What is a good and reasonable unemployment rate

How unemployment gets under your skin

Self-doubt, existential fears, sleepless nights: not having a job is a bitter experience. Here unemployed people tell how they fared and how they got out of the hole again.

Of Daniela Lukaßen

Anyone who has ever lost their job or has been looking for a job for a long time after graduating without success knows the effects of being unemployed: Nights when you can hardly close an eye because the carousel of thoughts turns, fears of existence because Rent, car etc. have to be paid, and the fear of the future that comes over you again and again.

Unemployment weighs on. Even if the situation on the labor market for academics is generally described as very positive and the unemployment rate of 2.5 percent in 2013 according to the labor market report “Good education - good opportunities. The labor market for academics ”of the Federal Employment Agency was very low in 2013, academics are not safe from unemployment. In a sense, they are even more shaken in individual cases.

"The sports courses were the only thing that gave me a reasonable day structure"

“When I received my notice of termination, I was initially shocked,” says Anna Marcs (name changed). “I was informed that my fixed-term contract would be converted into a permanent one after two years. When I was asked to talk to my boss and he told me that I had to be fired for economic reasons, I was stunned. But I still thought I'd find something again quickly. But somehow it took longer than expected. "

Anna Marcs applied for months, was invited to interviews and received countless rejections. “At some point I didn't really know what to do and why. With every conversation I got bigger self-doubts. ”In order not to lapse into absolute lethargy, Anna Marc became a permanent guest in the fitness studio. “The sports courses were the only thing that gave me a reasonable daily structure,” the 29-year-old stated.

"You make yourself smaller than you are and feel like a supplicant"

She searched for five months without success. “I received job suggestions from the Federal Employment Agency every now and then, but unfortunately nothing came of it. Often I was overqualified, sometimes people with a completely different profile were wanted. ”After the umpteenth interview, Anna Marcs realized that she needed support. “I then asked my employment agency about application coaching. There it came out that I was acting far too insecure and that this could have been a reason for the rejection after the job interviews. "

A point that seemed to get worse from time to time, as the young woman thinks. “I felt more like a failure in every conversation. And of course you radiate that. You make yourself smaller than you are and you feel like a supplicant who has to be satisfied with everything that is offered to you. ”Today the 29-year-old has a job again. “It is also limited in time, but I hope for an extension. For me, the most important thing is that I finally get out of unemployment. Because it was very bad for me. "

In "battle mode"

A point with which she is not alone. On average, the unemployed are far worse off than those in employment in terms of their well-being and mental health. However, it is not possible to say in general what individual effects unemployment has. This is also emphasized by Dr. Benedict Rogge. He works as a researcher at Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences. He wrote his dissertation entitled “How unemployment gets under our skin”. It is “a study of the self-image and mental health of the unemployed”. “For many people, unemployment is a heavy psychological burden,” explains Rogge. “Other people, however, hardly suffer. Some even see their unemployment as a gain or an exemption. "

In his dissertation he worked out different modes of identity. Low-skilled people with so-called precarious employment histories, i.e. people who are repeatedly confronted with the situation of unemployment, would find themselves in the “mode of conversion”. For these people, surprisingly, it makes little psychological difference to be employed or unemployed. People who, on the other hand, would be afraid of social decline due to unemployment and for whom work plays an important and decisive role in their lives would often find themselves in so-called “fighting mode” as a result of unemployment.

“For them, the old self is at stake,” says Rogge. The psychological stress caused by unemployment is particularly great for this group. "Many people have symptoms of depression, anxiety and aggressiveness that exceed the threshold of a clinically relevant disease," says Rogge. Often the feelings of those affected would change in the course of unemployment. "At the beginning of unemployment, many people find themselves in a spiral of pondering," he explains. "Everything revolves around the question of what will come."

Typical for many sufferers at this time are, for example, difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Depressive symptoms are also common. “A major problem is that those affected often isolate themselves socially.” In many cases, those affected would withdraw more and more from social life in order to avoid other people's reactions, for example. “The pressure on those affected increases especially in environments in which unemployment is stigmatized, tabooed or catastrophized across the board,” explains Rogge.

In order to better deal with unemployment, he advises those affected to look for so-called “alternative sources of self-worth”. “That means you should try to make yourself valuable regardless of a job, so that not only unemployment shapes your self-image.” Often, however, this is not so easy for an unemployed person. "For example, many of those affected are barely able to do voluntary work because they are too busy with the situation as such, and have to apply and fight to keep their old life alive."

In any case, it is important to create a structure to absorb the breakdown of the usual daily routine. This applies to both women and men. For while it has long been assumed that men have a greater problem with unemployment than women, in reality this is only the case in male-dominated labor markets - such as in Germany. "If you look at Scandinavia, for example, you find that women there suffer even more from unemployment than men because they are part of the primary labor market to a greater extent than in this country," says Rogge. The decisive factor is the role that work plays in a person's life. "If the job is central to one's own identity, one naturally suffers more than a person for whom other areas and roles are also of great importance and for whom work is only one of different facets of one's self-image."

In the life of Daniel Montag (name changed), work has always played an important role, reports the 34-year-old. After only a few months, his last position was dismissed as a result of economic restructuring in the company. “I like to work a lot,” he asserts. “That's why unemployment was a catastrophe for me. In addition, I hadn't saved a lot and had just moved into a larger and, of course, more expensive apartment. "

At the time of the termination, says Montag, his world collapsed a little. “I've written countless applications, kept checking to see if I might have received an email inviting me to an interview, and kept checking my cell phone to see if one of the companies might be calling. That was almost compulsive. ”He almost completely broke off contact with friends and acquaintances. “I didn't feel like being spoiled for life forever with my bad mood. I also felt guilty every time I spent money. "

Even in conversations, Daniel Montag had the feeling that he could no longer keep up. “When others talked about anger at work, I felt terrible. As if I were living in a completely different world. I didn't even know what to say anymore. I didn't have anything worth talking about. ”Even if he has a job again today, the time of unemployment still gnaws at him, as he says. "I am still afraid that I could lose my job again and that the dismissal was due to me and my skills."

"People often define themselves through their work and only feel valued through their work."

Susanne Dolstra coaches people like Daniel Montag. It helps those affected to rebuild their self-esteem and to face the situation instead of being overrun by it. “When you get unemployed, it comes as a shock to most people at first. They feel as if they are in a trance and are not infrequently unable to act, ”says the counselor. A time begins that can be compared to a roller coaster ride of emotions. A state that changes in the course of time in the negative and often ends in resignation. "When people then apply, but only receive rejections, many of my clients begin to doubt themselves," explains Dolstra. "For many, this can lead to depression."

With the people who are looking for support from her, the trainer works out very individual solutions so that they can deal better with unemployment, regain self-confidence and thus have better prospects on the job market again. “I first take a close look at the résumés of all clients and try to get to know each person exactly before I work out perspectives with them,” says Dolstra. "Because a general statement about what is the right path for the respective person cannot be made."

It often helps those affected to first look for an activity that offers them a structured daily routine and that gives them the feeling that they will continue to be needed - regardless of their work, as Dolstra says. A point that is not easy for many unemployed people. Because often people define themselves through their work and only feel valued through their work.

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Martin Walsberg (name changed) knows that too. The 33-year-old historian has been unemployed for a few months. “Most recently, I did an internship in the press office of an energy supplier,” he says. “The contract ended automatically after two years. Actually, I thought that I would find something else quickly. ”Since then, Walsberg has been writing applications. So far without success. “At first I didn't think the whole thing was that bad. It is not unusual that you need a little time to find the first correct position. "

In the meantime, however, most of his friends and acquaintances have found permanent jobs. “And I'm still looking. And even if my friends don't say it openly, I always think they are wondering what I'm doing wrong. ”As he says, the humanities scholar has already broken off contact with some of his friends. “At some point I couldn't take it anymore to hear how stressful your job is. Because I would be happy to be in her place. And when there were slogans like: 'It's good for you, no annoying boss and every day off. Sometimes I would like to swap places with you ‘, I've had enough."

In addition to this stress, Martin Walsberg also had more and more physical complaints. “I sleep very badly because I am constantly worrying about it. I'm nervous and sometimes I feel like I'm not up to it. Neither mentally nor physically. ”In the meantime, Martin Walsberg is doing further training in PR, which is financed by the employment office; the fear that the situation might not change remains, however. “My biggest worry is not being able to find anything. But of course I hope that the further training will give me better chances on the job market. "

How a person feels unemployed depends on very different things, as Dr. Martin Hertkorn, CEO of the INQUA Institute for Coaching in Berlin, emphasizes. “The degree of suffering depends on the duration of unemployment, the perceived future opportunities and the length of the previous employment relationship,” he explains. This means that the longer the employment has lasted, the more the separation is perceived. Hertkorn compares this to the pain of separation after a partnership. But other factors are also important for the emotional state of job seekers. For example, the age of those affected or the pressure of responsibility. "Depending on whether you are the single member of the family or the partner offers security," explains the coach. But the economic situation in general and the ability to deal with crises are also decisive.

But what exactly can those affected do?

Persevere and carry on - even if it is difficult. Photo: © bluedesign / Fotolia.de

It is particularly important to develop your own self-confidence, as Hertkorn emphasizes. “For example by making people aware of their strengths: Which tasks have I already mastered in my life and which strengths have I shown? Which crises have I already survived and which skills have I developed? ”It is also important to increase self-motivation.

Hertkorn explains: “I imagine any point in the future when everything will develop according to my wishes. I am describing this day as if I were telling an old friend how I made this day. Such an image exudes a powerful force. In a second step, I will describe the intermediate stages that led me there. "

In addition, it is important to strengthen your own confidence. It is helpful to make a list on which the person concerned records which external factors have to do with the current situation. This would prevent self-devaluation. With the external factors, Hertkorn means the labor market situation and seasonal fluctuations. “We work with biography-analytical methods,” he explains. "That means we want to make people aware of what strengths they have and what resources could play an important role for them."

The coach advises all those affected to optimize their application strategies. A reality check is very important. “You should only apply for positions that have a certain likelihood of success. Otherwise it will only lead to unnecessary, frustrating rejections, ”he says. The topic of networking should not be underestimated either. “Personal networking is becoming more and more important. Lots of people have inhibitions, ”says Hertkorn. The right inner posture is therefore particularly important. “It should read: I can also bring things to my network - if only it's a good holiday tip, a recipe for cherry jam or a recommendation from a pediatrician.

The attitude that the network has to spit out a job is a hindrance, ”explains the coach and recommends the inclusion of social media channels.“Social media such as Xing, LinkedIn and job search engines are additional building blocks for being easily found. Working with it also leads to awareness and sharpening of one's own profile, "says Hertkorn and adds:" Last but not least, our working world is so specialized that there is practically no job for which a newcomer has all the skills. This means that the courage to take gaps and the willingness to keep learning are basic requirements for professional reorientation. "

Unemployment first throws most people off track. And especially people to whom their job is important, who define themselves through their position and who have worked for a certain job for a long time, suffer from unemployment. Especially when it lasts longer and there is no end in sight. There is no general rule for dealing with it. To do this, it must be looked at individually why this fact burdens the respective person so much and which points it are that intensify his suffering.

But one thing is always the same: The social isolation that goes hand in hand with unemployment for many of those affected often makes the situation worse. Contact with friends and acquaintances is important for most people. And the creation of a daily structure, for example through volunteer work and sporting activities, can help to deal better with the situation. At the same time, it is important to continue to concentrate on the job search.

Have you ever been unemployed? How did you deal with the situation? Do you have a tip for our readers? We look forward to an email to [email protected]