Over the last year or so I have had the opportunity to talk with many people about their unemployment. I’ve talked to people who are recent college grads, mid careers and 50 and over; I’ve also talked to people ranging from assistant to COO and CEOs of companies. Being unemployed is an extremely difficult time to describe. There are many different emotions, life changes, and other things that immediately change your life. I am going to give a few examples of what people have told me; some are very similar, some very different. Just like people themselves; how you handle a crisis will be different for everyone:
- At first I really liked it; was great to not have to go in to work. It had become such a miserable place to be that being let go was almost a relief. I took a few weeks off then started working with my network, sending out resumes and going on multiple interviews. As time wore on and rejection was part of everyday life I started to withdrawal more; stopped doing the things I liked and pretty much stopped looking for work. After 3 years I now have little hope that I will ever find a job.
- When I was let go from being a CEO of a major company I was devastated; I had never been fired or let go before so it was a totally new experience for me. I figured with my previous successes in business world I would land a job pretty easily. Thats not what I found. After going to many CEO executive search firms and many interviews I kept hearing the same thing; your experience is in media, this job is non-media so it wont be a fit. Knowing full well that the talents I have would be easily transferable to another Industry. I was ruled out of most positions. It was like HR didnt want to hire anyone that didnt have the exact same experience as the job that needed to be filled. I decided at that point to start my own consulting business. Luckily the business is going well and I am actually earning more than I had been. But, its much more stressful to work for yourself and have to bring in business. I am one of the lucky ones.
- I graduated college in May of 2012, I was a straight A student and excelled at most of the things I tried. I have been on so many interviews I have lost count. I have been interviewing for just about any job, from working for a non profit to working as a receptionist at a gym. I do wonder why I went to college because it certainly isnt helping me now with my search. I try to stay up beat and try to go to the gym but that doesnt always work. I will keep looking until I find something.
These are just a few examples of what people have told me. In general the longer people are unemployed the worse things get for them. The less likely they are to send out resumes or network. If you havent been unemployed that might sound counter intuitive but its not. It goes directly to human behavior. The more rejection you have the less likely you are to try harder. Many become depressed. I spoke to many many people who started drinking heavily after a year or so of unemployment. Thats the only way they can deal with life is by drinking, taking meds or other mind altering substances. Many many people have also given up looking. After 2, 3, 4 years can you blame them? I also heard a lot of people say having no place to go and nothing to do are amongst the hardest parts of being unemployed. One woman told me that when she looks out her window and sees people walking by it makes her sad; she feels like she is the only person in the world with no place to go. Nothing to do and nothing to look forward to. When people are this down they dont tend to do the proven things to lift depression; like exercise or volunteer somewhere. They are too despondent for that. This can lead to a cycle of being more depressed, drinking more, and just get deeper and deeper.
The main thing I got from talking to these people is that what they all want is a job. There are 5 million longterm unemployed people in the United States. They dont want handouts, they want to re-enter society.