The profound impacts of job loss

Understanding why you feel this way

The process of planning and executing a job search can be difficult, especially when confidence in ourselves or our job-seeking skills may be low. It’s natural for motivation to fluctuate, particularly when we don’t appreciate how our feelings and emotions can impact our engagement.

In this article, we reveal that it’s quite common to feel discouraged and unmotivated during a job search. We look at what behavioural science tells us about the effects of job loss, and why the loss of the “secondary benefits” that we gain from work impacts us so heavily.

Normalizing the experience of unemployment

Most of us who have been laid off experience discouragement or difficulty staying motivated in the process of looking for our next opportunity, often without considering the effects of unemployment on our mental wellness. 

In Buoyancy’s research, 80% of job seekers interviewed had difficulty staying motivated, and at some point during their search, felt discouraged. 

It was across the board- regardless of confidence, organization, introversion, extroversion, or experience level.  Regardless of personality, experience level, seniority, etc. the experience is shared amongst job seekers. 

This is further supported by discussions online, in “find a new job” groups on social platforms like Facebook and Reddit.  For example, in 7 of the top 10 Reddit job seeker communities, 20% of the conversations mention:

  • feelings of discouragement,
  • wariness, and
  • challenges staying motivated
  • feel overwhelmed by the job-seeking process

A 2012 study looked at emotional wellbeing and time use after losing a job and discovered that job seekers spend approximately an hour per day on search activities.  Job-seekers have shifted priorities. Time once spent on work is now occupied with family care, household chores, and leisure activities. (Kruger & Mueller, 2012

The unseen benefits of going to work

the five basic needs for mental health and wellbeing

In the 1950s, social scientist Marie Jahoda developed the theory of “Ideal Mental Health”. Through her research into wellbeing and unemployment, Jahoda identified five elements that contribute to our feelings of wellbeing (Paul & Batinic, 2009). 

These are:

  • time structure,
  • social contact,
  • collective purpose,
  • social identity or status, and
  • a steady stream of regular activity.

There are many reasons we might feel demotivated and discouraged from doing difficult tasks. We’ll dive into more of these in future blogs. For now, let’s pause and think about why losing our job has such a significant impact on us. At least part of the impact stems from the unseen benefits of going to work. 

Beyond the primary function of earning a living (which also contributes to feelings of agency and self-determination), Jahoda’s research tells us that going to work provides us with all of the basic needs humans require for good mental health and wellbeing. 

When a person is laid off from their job, they’re immediately deprived of all five of these basic human needs. This is a plausible explanation as to why so many experiencing job loss also experience emotional distress. We know that loss of these benefits can contribute to reduced self-esteem as well as increased social isolation, social anxiety, and increased avoidance (MacConnell, 2022).

Searching for a new job is a big task– it’s difficult, intimidating, and can feel overwhelming. 

Again, your motivation is going to fluctuate. That’s okay. It’s new territory. You’re using skills you haven’t practiced yet, or if you have used them, you likely haven’t for a long while.  

Navigating job loss

Take a moment to breathe before overwhelming yourself with all the things you think you have to do. Take it one step at a time, and start planning your own approach. Break it down to the smallest next action. 

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog, we’ll be looking at each of these basic needs in greater detail to help you understand how and why you feel the loss of them so greatly. 

In future blogs, we will talk about the unrealistic expectations that job seekers place on themselves, largely due to the nature of the positivity and likeability “game” that we are encouraged to play by potential employers and many in the re-employment space.

It is our mission to support your mental health and wellness during your career transition and job search. This article is the first of many aimed at normalizing the feelings of anxiety and discouragement in job-seekers. It’s our attempt at providing you with some relief, challenging the “just grind it out” and “be positive at all costs” mindset. 

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