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Getting a Job- Why it is so Important

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Getting a Job- Why it is so Important

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Have you ever wondered what impact work has on 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 and has wide experience of working with American unemployed people at the height of the great recession in 2008.

After attending a Master Class given by Blustein at a CDAA Conference, this is what I learnt on how fundamental work is to our existence and why getting a job is so important.

Blustein found that work offers the following:

1. Survival and Power
2. Social Connection and
3. Self Determination

Survival and Power

Work allows people to meet their most basic of needs being 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 to compete globally.

Are businesses working closely enough with higher educational institutions to match their required workforce with the amount 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 generation Z and the generations that follow if we don’t start closing the gap between current and future business workforce needs with the graduate outcomes of our educational institutions.

Social Connection

As humans we are hardwired for connection 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. To not have 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, 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 and not feel the isolation of unemployment.

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 of 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. I have always suspected this finding and it was one of the reasons I was motivated to transition into the field of Career Development because it is so important in today’s insecure job market.

If you are unemployed, there are many career development practitioners that are motivated and ready to help you move forward. Getting a job involves arming yourself with the latest career education so that you have the best possible chance of getting a job you desire.

Self-Determination

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 fulfilment. 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 released their World of Work Report in 2014 stating that “decent work and social protection should be central goals in the post-2015 developmental agenda”. I believe the current Employment and Educational Public Policy in Australia is moving in the direction of compromising what has been outlined above.

It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that there is decent work for all of us to survive and feel fulfilled. Blustein made reference to a piece of literature that captures the raw essence of what work means to all of us regardless of your social standing. It comes from the John Steinbeck’s novel the Grapes of Wrath which is set at the time of the great depression and when agricultural jobs were changing. Given the constantly changing face of our working environment, I think it was worth sharing with you.

“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.

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