Post-unemployment identity in middle-aged professionals
The high rate of unemployment in South Africa is startling. Little research is available in the South African context on how this phenomenon is experienced by middle-aged professionals that become unemployed. It is difficult for them to re-enter the job market at the same level of seniority they held before being unemployed. Many middle-aged professionals need to either accept a position on a junior level or create a business opportunity for themselves. In this study 6 middle-aged professionals who had been affected by unemployment during their careers were interviewed in order to understand their experience. Work is a universal life domain and provides meaning to most individuals (Carlsen, 2008). Despite the fact that the fundamental notion from psychology has remained consistent in organisational research, the term positive has been defined and applied to identities and identity construction processes in a variety of ways (Roberts & Dutton, 2009). As a result, the main purpose of this research is to answer the question: ‘How does a middle-aged professional preserve a positive identity after having become unemployed?’ The study explores to what extent middle-aged professional’s associate their personal identities with their profession and the impact unemployment has on their self-concept and sense of self-worth and decisions to regain employment. A qualitative methodology was followed, and from the extensive interview data, using qualitative content analysis, themes relating to the unemployed condition emerged. Results support, to a large degree the existing literature and studies on the unemployed. This study offers additional insight into personal identity, emotions, available support structures, satisfaction with life and new learnings from the unemployed experience during their middle-age period. Key findings of the study revealed that work is a means of giving expression of own identity. Psychological aspects associated with unemployment are declining self-esteem and self-belief. The results of the study revealed that those who have a good understanding of their own identity are confident with who they are and are satisfied with the role they play. It enables a person to make independent choices without being negatively influenced by the negative views of others, de-coupling their personal identity from their jobs. The ability to remain optimistic and have a positive attitude equipped participants to deal more effectively with the trauma of unemployment. During the middle-age period, unemployment provides an opportunity to reflect on purpose and legacy; resulting in a new strategy for their lives to live a meaningful life and to keep their dreams alive. Most of these findings supported previous studies. From the results recommendations were made to assist middle-aged professionals during unemployment and career transition.
- Health Sciences