Andrew Nicol’s been better, life-wise.
The 29-year-old Calgarian was one of 400 people who lost their jobs at Nexen Energy last March.
He’d worked at Nexen for a year as a geophysicist, mapping out resources underground. When oil prices took a dive, so did profit margins. New exploration was reduced, and Nicol was soon part of the shrinking industry’s carnage.
The job search is tough: Over the past two years, he’s seen about 10 Canadian postings related to his field. Each gets 500 to 1,000 applications, he said.
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“It’s an emotional rollercoaster,” he said.
But like many of his now-former co-workers, he’s decided to diversify.
Nicol has put in about 500 hours since January into studying for his first chartered financial analyst exam in June. He doesn’t have any financial experience but finds it interesting. Plus he figures it’ll be good knowledge to have if ever he’s able to get back into geophysics since he’ll know how to invest his money.
While he re-tools he’s working part-time at the Heart and Stroke Foundation. It’s a “considerable” pay cut, but it helps pay the rent.
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He also volunteers at the Geophysicists Organization as a way to network and stay on top of what’s happening in the industry.
Keeping busy with other extra-curriculars like sports has helped, he said, as has the support of his girlfriend, family and friends.
“I’ve also stopped talking to a lot of people who have a negative outlook,” Nicol added, explaining that he didn’t want their negativity to bring him down.
Grim economic outlook notwithstanding, Nicol would rather focus on the positive.
“There’s a lot of people who are pursuing a side passion project, who have started a [new] business or who have started making terrariums in their spare time. Or turned to carpentry and cabinet-making,” he said.
“These things that they kind of used to do in their spare time but now that they’re not working, they’re trying to make some money off it.”
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He has this advice for others in his position: “Keep your head up.”
Wishing for a stronger economy
There are plenty of people struggling to take that to heart: Only half of the Canadians are satisfied with their lives, according to an exclusive Ipsos poll released to Global News Thursday.
Many blame the economy. There are more people on EI in Alberta now than any time since 1997, including the height of the recession.
The vast majority of Albertans and East Coast Canadians (86 and 88 per cent, respectively) rank a stronger economy third in terms of what they think would improve their personal well-being — right after getting more sleep and eating better.
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An economic uplift ranks fourth on the national wishlist, with 78 per cent citing it as something that could make them feel better about life. It edges out “doing more exercise and sports,” mentioned by 79 per cent.
Other new Ipsos research shows unemployment is the number one issue for Canadians right now.
“For years what we saw there was health care,” said Jennifer McLeod Macey, who leads the Health Research Institute for Ipsos. “Now it’s jobs.”
‘Just focus on now’
The economic uncertainty has made for a lot of anxious clients at the Calgary Counselling Centre.
The centre bills clients on a sliding scale, based on their ability to pay. It’s putting together support groups for people who’ve lost their jobs.
Since 2014, the number of unemployed clients there has gone up from 11.4 per cent in 2014 to 17.1 per cent in 2016.
Their records show that the average level of distress for those who are unemployed, seeking counselling and looking for work has “increased significantly” in both 2015 and 2016.
“What you see is … uncertainty,” said registered psychologist Christine Berry. “It’s the not knowing – ‘Is today the day I lose my job?’”
“We don’t deal well with not knowing.”
People are hard-wired to want to be in control of their lives, Berry explained. When they’re not, things seem scary.
One way to cope is to “just focus on now” and what you can control.
That can mean simply getting out of bed and putting out resumes, not spending what little money you have left on frivolous things, and not turning to drugs and alcohol (that’s one of the worst things you can do).
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As good as it is to talk about your concerns with people close to you, ruminating can make things worse.
“If you submerge yourself and talk about it too much, you run the risk of traumatizing yourself.”
As for those faced with the prospect of settling for something that may not be their dream job, remember it’s just temporary.
“Even if that means mowing lawns, or doing whatever you can get employment in… Now is not forever.”
“In difficult circumstances, you do whatever you need to do.”
Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted in April/May 2016 with a sample of 1,001 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within +/ – 4.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.