“What do you do?” is often the first question asked when meeting someone for the first time.
When unemployed, answering this question can feel awkward. Why? For many of us, working or having a career makes up a major part of who we are. This is often referred to as our career identity. For some, career identity means meeting the expectations of being a provider: keeping a roof overhead or putting food on the table. For others, it could mean something else like having an outlet for expression or accomplishment, having the ability to use key skills, having a sense of status or prestige, or a means to feeling happy. What does career identity mean to you?
But what happens when this integral part of who we are is taken away? Each of us responds to stress in our own unique way, yet there are some common factors that seem to be the culprit of our stress when unemployed. The Life-Facet Model (Mckee-Ryan and Kinicki, 2002) illustrates how this works. This model places psychological and physical well-being in the center, surrounded by five likely facets of how unemployment can affect this. These facets include:
- Work-Role Centrality – the general importance work plays in our lives
- Coping Resources – Individual characteristics (like self perception and self efficacy) and external resources (support systems and access to financial resources) available to help
- Cognitive Appraisal – How are you interpreting the job loss? This also includes the responsibility you are placing on yourself for being unemployed and for being reemployed.
- Coping Strategies – the efforts we make to manage the demands put on us and our resources, which include the ways we solve problems.
- Human Capital and Demographics – education, ability, occupational status and other elements such as age, physical health, etc.
Take a moment to review where you truly stand with these five areas. Think about each one individually and how one might impact another. Here’s an example: For a recently displaced worker who is also the mother of young children, she might think seriously about work-role centrality, feeling a sense of relief from working, so she can spend more time with her kids. Yet this might conflict with her coping resources, especially the financial resources she has to be able to take time away from the workforce.
Being unemployed can be confusing, and working with a career counselor can help sort through the chaos our minds can often create in these situations. Career Counselors are mental health professionals offering guidance and assistance as we process those factors that are impacting career identity. Whether that be unemployment, underemployment, career dissatisfaction, etc. career counselors offer strategies to help realign priorities which leads to better decision making. In the end, this pays off as greater confidence and focus when self-promoting to employers. Working with a career counselor can offer that peace of mind to assure that you’re putting that best foot forward – a foot you hope will get in the door!
Contact ICDA at email@example.com to get in contact with a career counselor today!
Mckee-Ryan, F. & Kinicki, A.J. (2002). Coping with job loss: A life-facet model. International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (17), 1-29.
(Lauri Dishman, M.A., LCPC – 773-315-2328 – firstname.lastname@example.org)