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Gaining Employment- Why it is Essential to Our Well-Being

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Gaining Employment- Why it is Essential to Our Well-Being

Have you ever wondered what gaining employment does to your well-being?

Professor David Blustein understands its impact better than anyone and has authored a book called The Psychology of Working where the role of work in people’s lives is examined. The Professor is from the Department of Counselling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. He has had wide experience working with American unemployed people at the height of the great recession in 2008.

Fundamental Role of Gaining Employment

Blustein found that obtaining employment offers the following:

Survival and Power, Social Connection and Self Determination

I will describe each one.

Survival and Power

Work allows people to meet their most basic needs of shelter, food, water, clothing, and safety. Closely associated with this survival need is the human need for psychological, economic, and social power. This may be in the form of money, knowledge, social status, or privilege.

Reflecting on the current Australian public policy on education and employment matters, I feel this need is clearly under threat for many Australians. We have currently a system where although we are making education accessible to more people, are our educational institutions necessarily preparing our students for the skills that businesses require?

Are businesses working closely enough with higher educational institutions to match their required workforce with the number of graduates required?

We are all now part of a global economy and we need reminding that we no longer operate in a protected domestic market. The flow-on effects could be devastating for the survival needs of our younger generations. We need to close the gap between current and future business workforce needs with the graduate outcomes of our educational institutions.

Social Connection

As humans, we are hardwired to connect to others. Regardless if you are introverted or extroverted, we all need the ability to form meaningful connections and have relationships. These relationships allow us to negotiate the ebbs and flows of work.

Not having this connection, can isolate you and can have a significant negative impact on a person’s mental well-being.

At the height of the American recession in 2008, Blustein said it was not unusual to hear of stories where unemployed men would get dressed to go to work, walk out the door and sit in a park all day just to be around people. This was not to feel the isolation of unemployment. Hence the importance of having a job to go to.

I was surprised to learn from Blustein that if a person is unemployed for a period of six months the feeling is at the same level as the grief felt during bereavement. A meta-analysis study shows that when people lose their jobs there is an increase in mental health problems and when they are re-employed those problems decrease. The groups that were at more risk were men, blue-collar workers, and the long-term unemployed.

If you are unemployed, advice about career or a change in career can increase your chances of gaining employment. Finding purposeful work involves arming yourself with the latest career education so that you have the best possible chance of getting the job you desire.


Blustein also found the experience of working allows a person to exercise Self-Determination.

Self Determination can be explained by the theory of two Psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. They suggested that people are motivated by a need to grow and find fulfillment.

They achieve this growth by having:

1. Autonomy- control, and direction towards their goals
2. A sense of Self-Efficacy or Competence- Mastery of Skills
3. Relatedness- Being connected to others and belonging.

The International Labour Organisation state in its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  “More people in decent jobs means stronger and more inclusive economic growth”.

It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that there is decent work for all of us to survive and feel fulfilled. The role of work is so important to all of us. Blustein made reference to a piece of literature that captures the raw essence of what work means to all of us regardless of our social standing.

It comes from John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath which is set at the time of the great depression when agricultural jobs were changing. Given the constantly changing face of our working environment, I think it was worth sharing with you.

Quote from Novel

“The causes lie deep and simple—the causes are a hunger in a stomach, multiplied a million times; a hunger in a single soul, hunger for joy and some security multiplied a million times; muscles and mind aching to grow, to work, to create, multiplied a million times. The last clear definite function of man—muscles aching to work, minds aching to create beyond the single need—this is man.

To build a wall, to build a house, a dam, and in the wall and house and dam to put something of Man self, and to Man self-take back something of the wall, the house, the dam; to take hard muscles from the lifting, to take the clear lines and form from conceiving.”

There is no doubt to work whether paid or unpaid is what we are meant to do as human beings. What we choose to do and how we go about managing our careers requires close attention if we are to experience a fulfilling career path and well-being.

Written by Gina Bell

Gina Bell is a university-qualified Sydney Career Expert in Career Advice, Career Coaching, and Career Counselling. She also works as a Talent Development Consultant for commercial organisations. She is passionate about aligning a person’s work purpose in a work environment where they can find fulfillment & reach their potential.

Her qualifications include a Graduate Diploma in Career Development, a Graduate Diploma in Chartered Accounting, and a Bachelor of Economics. She is registered with the Career Industry Council of AustraliaProfessional Member of the Career Development Association of Australia, National Career Development Association in the USA, Asia Pacific Career Development Association & Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand.

In her free time, she loves to travel, cook, and learn.

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