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Zach Stafford

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Guilt Isn't a Job Benefit

Posted: 09/12/2012 5:12 pm

Congratulations! You were able to get a job in this economy when everyone else seems to be looking everywhere and finding nothing.

You probably worked hard for this position. Or had a stroke of luck. Or maybe it's a family favor. In the end you found gainful employment, so well done.

However, despite these feelings of accomplishment and relief that you can pay rent this month and put food on the table, you have a little guilt hanging out in the back of your mind. You're now a part of the American workforce, but some of your friends still are jobless, causing you to feel guilty whenever you're hanging out with them.

I'm here to say: Stop feeling guilty.

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the unemployment rate in Chicago was at 9.4 percent at the beginning of July, and for 20-somethings it's even worse. Rates were as high as 12.7 percent nationally for people ages 18-29 in the same month. That means on any given Friday at your favorite bar, if 100 people are there, about 12 are unemployed, most likely including some of your friends.

Due to your job status, friends will lean on you during times when they need advice or want to complain. And when they have had too much to drink, they probably will make statements such as, "You just don't understand! You actually have a job." And that probably leads to you picking up the tab because you feel guilty.

Whenever you are with them, there will be subtle reminders of how lucky you are, and how unlucky they have been. When you have an accomplishment at work that you want to share with the people closest to you, these friends will instantly drain any happiness out of the situation. As a result, you may begin managing all conversations with these friends to not usher in the guilt they seem to always have waiting for you.

After a while, you may begin to second-guess yourself. You'll wonder if you actually even have the skill set to be in your current field or if keeping your job is just plain luck.

It can be a tricky position. Being a friend means serving as that trusted support to other people you care about during good times and bad. As a friend, you'll be that encouragement they need during their rough times of joblessness or underemployment, but support shouldn't come from a place of guilt. A friend's unemployment is not your fault.

As friends, we can be proactive by doing favors such as looking over resumes or fostering networking within their fields. When we are invited to after-work mixers and have a plus-1, we can bring that friend who is so desperate to just get a lead.

And don't forget: Friendship is a two-way street. Just as friends want you to sit at that bar and wallow with them over their state of affairs, they also need to pull those britches up and celebrate your accomplishments and successes. We all have our good and bad times -- and being a friend is being there with one another through all of that.

And when your unemployed friends do find jobs, remind them of all the bar tabs you picked up during their wallowing sessions. It's their turn to get this round!

This post was originally published in the RedEye.

 

Follow Zach Stafford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zachstafford

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