The dangers of long-term unemployment for women

by | May 22, 2019

We need to look at the dangers of long-term unemployment for women in particular.

We need to take a look at what those problems are, and how we can best handle them.

In an increasingly volatile economic climate it is sadly common for people to be laid off as organisations down size, relocate, restructure or become more "agile." I hate that word. Involuntary loss of work impacts everyone differently and many struggle to cope with long-term unemployment. The dangers of long-term unemployment for women can be different from men, but no less challenging.

When does unemployment become long-term?

For some, even one day out of work is already too long, especially for those who don't get any sort of compensation. In today's job search market, which is candidate driven, it can still take up to nine months to find a job and go through a typical hiring process. In less buoyant markets it can take even longer. I would say that anything in excess of 9 months is starting to tip into the moderate danger zone and anything longer than 18 months can be difficult.

The dangers of long term unemployment for women

The dangers of long-term unemployment for women

1. Routine

This can often be one of the very first things someone who loses their job can miss. Not having a routine can be completely disorienting and hugely upsetting, particularly if you are surrounded by other people who carry on with all the usual activities, deadlines, routines and even pressures. There is a very close link between sense of purpose and routine, which makes creating a new routine a top priority. It should be easy to set this up so that on a daily basis you cover all the key elements: job search, taking care of your health, both emotional and physical, and nurturing your relationships.

One difficulty for women is that more often than not they are the primary child carers and home makers. This means that they can easily be sucked in to "vital"  domestic activities that are not related to job search. They quite frequently have a soft option for slowing down the process - they are genuinely busy with other things. It's really about prioritising and can be very linked to financial circumstances. If you are part of a couple, having a frank discussion is important on what can be a sensitive topic. Time can fly by with little progress made. Domestic routines tend to be more of a trap for women than men, which is one of the reasons why the dangers of long-term unemployment for women are different to those men may face.

Use our FREE resource to help you with your job search: Daily LinkedIn Routine for Today's Super Busy Women.

2. Identity

Many people confuse their identify (who we are) with what they do, or used to do. That is our behaviour. This is one of the reasons that the unemployed struggle with losing their business cards and take a long time to make new ones. Identifying, and more importantly, believing in who you are when you have stopped doing something temporarily, can be challenging. It can be even more difficult if this involves the ending of a long corporate life where you might have been heavily invested a job, project or team.

Career Coach Dorothy Dalton says

"Many women miss the social interaction of work more than a loss of status. This is anecdotal, but my experience is that men attach greater significance to job titles, company car etc. Admitting to a career gap in many ways is easier for them than their male colleagues, as taking time out for women is more common. However, returning after a gap can be more challenging as bias around women and long - term unemployment is still strong. If they are single parents, financial issues will play a large role."

Here are some strategies that will help:

  • Recognise that you fulfil a number of roles in life.
  • Make a list of the other significant roles in life: parent, friend, volunteer, sibling, etc.
  • Conduct a unique abilities audit:  What do all these roles tell you about yourself? Is there a common thread? This helps to build a complete picture of yourself, rather than what is reflected in a resume. If you struggle, invest in a coach. Women tend not to seek a coach until they are desperate.
  • Do you need to upskill or reskill? It's important now to look at where you can add to your competencies. The workplace is changing at a terrific pace. Are you up to date?
  • Look for external neutral feedback. Ask a good section of contacts who know you well what they consider to be your unique abilities.
  • Work on self-awareness. Dig deep and reflect on your goals, values, and vision -  What directions can they take you in? What would you do in your ideal life. What is holding you back? Has anything changed?

3. Income

Whatever the relationship status, the loss of income is a major factor for anyone. Now is the time to look at your budget and figure out what you can cut or do differently. There are many lower cost options to the things we normally do. If you skip the $5 dollar coffee or walk instead of getting the bus, all of these will make a big difference overall. Women spend over $2000 a year on coffee! If you have to cut down, it will be key to have important conversations with those around you (partner and kids). They need to be aware of your changed circumstances and if they are supportive it will be so much easier. Sometimes children struggle the most when small things they take for granted become luxuries and that is hard for many mothers.

4. Relationships

This is important on two counts: how you see yourself, and how you see yourself fitting into the wider world as a whole. It's about both your relationship with yourself and with others.

The most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. Your internal dialogue is important to how you present yourself to the world. If you are judgemental with a strong inner critic, this will impact your world view. Redundancy or long-term unemployment will also impact everyone in your sphere in ways that are both obvious and surprising. Understanding this and being able to discuss any issues openly will pay dividends.

Many also don’t like to put in the calls to their  “Go-To” Top 10  connections in an emergency. Both men and women struggle with this. But you need to call them. If you have maintained your network, they will understand. Women tend to compartmentalize their networks rarely blurring the lines between professional and personal. It's important during this phase that women maintain their professional connections and not just private ones.

Get support

The dangers of long-term unemployment for women are slightly different for men but also with underlying commonalities. The main message is to seek help early. There are lots of free or low-cost resources on the 3Plus web site if budget is an issue. Check out our Career Shop and sign up for our newsletter which is full of free tips and tricks!

Do you keep getting through to the interview stage and then fail to get the job?  Try our Interview Coaching to land your Dream Job.

Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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