Have a question about life, love, or faith? Post it as a comment or email it to melfert@stjohns-cathedral.org, or submit your question online privately.

Hey Rev!

I’m recently unemployed. My wife is now the breadwinner. We are in a new home (moved here for her job) and everyone is telling me to enjoy this time and take a few months to get the house in order. But the truth is I hate it, I want to be working and contributing financially. I’m bored and am starting to doubt I’ll find work (I’ve been looking). How do you propose I reconcile this situation?

Wanting to Work


Dear WTW:

Back when I was a stage manager, I had several stretches of unemployment and underemployment — times when my day planner was pristine and blank no matter how many pages I turned. Those times sucked. They sucked in the fullest sense of that inimitable word. At social gatherings, I dreaded having to give a feeble answer to the inevitable question, “What do you do for a living?” I had a hard time enjoying weekends — they were just another day without a job. And it was a rare moment when I wasn’t carrying around the very bucketful of doubt and boredom that you talk about, WTW. In short, not having a steady job sucked a whole lot of joy out of my life.

What didn’t help me in the least were friends telling me to enjoy the time off (or, worse still, friends who told me that they envied me for all the free time that I had on my hands). I understood that those friends were trying to be encouraging, just as your friends are trying to encourage you now. But there are times when our instinct towards optimism — our need to find silver linings and half-full glasses lying around everywhere — isn’t so much helpful as it is obnoxious. This is one of those times. You have my permission to gracefully but firmly tell your friends to stop searching for good news in your unemployment.

I do have a few ideas for getting through this period and, specifically, for getting back to work. Before I get into nuts and bolts, however, I want to spend a moment talking about your marriage. It is imperative that you make the choice to be absolutely honest with your wife about what this time is like for you. I’m not asking you to make accusations or to demand her pity: I’m just asking you to tell her the truth. You made a big sacrifice by moving for her job. And you have a right to know that she acknowledges both that sacrifice and its cost to you. There are already the first hints of resentment in your letter. If the two of you aren’t able to talk directly, WTW, that resentment will grow like a neglected crack in a window, and it won’t be long before it is in danger of breaking the two of you in half. Make sure that you and your wife are carefully and empathetically listening to one another.

Now onto your job hunt. I suggest that you begin by spending some time with a coach. While I know that a lot of folks reflexively roll their eyes at the very idea of life coaching, my experience is that it is really useful to work with an impartial person who knows the road on which I’m walking and who has practical suggestions for navigating it. A good coach will help you to search for work in a persistent and in an effective manner. She will see strengths in you that you might not notice on your own, she will flag areas in which you have more room to grow, and she will help you to promote yourself in the best possible way. She will push you when you need pushing and cheer you on when you need bucking up. Most of all, a coach will insist that you treat finding work as your full-time job. That simply isn’t something that your wife or a relative or a friend can do.

Outside of your job search, I encourage you to find reasons to get up in the morning and leave the house. Look for opportunities to volunteer. (If you are able to volunteer in the field in which you want to work, all the better — I can’t tell you how often I got hired for a show because the company’s production manager knew me through my volunteerism.) You need to build up the momentum in your life. There really is something to the old saying, “if you want to get something done, ask a busy person.” Being busy is not only going to help you get hired, it’s going to make you a bunch less bored and full of doubt in the mean time.


Asphalt road between fields image courtesy Shutterstock (http://shutr.bz/132TLNc)

Finally, WTW, know that things are going to get better. You will find a job. And, after you do, you may be surprised by the way that you feel when you look back on this period of unemployment. I am continually surprised at how often people tell me that a period of enforced waiting — after an injury or an illness, during the weeks surrounding a birth or a death, while searching for a job – proved to be a time of profound spiritual growth. Actually, I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised at all: my own periods of waiting, including those times when I was unemployed, taught me so much about myself, about the world, about meaning, and about the divine.

Being unemployed sucks, WTW. But it will pass. And, when it does, just like every experience of loss, of frustration, and of grief, this time will have taught you more lessons that you could possibly buy.

Have a question about life, love, or faith? Post it as a comment or email it to melfert@stjohns-cathedral.org, or submit your question online privately.

Categories: Beliefs


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Martin Elfert

Martin Elfert

The Rev. Martin Elfert is an immigrant to the Christian faith. After the birth of his first child, he began to wonder about the ways in which the Divine was at work in the world. Shortly thereafter, he joined Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC, where he and his new son were baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2005 and where the community encouraged him to seek ordination.

1 Comment

  1. The comment about treating a job search like a full-time job is excellent. I also recommend keeping an 8 to 5 schedule, or something similar. Get up at the same time every day, get dressed, and “punch the clock.” Do internet and computer work away from home. Take time to make connections with people in the new town. Even if a company isn’t hiring, request that *you* interview people who have the jobs you want and get the lay of the land. Apply even for jobs you don’t like and minimally, get the practice of interviewing and being interviewed. If someone offers you a job for which you’re overqualified, you can always turn it down. Assuming you have the financial leeway, be picky. Depending on your field, volunteering is also an excellent use of time. You never know when a good connection will happen.

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