Career Doldrums

I just returned from teaching a class this evening on career transition. Statistics were just released that Carmel, IN was one of the job loss leaders in the nation year to date, with more than 9100 additional jobs terminated during the first six months of the year. It is a dismal report.

There is just so much talk these days about the levels of unemployment across the country. Depending on who you talk to, rates approaching 9.1 or 9.2 percent are not unusual. But like most numbers the government issues, these numbers tend to be minimized. Of course, the administration and officials want the statistics to look as good as possible; and they point out that there are certain percentages of the population who are just plain unemployable. They are unable to keep work, or just don’t want to work. In fact, those people who track these things consider full employment the time when only 3-4% of the population is out of work. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

And our unemployment statistics don’t take into account those people who have exhausted their benefits and have just fallen off the radar, or those among us who are underemployed. This constitutes a whole new genre of people; those whose jobs are never going to return, and those folks who take jobs beneath their educational level or prior earnings. Unfortunately, the realities of the bank president flipping burgers are here to stay. The problems associated with the elimination of huge numbers of positions, in addition to the current absence of entire layers of management, further exacerbate the problem.

Needless to say, the problems associated with career transition many times affect families in other ways. Statistics verify that 50% of marriages that sustain the loss of employment for a mid level manager or higher level executive will end in divorce. Furthermore, the loss of income to the family leads to changes in lifestyle, including a very possible loss of housing; and we now know that the average person will have to work more than 5 years longer to make up for the times during their career when they were unemployed. Many people can no longer even contemplate the idea of retirement; and others, particularly men, have been out of work so long that they have lost the opportunity to keep their skills up to date by actually working in their customary professions.

A new paradigm that we are seeing is that companies will not even consider hiring a person who has not worked within several years. And the statistics now offer us a chilling insight as to what is happening in our workplaces. Today, people graduating from college this year will hold, on average, 13 jobs in by the time they are 38 years old! Amazingly, only several years ago, the statistics told us that people would have 13 jobs during their entire careers, and even that is still difficult for me to fathom. Let alone, the most recent numbers.

But by far the biggest problem I encounter is those people who just don’t want to work. They peg their value in the marketplace much higher than it really is; and they are reluctant, even afraid, refusing to accept jobs at lower than previous compensation levels. Because, if they do, it will reinforce the fact that they are no longer worth what they thought they could earn. And this, many times, creates problems of self-esteem. It is also quite common for people to want to hold out for more than they have ever earned, as they want to make up for all the money they have not made during their periods of unemployment.

So all this points to a rather unfortunate situation. As you already know, I have spent a great part of my life assisting people in their job searches; and I have never seen the situation this serious. I continue to spend time coaching people who have a desire to find better jobs. But I can’t get over the fact that so many of the people that I run across, deserve to be out of work. They don’t want to work; and most of them are looking for the easy way out. You can tell that I am somewhat cynical about all this. Men who want to live off the money their wives or families have – people who overvalue their worth in the market – or those who try to convince me that it doesn’t bother them that they are out of work. Why can’t people just be more authentic? It would be easier for everyone, and easier to assist them.

The verse for tonight if from 2 Th. 3:10, one of the many verses in the Bible about the topic of work. Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, addresses problems similar to the ones I have mentioned earlier. In Thessalonica, the people were preparing for the imminent return of the Lord; and since they believed that this would happen any day, they saw no value in continuing to work. So they stopped! But Paul would have none of that. He warned the them, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” Notice it doesn’t say that those who can’t work won’t eat – just those who won’t work. And that’s good advice for all of us. No matter where we are in our lives, we should continue to work, especially for the Lord.

My encouragement tonight is to stay the course. If you need to work, keep looking. If you have given up, please continue your search. And by all means, if you know someone who is struggling with issues of unemployment, offer to walk beside them and help them; providing encouragement, support and prayer. And my prayer is that by working together, we can help to hold families together and that we may be successful returning the country to a place of prominence in the world, and in the kingdom of God….

 
 
 
 

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