The latest unemployment figures are as dismal as ever, at more than 9 percent.
The New York Times, in a depressingly accurate occasional series called “The New Poor”, discussed the long-term wear and tear of prolonged unemployment this week:
It does not help when job seekers are repeatedly rejected — or worse, ignored. Constant rejection not only discourages workers from job-hunting as intensively, but also makes people less confident when they do land interviews. A Pew Social Trends report found that the long-term unemployed were significantly more likely to say they had lost some of their self-respect than their counterparts with shorter spells of joblessness.
“People don’t have money to keep up appearances important for job hunting,” said Katherine S. Newman, a sociology professor at Princeton. “They can’t go to the dentist. They can’t get new clothes. They gain weight and look out of shape, since unemployment is such a stressful experience. All that is held against them when there is such an enormous range of workers to choose from.”
Though economists generally agree that getting the long-term unemployed back to work quickly is necessary to keep people from becoming unemployable, the mechanism to do so is unclear.
I arrived in New York in June 1989, the first recession (of three since then) and one that hit my industry, journalism, very hard. I had had a rollickingly great career in my native Canada and expected my trajectory to continue. Hah!
It took me six months — which is mighty quick these days — to find a job in my field, advertised in the Times. In between, I watched my ex-husband, a doctor in training, head off to work every day, feeling like a total loser. I had no income, no friends, no support network.
I cold-called 150 people. By the end, one of them warned me: “You have to alter your tone of voice! You just can’t sound so depressed.” I used to cry for hours every day, terrified I would never regain my momentum, energy, identity.
People who have not yet lost a job — such a euphemism, like you misplaced it! — have no idea the toll that job loss takes on your head and heart, let alone wallet.
I watched a new friend take this tumble about four months ago, spinning crazily and miserably from a high-profile, well-paid job to…sitting at home in the suburbs. She was a wreck.
Her hairstylist of many years, in a gesture of astonishing compassion and generosity, kept coloring and cutting her hair free as she went out onto job interviews for great jobs where, they both knew, she was competing against people 20 years her junior, possibly people who still had jobs and incomes and could afford to stay looking sharp.
It costs money to look like you’re worth something.
She has just been hired back into her field, into a terrific job she is really excited about. She is over 50.
Huge sigh of relief.
How are you or your friends or neighbors or relatives coping with prolonged job searches?
- Employers Won’t Hire The Jobless Because Of The ‘Desperate Vibe’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- How to Make a Comeback from Job Hunt Setbacks – Part 2 (timesunion.com)