Riding the Wave: Problem Solving, Coping and Staying Resilient
There are many factors beyond a bad economy that are contributing to some people’s continued unemployment. The limited number of jobs may only be a fraction of what the problem is. Let me qualify this by stating I am not a therapist or a psychologist and don’t pretend to be. As I review my clients’ circumstances, I look at some basic and obvious issues, the same way employers will: are you able to go to work and do what you are paid to do without becoming a liability? Do you appear to be a good investment? If not, then something else may be requiring more attention before someone can successfully return to work. Some people would benefit from counseling of a different nature or therapy, and others simply need to improve their problem solving skills.
Although finding work is expected to vastly improve much of what is wrong in many people’s lives today, it has been my experience that often too much weight is placed on finding the “job” as the answer. Often people fail to change their behavior, lifestyle or outlook to ensure they can get on track (and stay on track), and mistakenly believe the job will “fix” all that is wrong. The false comfort of finding work as the cure to all of life’s ailments is seductive, and can be very tricky to overcome or repair. Unfortunately, many problems don’t go away, and actually become of greater concern once someone re-enters the workplace.
There is no mystery as to why employers conduct behavioral interviews to interpret or measure candidates’ thinking processes and abilities to problem solve. If there isn’t evidence of coping effectively outside of work, why would a risk be taken by the employer in assuming they will do a better job at work?
People are prone to “glossing over” issues and not resolving root problems. Taking the easy way, looking for a quick fix, and finding fault are all coping mechanisms, but unfortunately, they are behaviors that don’t solve the real problem. People make bad choices, procrastinate, and can develop bad eating/drinking/sleeping habits while they are unemployed. All of these behaviors can continue after they are employed. Finding a job may seem like the answer to all that is wrong, but reactions to life’s events that show up as the inability to make good choices, get things done, or cope may be what are really behind prolonged unemployment. Is it the chicken and the egg dilemma? Perhaps. Is there more to it than this? Of course.
A simplistic remedy for many could simply be to take a hard look at the issues in their lives that would not be allowed to consume their time if they were working each day. Or, identifying how many more issues are allowed to become bigger and highly visible when unemployed, and not while working. If parenting, family commitments, health issues, or running into car problems becomes paralyzing now, then what would happen if that person is working? How would these problems get resolved? Aside from potential financial issues, would a different course of action be considered if the person were working?
The next part of this simplistic fix is learning how to problem solve more effectively now, before work begins and takes up another 10 hours each day. The reasons I hear for why people are unable to get to their job search commitments often baffle me. I wonder what the case would be if they were working. If solutions to life events take up hours that would ordinarily be dedicated to work, then is it possible alternative solutions need to be examined? Is having limited resources always the case, or could it also be a case of limited resourcefulness?
In addition to effectively resolving problems, let’s address the other key point to moving on. Growing thicker skins and developing flexibility are key ingredients to succeeding in the workplace. Change continues to occur at a faster clip than ever before, and it is unlikely to let up. It is the name of the game. How we respond to change, adversity, and life’s challenges is going to continue to be a test we all must pass to stay in the game.
As I previously stated , there are typically other issues contributing to a person’s unemployment, but hopefully these are some areas that a job seeker can take a hard look at on their own. If too much is getting in the way of dedicating the amount of hours required to conduct an effective job search (in the same way it would be dedicated to work), then it might be necessary to enlist the help of a professional to assist.