The pain of unemployment has become a malicious and inescapable part of our national culture. It is a silent presence in every conversation every day—even if you are employed. Jobseekers carry the bulk of the burden as they try to cope with the financial, psychological, and social impact to their daily lives.

* * *

It was unimaginable!

Susan was laid off over a year ago.
She couldn’t believe this was happening to her. She was 47 years old and she had done everything right. She had a four-year degree, 22 years of experience, increased responsibility, and great references. Surely it wouldn’t be that difficult to get a job—even in a “tough economy.” …or so she thought.

Social media had become her passion and the results section of her résumé would certainly confirm she was current and relevant. Her references would validate her market insight and business savvy. They would verify that she could increase sales on a slim budget and bring in company profit. She had everything going for her…or so she thought.

Months passed. Susan applied to select positions that were a good fit and many others that were “okay.” Her professional identity as a marketing professional was beginning to fade. She no longer felt relevant, and her self-confidence was slipping.


After 18 months, she and her husband were struggling to make ends meet. Unemployment helped, but Kim, their high school Junior was looking into potential colleges and wanted to visit campuses. Jesse wanted to go to a special science camp in the summer. It would help with her college application—just three years away. They had had to dip into the college fund just to get by. Susan anguished over the thought that they were stealing their children’s future. It was tense in the house. It was her fault.

Beginning to feel desperate, she began applying for lower level positions, anything she could find. Many of the positions were written for new college grads – community managers in social media. There seemed very little at her level. She called her former contacts but they stopped returning her calls.

Susan began questioning herself. Maybe she wasn’t as good as she thought and her job search confirmed it. Perhaps she was irrelevant even before her 50th birthday. Perhaps she was laid off because she couldn’t really cut it. She had failed at her job or they wouldn’t have laid her off. She had a few interviews. The rejections were another slap in the face. Her job search, so far, had been a colossal failure as well.

Her extended family didn’t understand. They had no idea what she was going through and didn’t seem interested. Holidays had become painful and she didn’t want to see them. “Did you get a job yet? If you’d just work harder, you’d get a job. Your nephew just landed a good job! You know, you could get a job at Walmart—nothing wrong with that!” The thought of the upcoming annual family reunion was unbearable.

She went to the grocery store, and tried again to find ways to cut the bill. When she returned to the car, she sat and cried.

They had fallen short on their mortgage payments. The bank gave them three months, which were almost up. Would they have to turn their house over to the bank? Then what?

She had to get out of the house and began volunteering at a local non-profit, picking up deliveries and helping with the distribution of clothing. It helped her feel useful and restored a bit of her dignity. But it didn’t pay the bills.

She felt scared, lonely and worthless. She had failed her family. She had failed herself.

* * *

Is pain invisible when we look the other way?

On the one hand, jobseeker pain might seem invisible; even to the jobseeker. But I think the truth may be that we are ignoring those who are under this intense pressure. We don’t want to know. Perhaps we feel responsible. Perhaps we simply don’t know what to do.

This isn’t the jobseeker’s fault.

I say it over and over again, “Jobseekers are the worst treated people in the U.S. …as if this is all their fault.

A client of mine said, “It would be better if I had cancer. Then people would surround me with their support. But when you’re unemployed, you get ignored. It hurts.”

Why are we in this economic mess?

This article from US Economy says it this way:

Irrational exuberance in the housing market led many people to buy houses they couldn’t afford, because everyone thought housing prices could only go up.”

Let me paraphrase: People bought houses they couldn’t afford so if they lose their homes today, they really had it coming. Did I get that right?


There were other players on the field, and they played a BIG role. As I see it, the real estate industry pitched a home run to homebuyers with a slick sales line about the mortgages that were being offered. They convinced homebuyers to sign a mortgage so the real estate industry could make a ton of bucks. Does anyone else see it this way?

What about the corporate sector? Employees today, many of whom do the work of three people, are exhausted as their company pushes them to do more with less.

Why is that? Because stockholders are pressuring those companies to deliver an increase. How do companies manage the pressure to bring in a profit? They lay off more people so it costs less to run the business. (Are you overworked at work?)

Do you see a common thread? If there’s something I’m missing? Please tell me!


The real reason for the economy:

We are in this situation for a variety of reasons, but every time I start tracking it down to the root cause, I come up with one underlying culprit: GREED.

Jobseekers and their families are carrying the bulk of the pain from this greed. Rarely was it their greed that put them in this situation.

We need to fight this. Washington can’t or won’t, but you and I can and should. We can adopt a healthy mindset about how much is enough. We can balance our personal and household budgets and bit by bit; pay down our personal debt. We can do more with less. We can make a difference and change the culture of more, more, and more.

If we don’t stop buying what we can’t afford, we will never raise up leaders who don’t spend more than we have. It’s up to us. We have to make the change.


Call to action:

Do what they did in Boston. When the explosions took place people ran toward those who were hurt and wounded to support and help them. The economic recession, known as the “Great Recession” has left us a hurt and wounded country. Run to those who are hurt and wounded. Support and help them.

Want to help a jobseeker?

  • Be an encouragement.
  • Acknowledge that finding a job is extremely difficult at this time.
  • Remind them that this is not their fault and many of the elements are out of their control.
  • Listen – without judgment.
  • Don’t say, “I know what you’re going through.” —even if you are or have been a jobseeker.
  • Consider comments like:
    • “I can’t imagine how hard this is. I want to support you.” 

    • “I’ve known you for __ years. You’re solid. I trust you to keep trying.” 

    • “Sometimes I don’t know what to say. You’ll have to coach me on what helps and what doesn’t.”
  • Ask:
    • “How can I help?”

    • “What can I do to support you?” 

  • Call regularly; let them know you’re thinking about them, and that you believe in them.
  • Offer to help with interviewing skills (They give you a list of questions.)
  • Instead of criticism, show concern.
  • Never abandon someone you know who is looking for a job.

Do you have other ideas? Please let me know, I’ll post the complete list.

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15 thoughts on “The Pain of Unemployment

  1. […] to a discussion from a LinkedIn Group for job seekers. The discussion centered on the blog: The Pain of Unemployment. One jobseeker had the courage to tell the group about his long journey to find a job. He’s well […]

  2. Terrific, beautifully written article! And, I can relate 100% to Susan’s predicament.

  3. These stories are extremely painful and it is hard to step back to be objective. That said, we have many things going on.

    I happen to believe that we are in an era of transition comparable to the Industrial Revolution. William Bridges predicted this environment in its excellent book, JobShift, published many years ago.
    Jobs are going the way of the dinosaurs, yet our infrastructure assumes that we deserve greater benefits, opportunities and respect when we are employed rather than self-employed.

    I encourage everyone who’s employed to create a form of “job insurance” in the form of a self-employment opportunity. It doesn’t have to be complicated or high status; my dog walker makes more money now than she made as a teacher. If you like there Internet you’ll find many ways to get started, from selling eboks to working as a virtual assistant.

    Also as soon as you get laid off, find your own career coach or consultant. Some companies have out placement services. Use them but remember they work for the company, not for you. They want to get you on a payroll – any payroll . When you hire your own resources early, while you still have money, you can make best use of your time and you’re less likely to be experiencing the pain of long-term unemployment.

    Many people take time off after a layoff. One of my clients sat on her living room couch and cried for nearly a year! Get whatever you need to spring back into action.

  4. […] to a discussion from a LinkedIn Group for job seekers. The discussion centered on the blog: The Pain of Unemployment. One jobseeker had the courage to tell the group about his long journey to find a job. He’s well […]

  5. Great article! Very true and honest. I have been unemployed for over 6 years now. Most of it taking care of my very ill mother. I believe their are a lot of people, both employers and family/friends, that cannot put themselves in my shoes. I hate family gatherings, because the first thing that comes up is “have you found a job yet”? Or the people who have been at their jobs for 25-30 years, telling me what or how to go about finding a job. Recruiters call, but tell me that their clients probably won’t be interested because I haven’t worked in a while. I have 30 years of Accounting knowledge, with a degree, and cannot get a job. I have been living off of the proceeds of the sale of my mom’s house, but within a few months, that will be gone. Then, I really don’t know where or what I’ll do. I really do not have any support at all. My parents are gone, and the rest of my family are quite well off. Right now I’m applying at retail stores. It just frustrates me that I still have all the knowledge and experience. And no one wants to give me that chance. Not even a lower scale job! Don’t they understand that we just want to work, we are hard workers, we’re loyal, we’re mature, and have life experience and not book experience. I just don’t understand, and it makes me so mad!

  6. Great Article and great comments by all! Thank you! I am lookin for a new position as well!
    Keep the faith!

  7. I won’t go into the long story of my struggles with long term unemployment except it’s been over 2 ½ years now. Something that really bothers me and maybe someone can answer this for me. Everyone that I talk to about trying to find employment who has never been through long term unemployment always tells me I need to keep positive attitude all of the time. Believe me I honestly try but if you have never been through long term unemployment you don’t have any idea how difficult it is to stay positive. To go along with this I’m so tired of talking to people who have never been through this and in some cases never struggled or sacrificed in their life. I don’t need advice, opinions, and lectures or to be judged what I need is a JOB!

  8. Jay Yamamoto, from LinkedIn writes:
    One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was laid off in 2009 was too tune out all negative info specifically to stop watching the news about lay offs and other types of ‘malicious’ events that are not conducive to maintaining a positive mindset to propel action towards correcting your current situation.

    The moment I stopped paying attention to the wrong things was the moment that I started to change my life

    Hope this helps!
    Jay Yamamoto

    1. Jay,

      Good point! On tuning out the negative, I agree!

  9. Marcia, you are so kind to encourage concern for others like this. The loss of identity and confidence is well described here… the gradual slipping away as the reality of long time unemployment sinks in. A wonderful post, thank you for sharing it.

  10. Well thought out and written.

    My advice to those in a bad situation is to treat your job search as a job and take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, meditate, and stay grounded so you can stay positive. Take time out to smell the roses during the day but do all the things to be successful in your job search. Lean on those who love you for support when it gets tough. You can’t do this alone. Create your opportunities when things are tough…assess your strengths, passions, etc… This is the time for you to look deep. Market changes (or When Bad Things Happen) = Opportunities. The opportunity is perhaps reinventing yourself, really doing the thing you love or retooling yourself. There are many nonprofit organizations, groups, webinars, etc…that work for free out there and can help.

    I encourage people to write a network email and touch base every month or two to keep in front of everyone. It acts as a ping for those people to think of you and perhaps forward to someone who has a job or just call to catch up. I am all for creating our own destiny and there are so many ways to do it. People are just so busy these days, they forget about you so you have to stay in front of them.

    Social media — get out there and get findable. Get on LinkedIn and connect with others, follow companies, join groups, etc… I love LinkedIn and never feel alone. It is the worlds largest business network and it is amazing. Network in groups where you can actually find leads, connections, etc… I have so many friends worldwide from LinkedIn. You can create your own opportunities in LinkedIn but it does take a lot of dedicated work.

    As difficult as it is, keep your confidence because it shows like a beacon when you have it. Difficult times make us grow as a person. It is how we choose to deal with these events that makes us who we are. I do know this.

  11. Great article Marcia…you stated it fantastically…..

  12. I can identify with the person in this story. I lost my job, as a school counselor, of 20 years as a result of budget cuts. (I am also over 50 years old.) Prior to working as a school counselor, I was in college counseling in areas such as career counseling, academic advisement, and administration. I also have a Master’s Degree. I thought I had solid credentials and experience, but have not found a job after 9 months. I have applied for jobs that I knew I was a good fit and for entry level positions as well. I have had a few interviews but no offers. My confidence is slowly fading away. Now I am hearing talk that if you are unemployed, employers won’t even consider you for employment. Unemployment and the job search is more difficult than I anticipated.

    1. Paulette,
      The problem is not you, your credentials, or your age. The children entering school are a much smaller generation. They are the children of Gen X – much smaller than Gen Y. So we opened schools to accommodate the 100 million Gen ys going through. Now as the children of Gen X enter school, we have to close schools down because the headcount is lower. This will continue to happen for the next 10-12 years until the children of Gen Y begin school. Then we will be opening schools as fast as we can. So the issue is that there will very few positions. I’m not sure where you live. The Southern U.S. is better than the east. The west coast also has more opportunity. It doesn’t mean it will be impossible for you to find a job, however, it might not be in a school system. There are a ton of learning programs for children, from online books to online schools. Aligning with these places may be an avenue to use your abilities and still impact the lives of children. I’m happy to have a conversation with you if you are interested.

    2. I found that offering my services through a temp agency, such as Office Team, has allowed me to remain current while networking. I too lost a long time career and have recently earned a bachelor degree. What I thought would be a walk in the park, has become my worst nightmare! The job search!!! UGH…

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