Big corporations want and buy big government through PACs and lobbyists. Now our big government looks just like the corporations: massive, dysfunctional, lethargic—and greedy. All in a global environment that favors speed, agility, and innovation.
Today I spoke to a former long-term unemployed person. Let’s call her Malana. I chose that name because it means “quick minded, versatile, and very expressive.” That describes this individual who has lived in numerous countries in Europe and Asia. Versatility describes her thinking as well as her living. She is brilliant, sensitive to others, and innovative.
Malana, somewhere between 45 and 55 years old, owned her own small import business. She trained people in third-world countries to produce high quality items that could be marketed. Her business gave these people a real livelihood, dignity, purpose and pride in their work. It opened up a whole new way of life for them. But the recession hit and purse strings closed. The business closed in 2010.
Her family, including two daughters, one in her teens and the other in her early twenties, was on the brink of falling apart. She was the primary breadwinner and she thought they might lose the house. To stay afloat and keep her family together, she did every small job she could find. She landed a part-time job working from home for a collections agency.
Finally she landed a full-time job, using her background in global commerce. She works with teams from around the world on contracts and logistics, etc. Today I spoke with her and heard more of the story.
In her own words:
“Marcia, I read your blog and wanted to talk to you. I don’t think I should post what I have to say.
I want you to know I will never forget my long-term unemployment. My current job is contract work and the contract runs out at the end of the year. They are thrilled to have me, but I’m not sure it will continue. My recruiter says she’ll find work for me.
“Actually, I’m working two full-time jobs. The work-at-home job for the collections agency is full-time now. I’m afraid to give it up. No job is permanent. I have no benefits and I work 80 hours a week. Would I call it a life? …No. I don’t want to be ungrateful. I’m lucky. …but really, how sustainable is this?
The fear didn’t stop with employment:
“The fear I feel; how long will it last? I no longer have the anxiety attacks—I think I had a breakdown. I was on medication when I started back to work and I was afraid to quit. I was afraid of the anxiety attacks and I didn’t want them put my job at risk.
“I used to go to my job and think, ‘I could do much better; I’m underemployed.’ …I don’t think that any more. My job used to be a part of me. I used to be forward thinking. Not any more. I leave one job and go to another and that’s good. It doesn’t define me anymore.
“It took huge growth to come to that point. My daughter says, ‘Why would you want it any other way. I’m at my company to learn what I can and when I’m not learning anymore, I’ll leave.’ She’s constantly looking for opportunities.
“Most of my career, I’ve been unhappy in my job and now I just want to not be fearful. Being predictive of the future was an illusion. We never had control of it and that was another illusion. I wanted to control the outcome of my diligent work and I thought I could.
“If a bomb dropped tomorrow, every security will mean nothing. The first thing will be how to feed my family and myself. Most people don’t know their food chain from their elbow. When I was unemployed I worked outside doing hard labor in the heat. But I was able to keep my house.
“There’s a saying,
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past;
if you are anxious, you are living in the future;
if you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
It’s hard to live it.”
I’m certain that Malana will find the peace she seeks because of who I know she is. I believe in her and trust her. Malana’s story issues a reality check. Whether we are employed or not is not the question: the consequences of long-term unemployment are dire for everyone in this nation.
Consider the following long-term consequences:
- “Indeed, outside of death and divorce, losing a job can be one of the most difficult things a person will deal with,” say experts. Forbes
- The unemployment crisis may be here to stay because companies will not consider résumés of the long-term unemployed. WonkBlog
- The trauma of long-term unemployment: deep mental and emotional scars: DailyFinance (scroll down to article)
- The link between long-term unemployed and suicide: mLive:
- The effect on college grads: The Terrifying reality of Long-Term Unemployment TheAtlantic
- The scars of the long-term unemployed: Rich’s Management Blog
The consequences are dire if we fail.
Learning to heal:
As a nation, we must work within ourselves to heal, to have the faith and the determination to take back freedoms that have been so hard won. Our government has the power it wields because we have allowed it to happen. It was ours to give and ours to take back. Our trust of those we elect to serve through government was misplaced.
We must commit ourselves to become and to raise up quality leaders.
In a response to the same blog, Michael Lynch wrote:
“Marcia, the word of the day will continue to be leadership. Not only does the country have a massive leadership problem (thus the need for great leaders), individuals need to be inspired to lead themselves out of their challenging situation. You can lead by reaching out to others to build relationships and commit to solving problems…and develop the consistent mindset of helping others. Lead from within.”
We must not become complacent. Michael made the point. It starts with us. We can do this because we can choose to control ourselves: our actions, our attitudes, our ability to make it better and help others.
Call to action:
- Balance our personal and household budgets.
- Do everything possible NOT to default on our personal loans. Bankruptcy should not be an option or a convenient way out.
- Contribute to a culture of honorable financial responsibility.
- Every person including jobseekers, business owners, employees at every level – everyone, can create a culture of responsible risk-taking by finding ways to take carefully calculated risks.
- Think “out of the box” to find financial solutions on a personal level.
- Let’s start thinking differently about “Washington”. We are Washington.
- We aren’t helpless and if we all become involved, we can make a difference and turn this economy around.
If we don’t choose not to buy what we can’t afford, we will never raise up leaders who don’t spend what we don’t have.
4 thoughts on “The Long-Lasting Effects of Long-Term Unemployment”
Thank you for the story, it beautifully describes what I, and so many other smart, qualified, hard working people have and are going through. When I hear news about the so called “skill gap” in this country, I want o scream in anger; I know so many qualified 40+ and 50+ people who are can’t find work for all kind of absurd reasons, a big one being age discrimination. After what I’ve experienced, I don’t believe in the so called ‘skill gap,’ the people with the right skills and desire to work are here and they are ready; the system, however, no longer permits them to be part of the employed community. While a job should not define us, we still need to make a living and, right now, until we evolve into a new more humane system, a great number of us need to be employed by someone. Like Malana, I no longer think of my job, or any job for that matter, as a source and/or venue for expressing my passions and skills, I view it as just a job and will move onto another one that pays and serves me better. Unfortunately, such feelings and attitudes is one of the consequences of long-term unemployment; and if anyone over 50 thinks this is a negative attitude, you should spend some time with an unemployed 20+ something, it’s just sad.
Thank you for reading and commenting. As I hear the complaints about the skill gaps, I too am amazed. If there’s no one to fill a particular position, is it legitimately a job? As more people are able to retire, there will be opportunities for 50+ workers to return to the workplace.
I write this to encourage you: 10,000 people are turning 65, 66, 67 – every day and will do so for the next 19 years. I encourage all boomer jobseekers to stay sharp and be ready. All the best to you.
The beginning of this article suggests that the topic of a large dysfunctional government is the focus and that Malana who is quick-minded and versatile might offer some of the missing skill sets. Then, the article turns towards the personal long-term effects of unemployment, and the costs to our nation, and then how we must each manage our funds responsibly as a part of leadership today. Somewhere in the middle is an explanation of the costs of long-term unemployment to the individuals and our nation — and the Zen insight that “today is today” which gives on peace vs. looking back or forward.
Having pursued large federal opportunities for a large Defense contractor, I am struck by the fact that what makes the government a bit monolithic and dysfunctional is the fact that they have to comply with so many procurement regulations that they are by definition not versatile. If they were more versatile, they would open themselves up to lawsuits. Government contracting officers and program managers are legally bound to be good shepherd’s of our money. Counterintuitive but also true.
Versatility and the skill sets of Malana become even more critical in today’s environment, including her ability to make herself relevant for 2 separate employers.
There are several possible links between Malana’s hyper functional individual efficiency and the inefficiency of the government:
1) Governments need to bring the Malana’s of the world into their solutions
2) Long-term unemployment suggests there are a set of people who would take on government work for less money than those currently fulfilling it — a potential reality which has not been adequately addressed by our nation or states who continue to maintain fairly generous compensation and benefits for their employees.
3) Inequalities are growing today, with gaps exacerbated by all employers abilities to downsize and outsource — with this market reality somewhat unexploited by our government(s).
4) Malena would do well for the government and herself if she landed one of these jobs.
5) Until then, her 2 job new normal sounds rather tough.
6) Then again, sometimes reality bites…
Thank you for reading and for your insights. You have a way of looking at situations from multiple angles simultaneously and the results are always thought provoking. You beautifully mitigated the article’s disparity with some logical and common-sense solutions with potential. Your response was “capturing”..thanks.
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