The latest unemployment figures are understandably music to Usama Robert’s ears. Out of work more than two years, the Riverside manufacturing supply chain manager is among the 243,000 Americans who found work in January 2012–far exceeding expectations of 150,000 new jobs. Nationally, the unemployment rate dipped to 8.3 percent.
The United States Labor Department reported unexpected news that the Black unemployment rate dropped from 15.8 to 13.6 percent in January, the lowest unemployment rate for African Americans in almost three years.
The report sent a hopeful sign that unemployment among Black men declined from 15.7 to 12.7 percent. Similarly, the unemployment rate for Black women dropped from 13.9 to 12.6 percent.
Much has been written about America’s job recovery, but there is little talk about the recovery’s downside: return to work anxiety.
Dressed in a navy pants suit, gold accessories, pumps and a perfect shade of red lipstick, Roberts is rehearsing her return to a 9-to-5 existence.
“I’m a woman with a college degree, incredibly well-networked, congenial, flexible and determined,” she announced in her hairbrush-turned-microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, Usama is back in the game.”
Being out of work is hard, but returning to the workplace can be harder, says cognitive behavioral psychologist and life coach Lena Otieno, who believes getting back into the fast lane has its own set of challenges.
With more technology and fewer workers, a person may be fearful that his or her skills have deteriorated to the point that they will not be able to function in a new position. He or she may also have concerns about losing another job. Or a worker may grieve for a lifestyle they had developed while staying at home with family.
Otieno said life after someone is downsized or made redundant, can feel like you’re starting right back at the bottom of the pile again. This can be harsh and unexpected; especially if you are someone who is normally pretty confident. Otieno advises: Don’t panic.
Ask for help. Find someone whom you trust–either a mentor, a supportive partner, a colleague at work or even your line manager or boss. Discuss your concerns about re-integration.
Then there’s the feeling of “once burned, always shy.”
“Nothing can erase the distrust and anxiety that develops when a loyal employee is dumped by an employer and left to drown,” said Otieno. Nearly 10 million jobs were loss during the Great Recession “that’s a real punch in the stomach. There’s a lot of repressed anger in the workplace.”
She advises workers to stay emotionally ready by networking, reading trade publications, and taking classes during prolonged unemployment.
“Reinvent family time concerns. Think about the things that concern you. If it is going back to work with a team who may have gotten used to life without you, then why not organize a social event outside work?”
Roberts admits the road back to work has been a roller coaster of emotions, and there’s a lingering distrust and perception that Black employees are last hired, first fired.
She recalls two years ago when her former employer began downsizing. She was among the first to go, despite 14 years of experience and loyalty.
Black Voice News