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How To Avoid The Stigma Of Being Unemployed

Tonight I turn once again to a question from a member of the Tim’s Strategy Linkedin Group.  I am very lucky to have such great members who ask intelligent questions and actively work to help their fellow group members. Click the link above if you’d like to be considered for this growing group.

The word of interest above is, of course, STIGMA.

So, I often like to start with a definition from dictionary.com.  To understand where a word came from and how it is being used in this context.

The modern definition is:

“a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation”.

The archaic or ancient definition:

“a mark made by a branding iron on the skin of a criminal or slave.

Now that we have the definitions out of the way, let me just say I think this word feels really inappropriate in the context of job search. I know people can feel a bit tarnished after a lay-off.

But why?

Part of it has to do with an expectation you will have a job (everyone does, right?). If you don’t or if it takes a little longer to find one, what does that make you?

Lazy? Undesirable? A non-contributing member of society?  Hardly.

So there is a stigma argument here because society says that working is good and not working is bad (even if you are working your tail off to find employment).

But is the stigma more something job seekers put on themselves? Is it largely self-inflicted?

Do some people with jobs look down on those who are without jobs?  Of course they do.  This is a display of ignorance, however, as they likely have yet to experience an employment gap.  When they do, they will experience a very teachable moment.

Others have experienced the over-zealous networker. The job seeker who is all about their needs.  If I try to help them, I may regret it. They’ll squeeze me for more than I can give.

So, if my theory is correct that the stigma of being unemployed is mostly job seeker driven, then we should be entirely able to remove its influence by ourselves.

But how?

To answer the question:

Do Not Define Yourself As An Unemployed Person

You’ve heard me say before that a key to good networking is to tell everyone that you are looking. And through tools like the SoloSheet™ and the FlashCard™, you can make sure those people know your objectives so they can help you.

But, and this is important, do not start your conversations with “Hi, my name is Mike and I’m in transition”.  That’s not interesting!  Establish (or re-establish) a relationship with your network based on the larger, more interesting you.  The one that loves to waterski.  The one that writes screenplays. The one that is a competitive triathlete.  Make me interested in you first. Then you can ask for my help.

Act Like Someone Worth Knowing

This is not a swagger or a cockiness.  It is a quiet confidence that only years of success in business can create.  You just have to find that feeling again or at least project it to the crowd when attending a networking event.  People want to meet and help people who believe in themselves.  If you are really having a tough day and have lost some confidence, find it before you enter the room.

Ask Appropriately

Let your relationship drive the size of your request.  If you’ve just met, be careful.  You have little political capital to spend and, in fact, may be on thin ice to ask for anything.  If you have a 10 year relationship of positive give and take, well, feel free to ask for what you need.  As I mentioned above, those who ask for the world in a new networking relationship can spoil the soup.

Be Ready To Help Others

When you dedicate a portion of your job search to helping others, you take the focus off of your plight for a few hours a day.  The less time you worry about your situation, the less you will FEEL like a victim of the lay-off or whatever event got you out looking for a new role.  And, using a tool like the Watchlyst™, you all of a sudden become a wanted commodity.  You are adding value to the community of job seekers out there.  Also, read my post: Quick Tip – Looking For Work? Become A “Must Have” Connection.

So, I believe the stigma is yours to remove.  In fact, it’s your choice as to whether it can attach itself to you in the first place.  Agree?

Have a question you’d like to have answered?  Disagree?  Leave a comment below!

Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Positive Attitude

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