The news yesterday that a distraught employee at a health care company appears to have killed his five children and his wife before taking his own life is unsettling to say the least. Especially because we're told this tragedy may be the result of the tough economic times that caused this man and his wife to be let go from their jobs.
What this headline story underscores--whether or not the connection of this family's disaster with recent firings turns out to be real--is that people in this country are hurting. Bad.
Yesterday we talked about initiating tough, but appropriate, conversations among co-workers. If you think that's hard, it's even tougher for people out of work to figure out what conversations they should initiate, with whom they should spend their time talking, and about what.
If you're in this situation, here are a few guidelines you may find helpful:
1. Don't fall into the "ain't it awful" trap. This is the place inhabited by those who are stuck and have gotten accustomed to feeling the world is against them and that there is no way out. It's a no win place to be. No matter how bad any of us has it, there is someone who has a worse story...and who is still out there keeping it together. So there is a certain amount of "suck it up" mentality that is needed here. Yes, it's tough to acknowledge, but it's true. Don't wallow in the mess. Spend your time figuring out alternatives.
2. Be honest with your family but don't be a drag. Sounds self-contradictory, but what's important is that you share the facts, but not all the feelings. Your family deserves to know the circumstances of your being out of a job. But don't leave them with the responsibility for shouldering your hurt feelings, your anger, your resentment. Tell them you'll do your best to stay positive and you want their help in doing that. Set it up as a shared project. But remember your part is to continually show effort at fixing the situation.
3. Stay actively engaged. Keep up your fitness regime. If you don't have one, start one. If you've been a gym member and have to give it up to save on the dues, initiate another program that's free, like jogging, bicycling, walking. And get some friends to go with you so that you aren't dwelling on the stuff in your own head.
4. Expand your conversation. Reach out to others outside your immediate family and friends. Statistics indicate that most people who find jobs through the referral of others don't get those referrals from those closest to them. Rather, referrals are more likely to come from people who operate in circles that don't intersect with yours, who have friends you don't have. So it's even more important, now that you're looking for work, that you socialize. It doesn't have to cost money. Join church groups, take up a hobby where you'll make new friends.
5. Take on a task that makes you feel good about yourself. Help coach a team; sew clothes for the homeless, don an apron at the soup kitchen. You'll be amazed at what a positive double whammy this can be: you meet new people and you feel good about helping others.
6. Exercise your brain. Read a book that deals with interesting stuff you've been curious about. Take out audio books from the library and listen to them. Join an online book review club. If nothing else, the stuff you learn will make your conversations more interesting to others and can lead to relationships that can help you find your next work.
7. Know that this, too, shall pass. Really.