Work

When unemployment feels like a road with no end

Jonathan Ho // July 11, 2020, 6:46 pm

Journey with you

I am 30 this year, recently married and unemployed.

If I could receive a dollar every time one of my friends or family members asked me how my job search is going, believe me, I could end world hunger with that money.

Those who’ve been in my shoes of a prolonged season of transition will probably understand that it gets really frustrating hearing the same question or variants of it over and over again.

And it is even more frustrating repeating the same answer or trying to come up with variants of it – only to be replied with the same few solutions, “Ah… Have you tried LinkedIn? What about Jobstreet? Or Careers@Gov?”

Have you tried hard enough?

Looking for a job, learning how to trust

When I left my previous job in hopes of furthering my studies in urban planning before I got married, I envisioned the opportunity to progress in my career and provide well for my new family. Not this.

And in the midst of endless questions and suggestions, I’ve been struggling to hold in my emotions. Countless times, I have regretfully snapped at my mum for asking me about the job search. I know she was asking out of concern.

I just don’t know how to tell her and everyone asking that yes, I have been trying hard – and it hurts when those you love don’t seem to believe that.

I will be honest to say this: sometimes it gets hard to see God’s hand in the middle of this season.

How do I listen for that still small Voice when my frustrations are waging war within?

The words of the Foo Fighters’ song, Times Like These, written by their founder Dave Grohl, one of my favourite musicians of all time, have lent unexpected articulation to my thoughts in this season.

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again

YOU LEARN TO LIVE AGAIN

For those of us in career transitions, COVID-19 wasn’t the only thing that ushered in a “new normal”.

Life as we knew it will never be quite the same without the old routines and responsibilities from when we were working. But this is also an opportunity to learn a new way of living.

I thank God for friends, who instead of asking me how my job search is, get me started on activities together like doing research on sourdough starters or growing spring onions. I thank God for family and having more time to help care for my beloved nieces and nephews.

And when days are hard and it feels like my identity and self-worth are being challenged on this seemingly unending road, I thank God for technology so that those who love me can constantly check in and see how I’m doing.

Dear 2020 graduate, you’re more than a job-search machine

YOU LEARN TO GIVE AGAIN

More accurately, you learn to give and receive again. 

Without the stable source of income you’re used to having, it is easy to live with a scarcity mindset and withhold giving. 

But going through unemployment during the circuit breaker actually taught me the simple joys of giving and receiving with open hearts and hands.

I really thank God for helping me tide through the emotionally difficult season with surprise gifts from friends that showed up at our door. And it was equally fulfilling to order food to be sent to our friends in return.

3 things I learned when I couldn’t find a job

It makes me think of David, before he was king, bringing food to his brothers at the battle frontlines (1 Samuel 17:17-19).

All of us are fighting battles people don’t always see or know of, and many times, as I’ve discovered, a meal (or anything meaningful!) delivered can be a great encouragement.

This is something I’ve learnt to “pay forward” and bless someone else who is struggling, just to show I care.

YOU LEARN TO LOVE AGAIN

As I mentioned, it’s been unexpectedly tough fielding questions on my job status with those I love, especially my parents.

The question here might be how then do we love those who are going through barren seasons – and love them well?

I realise that if I were to explain the kind of love I need right now on this unfamiliar road, it would look a lot like what Alfred did for Batman as his butler and what Aaron did for Moses in the Bible.

After recently leading a Bible study on Aaron and Moses at cell group, I’ve been seeing this time as an “exodus experience” of sorts, moving through a barren plain while heading for the Promised Land.

What I learnt from 12 months of job searching

Due to a lack of trust and obedience on the Israelites’ part, Moses’ term as their leader turned out much longer than expected – an additional 40 years of wandering in the wilderness!

What caught my attention was how Aaron, Moses’ elder brother, was his faithful companion all the way through. It was touching how he was there to comfort him, counsel him, and fight battles together with him to the end of their lives.

As those who are learning to live again in this “new normal”, we hope you can journey with us like Aaron did for Moses, as we wait for our next season of working life. This is what love also looks like.

In times like these, what one used to understand of living, giving and loving will be tried and tested. Our friends and family will also face a similar reckoning when it comes to supporting us through this.

So here’s what I would like to say if I could speak my heart: Be there when we need support, all the more if we’re your child, your partner, or even one of your sheep.

Nurse us when we are bruised. Support us instead of hastily questioning us about our decisions. Love begets love, but careless words beget resentment.

Acknowledge that you’ve never walked down this road before, in an extraordinary time such as this. Realise that you may not have answers to the questions, and that’s okay. We need a parent, a friend, a leader – not Google.

Men united: Why guys should never walk alone

Sometime during this season, a friend said to me, “Don’t think you’re not working, even without a job. Working on yourself – self-work – is one of the toughest, most extensive and tiring work anyone could do. This is your job now.”

I have held these words close to my heart.

Do you trust that God knows what He’s doing with an extended season of waiting? That He has not left us to suffer alone but is drawing us to Himself even in this emptiness?

That He’s inviting us to examine ourselves deeply with Him – to work on the tough heart issues of identity, significance and worth?

God has not left us, nor has He lost control. Perhaps even in this wandering in the desert of COVID-19, His voice is calling each of us deeper for some much needed honest conversations.

Where is God in your job search?

For those of us who are still in career transitions, let us continue to hold fast to God’s promises of deliverance, believing that even in this “new normal”, we will dwell in abundance – a land overflowing with milk and honey.

We just need to continue to press on in faith.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

And if you know someone who is like me, trudging through this prolonged season of unemployment or maybe facing potential retrenchment, presence often counts more than questions. So does prayer, more than well-intentioned solutions.

Journey with us like the Prince of Peace would.

My heart a storm, clouds raging deep within
The Prince of Peace came bursting through the wind
(Prince of Peace, Hillsong UNITED)

THINK + TALK

  1. Do you know someone who is in a season of career transitions?
  2. How have you supported that person through moments of uncertainty?
  3. How can we come alongside those experiencing prolonged seasons of unemployment?