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A philosophical dilemma

Hi Mr Goh

Was wondering if you could spare me a few moments of your time to help me with this philosophical phase of my dilemma:-

Having gone through two “dry periods” in which I have been unable to find a job (10 months and now the ongoing spell that has lasted 8 already), I just realised that, everytime I get sufficiently hungry for a job, I start to not only lower my salary expectations, but also my expectations of job SUITABILITY.

That means, I force myself to apply for any job that is reasonably related to the industry I am from, even if I know that I will completely hate the nature of the work. And then when the application actually gets shortlisted for an interview, I panic and feel guilty. This bugs me for days before the interview, and I suspect it may ultimately cause me to perform not so optimally.

The last time this scenario happened, I clinched the job and stayed in it for 4.5 years,  letting the job hatred ate into me so deeply that I still have nightmares about it now. But all around the world, more and more middle-aged jobseekers are doing exactly what I tend to do. And things are not likely to improve as the aging society grows in numbers.

Of course, the wisdom is that, we first grab any job we can get, and then use it as a stepping stone to find a better one later.

But doesn’t that dilute the quality of the workforce in general? Could this kind of indiscriminate job hunting be a factor that contributes to the bad HR trends? Maybe because many people in the past have not even given a second thought to grabbing just any job. So as the income gap worsens, as employers get more cost conscious and uncaring, could it be the aging, less employable, older employees who created a kind of undesirable reputation that makes HR people avoid hiring such people?

Does taking up a job that I know is unsuitable for me in the long term, deprive other more suitable candidates? Or does it simply buy me more time to seek better opportunities? If so, and I think the chances of getting better opportunities are getting lower every week, wouldn’t I be simply delaying the inevitable? Should I instead shun the job offer and use that precious time to upgrade myself or switch to another industry or take my risks doing business? I also had that situation once, and ended up nowhere. Which then made me regret not selling my soul to clinch that one-and-only job offered to me hahahaah. Irony.

Hope you can share some of your own insights on this matter.

Thanks and best regards.

Terence (name changed)

NB: Permission was sought to post this email here.

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Gilbert's reply below: -

Dear Terence,

Thanks for your mail.

I can understand your frustrations – 10 months of unemployment sure saps out all the self confidence in a person. I guess you will need to daily boost up that motivation quotient to go for another job search and  dreadful interview. It is like a marathon that one needs to complete despite the feeling of wanting to give up halfway.

That is why many have said that once someone has endured prolonged unemployment, he can go on to conquer many more tougher obstacles in life. Unemployment affects the whole being of a person but the end result is often a stronger and meaner personality.

Coming back to your query. There are a few reasons why people work:-

1. For money – this is not wrong as we all need to survive. However, as we grow older we want to do something that is more meaningful and hopefully can contribute to the society that we are in. This can mean a teaching or social work job. Maybe it is good that you try to look for the inner meaning to your next job besides just going for the survival part. This is easier say than done of course. Sometimes survival ranks first on our list while we job search. But do ask yourself whether doing something that helps someone in society is next on the cards for you.

2. For esteem – we all work for self preservation reason. This is tied closely to the first reason. While working, especially for man, this bring fulfillment to many of us. Once we work, everything seems to fall into place even if it is something that we hate initially. There is finally meaning and structure to our life. Man needs to work and we are build for that.

3. For meaning – as spoken, we may need to find the true meaning of our vocation. Let us search for something that may benefit others while we work. This is rather personal and it is good that you do some soul searching while transitioning during this period. If possible, do not just simply search for ANY job but be specific in your search so that employers will know that you are serious during interview.

Many people dread their job as they have fail to do something that they like or the job does not match their abilities. Try doing sales when you struggle with talking and you know what I mean. If you know what you are good at and look for work that match your natural skillsets, it may do you alot of good.

Hope this help.

BTW I hope to ask for permission to post our thoughts here on the web site.

Take care and keep the email coming. Take care buddy.

Gilbert