Career Watch: The psychic importance of a job

Psychiatrist Abraham Twerski has insights on what losing a job can mean

Q&A: Abraham J. Twerski

With job loss still an issue for many, Pittsburgh psychiatrist discusses the psychic importance of being employed.

What happens in the psyche of a person who has lost a job? Several things happen when a person loses his job. First of all, of course, there is the financial worry. But that worry would exist if a person had quit his job. Being laid off adds a sense of loss of control of one's life. It is also a terrible ego blow to be unable to provide for one's family. One may brood, lose a sense of worth and become clinically depressed. A person may panic and lose a sense of good judgment. One may become irritable and angry and damage family relationships.

A person may feel helpless, or that the world is against him, and may not have trust in himself that he can survive and even prosper. One may resort to drinking to escape feeling depressed, or may try to get money by gambling.

How can someone who is unemployed for an extended period overcome the negativity in his own mind? A person must realize that one has great value as a husband, wife, parent, sibling. Indeed, one must know that one has value as a human being even if one is not able to be productive.

"Creative visualization," seeing oneself in favorable circumstances, may lift one's spirits and make a person more alert for job opportunities. Also, one may discover skills not noted when working 9 to 5. There are many accounts of success growing out of adversity. Grandma Moses' paintings sell for many thousands of dollars. She did not discover her artistic talents until her mid-70s, when arthritis precluded her doing needlework.

Exercising and practicing yoga can improve one's state of mind. Family bonds should be strengthened. Parents have more time to spend with their children. Mealtime should be enjoyed together. Make a list of things one can be grateful for even if one has no job. Make a list of the positive things one does, for the family and for others.

I saw people who lost their jobs watch the Super Bowl and cheer when their team scored a touchdown. Being laid off did not deprive them of the ability to enjoy things. One must look for things to enjoy, especially together with family and friends.

Do we make a mistake if we define ourselves too much by our professional successes and failures? Our personal value should be determined by how we live, ethically and morally. We err in identifying ourselves primarily by our work. Ask someone to tell you about himself. He is unlikely to say, "I am a devoted husband and father. I am a friendly person. I enjoy music and art. I attend church regularly." Rather, he will say, "I am a lawyer" or "I am an accountant." If that is primarily what one is, then losing one's job is losing oneself.

Tech Workers Becoming Choosy

Things are loosening up enough in the tech job market that companies are finding that they have to provide better incentives to lure the talent they want. In a Dice.com survey of 1,350 recruiters and employers, nearly one-third of the respondents said that in the third quarter, they had to sweeten the pot when seeking to hire new talent.

What is the primary additional incentive being offered to hire new tech talent?

• Higher salaries or salary sweeteners: 42%

• Sign-on bonuses: 22%

• Flexible work options, including telecommuting: 9%

• Working on new or emerging technologies: 7%

• Better non-monetary benefits: 5%

• Better title: 4%

• Reimbursable education or technical training programs: 2%

• Stock options: 2%

• Opportunities to work overseas: 1%

• None of the above: 6%

Source: The Dice Report, September 2010

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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