-esteem. People who led fully productive lives suddenly feel abandoned, and in some ways, they are. The network of colleagues who kept you energized is no longer there. That can be painful.
  7. Recognize what you've learned. This long period of unemployment taught you something about yourself. You're resilient, and self-reliant. You didn't give up. You kept on looking, and you succeeded in persuading someone to hire you again.
These days, a job means more than employment. For many, it's a validation that they have survived and moved forward.


image courtesy of flickruser, sunshinecity