Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College:
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College:
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

The Need for Work

What might I ask myself when considering my need for work?


What is “Need” for Work?

Your “need” for work has everything to do with satisfaction with your current situation.  How satisfied you are with your current work situation can or show your current need for a change in your work status.  For example, if I am happy not working, I may have a low Need for changing my work situation and may not look for a job.  But, if I’m not working and I’m not happy about it, that may tell me that it’s time for a change. Or, if you are working, you may ask yourself, “How happy am I with my current job?”

What is the importance of “Need to Work?”

“Do I need to work?”  “Or am I good where I am, vocationally?”  “Should I stay or should I go?”  These are the pivotal questions we may consider when thinking about work. They’re pivotal because deciding about whether we “need” to work may tell us whether we will want to consider other questions related to work.

What if people are telling me that I need to work, but I don’t think I’m ready?

There are many reasons you may choose to work: a way to give back to your community, discovering what you are good at, or to have a valued role in society.  In fact, an interesting article by Joe Marrone, et al., asks the question, “If work makes people with mental illness sick, what do unemployment, poverty and social isolation cause?”

But, it’s tough for us when other people are telling us that we “should” do something but we don’t feel ready.  If you are feeling pressured to work, consider things like:

  • Am I satisfied with not working now?
  • Do I feel internal pressure to work (I feel the need myself)?
  • Why are others saying that I need to work? And what does that mean to me?

Why do I feel pressured to work?

There are several ways we may feel pressure around working. The first is internal pressure, or pressure that you feel inside you.  Internal pressure usually comes from a dissatisfaction with the way things are now.  This dissatisfaction can look like these examples, or something different:

  • Feeling unhappy about my current work life (working or not working).
  • Feeling bored by my current work life.

The second is external pressure, or pressure that is coming from outside of you.  External pressure might look like:

  • Threats of losing something I value if I don’t go to work
  • People convincing or cajoling me to make a change
  • Life circumstances that make it difficult to not work

Both kinds of pressure can be good, if it’s welcome.  An example of welcome pressure is if you expect to get something good out of working, or that you realize that you don’t want to hang around the house anymore without something interesting to do. Pressure can be difficult if it is not welcome or not expected.  For example, if we hear that we will lose our housing if we don’t start to have some kind of work activity.  Sometimes, external pressure can lead to internal pressure.  For example, losing our non-work income can lead to a feeling of a “push” toward working.

How do I know if I have a Need for Work?

Considering whether you have a Need for work in your life comes down to how satisfied you feel with the way things are now. Need for Work is related to your current work situation.  Your current work situation may be that you are unemployed or you may never had worked before. Or, you may be working now, and you may have been working for a long time. Low Satisfaction = High Need

Whatever your work situation is, if you feel satisfied with your work life now, then you may not have much of a need for change in that situation.  But if you are not satisfied with your current situation, then you may feel a need for a change in your work life. Consider how you feel about the people, place, activities, role, and things like status and money in your current work situation, whatever that is.

  • What do you know about your current work situation?
  • How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the people in your current situation?
  • How happy or unhappy are you with the place you are in currently?  (If not working, where do you spend your time?)
  • How dissatisfied are you with what you do during your workday?
  • How happy are you with your current work role or status?
  • What is your satisfaction with things like your current work income?

What if I decide that I do not need to work now?

You may decide that a vocational change is not for you right now. The decision to work is generally up to you, but you may also need or want to consider the opinions and needs of others who are important to you. If you decide to not change your work situation, then you are probably happy with your current workplace and activities. You may decide that this is not the time to shake the boat. But, you may be considering other life goals. For example, you could decide to go to school or training. You could decide to focus on getting a nice place to live or taking care of your health and wellness. You may decide that you are happy with your current situation, yet you still want to consider work.

There are ways to build your Need, by:

  • Finding out more about work in general
  • Experiencing different kinds of jobs in order to discover your own likes, dislikes, and strengths
  • Discovering your own passions
  • Talking to people about why they work
  • Gathering supporters who like the idea of your working
  • Reconsidering your need for work after doing some of these things

What if I decide that I DO need a change in my work situation?

There are lots of things you can do if you feel a Need for change in your employment situation.  You can continue exploring The World of Work or Supports for Work if you want to consider how confident you feel about making a change now. You can start to Choose the kind of work you want to do if you’re unsure about a vocational direction. You can work on Getting a job if you know you want to start working now.  If you have seen enough, and want to think about Choosing the kind of work you may want to do, click here.

For more on the need for a work change, you may be interested in:

MacDonald-Wilson, K.,et al (2001) (article)
Self-Directed Rehabilitation Activities, by S. McNamara, et. al. (2011) (workbook)
Introduction to Rehabilitation Readiness, by M. Farkas (2000) (book)

Return to the main "Thinking About Work" page.

Where am I in my employment journey?

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