"Big Four" Highlights


Bringing Home the Bacon in Lean Times

Men have options when they face unemployment, says Catholic expert

It’s not easy to get through a career without some setbacks, and in the sluggish economy of the last few years, many Americans have had to retool in response to sudden unemployment.

Men who are their families’ main breadwinner have been under extra stress, but there is help. One new resource is Landed: Proven Job Search Strategies for Today’s Professional, by Randy Hain (Serviam Press). An Atlanta-area executive search professional, Hain is also author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work and other books from Liguori Press.

A member of the Knights of Columbus and a frequent contributor to Fathers for Good, Hain and his wife of 19 years, Sandra, have two teenage sons. He spoke recently about how men can avoid the panic of sudden unemployment and find their way back to a fulfilling work and family life.

Fathers for Good: How is this slow economy affecting fathers?

Randy Hain: Fathers are under enormous pressure, as the traditional providers for their families, to make less income go further. A lot of them have been pinched by the economy, so they’re trying to maintain lifestyles and finding it more and more difficult. What happens is often their wives have to go back to work.

I think there’s enormous pressure, guilt, maybe even a loss of self-esteem. Fathers are under enormous stress and pressure, and when they’re under a financial and emotional pressure, I think it impacts their spiritual lives.

FFG: What are some of the first things a dad should do when out of work?

Hain: The very first thing — and it’s not intuitive to do this — is to pray and don’t panic. I see a lot of dads in my line of work who really hit the panic button. And the first thing they should do is turn to Jesus for help, to really get on their knees and pray, and yet what they usually do is try to rely on themselves. So my first bit of advice would be to slow down. As Padre Pio said, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”

The second is really difficult for men, and that is to put our pride aside and reach out — to our parish, our brother Knights, if we’re a Knight, anybody in our network, even in our extended family: let them know what’s happened and ask them for help. It doesn’t have to be financial assistance as much as, “I’m actively looking and could use your help in networking. I could use your prayers. Would you be willing to just meet with me and just talk through this with me?”

Men are just hard-wired to resist that. And yet, I think it would make it so much easier if we did reach out for help. I’m 47 and it took me 44 years to learn how to ask for help.

And I think the last step is to really treat a job search like a full-time job. This is not something that can be done casually or part time. The day you lose your job, you’ve had no warning; the very next day you should be out looking, because it takes a lot of activity. The time frame, especially in this economy, is often four to six months. So you just can’t wait. I see a lot of people who take time, do research, assess. Three weeks have gone by and they get started. You really need to start immediately.

FFG: What advice would you have for men who have been out of work for a significant amount of time and are beginning to despair?

Hain: I’ve seen this countless times, and for me a long time would be anything beyond six months. I’ll tell you, there are some very similar threads that run through the men I encounter who have been out of work for a long time. My advice to them would be first of all, be more flexible. What I mean by that is: if you were the VP of sales or the CFO or whatever you were in your previous job, you may not be able to get right back into that same job at the same income, and if you keep holding out for that without flexibility, suddenly a year has gone by and you’re in a really big rut.

So flexibility can mean maybe taking a slightly lesser title, maybe a little less income. Maybe you get a little more balance in your life by taking a smaller job. Maybe you take on consulting or project work while you’re looking. Maybe you have some flexibility in looking for a job and maybe try to get some income so you have something on your resume.

Another thing is that there may be time to start thinking about starting your own business if you have an entrepreneurial side.

I’ve seen a lot of men who’ve lost their jobs who’ve done some reprioritizing in their lives. They’ve recognized that “I’m working really hard to support a lifestyle that I don’t need.” And a lot of them are willing to downsize a bit in order to have more time with their families, more time with God.

FFG: How can a Catholic father continue to be the protector and provider even in the midst of unemployment?

Hain: When I think about “protector and provider,” I think that transcends financial support alone. I think it’s much bigger than that. I think a loving and faithful father is going to be someone who will do whatever is necessary to take care of his family. He’s going to make sacrifices. He’s going to work at jobs beneath his experience and education if he has to. He’ll put his pride aside and ask for help from his friends and family. He’s going to show his family courage and strength as he faces challenges.

I think these are things to consider other than “I’m not bringing in the paycheck that I used to.” Well, hopefully my kids will look at me more than the guy who buys Christmas presents. I want them to see me as the one they can come to for counsel and advice. I’m the guy that laughs with them; I’m the guy who provides discipline. I’m the one who loves their mother. These are the things that are the bigger, broader, more expanded role that the protector and provider has. I think it transcends money, but if you look at this from a man’s perspective, often that’s the first place they go. They feel diminished as that protector if they’re not bringing in the paycheck they used to. I think we do wrap up our self-esteem and our self-worth purely in our ability to bring in the paycheck.