My Unemployed Life: From Business Exec to Delivery Guy

After reading so many stories on AOL Jobs about some of the nearly 15 million unemployed, I find that their lives and experiences resonate strongly with me.

My name is Paul and I am 52 years old. During the 1980s and 1990s, I lived in Manhattan and had a country house. Life was good, comfortable and exciting.

Back then, I was a vice president at JP Morgan Chase. After 22 years there, I exited in 2002 for new challenges and joined Grubb & Ellis in the role of senior managing director, leading a new consulting practice at that firm. Then in 2004 I took over managing an S-Corp that had I started in 1997. I began working full time as my own boss with my own clients.

The old song by Joe Walsh called 'Life's Been Good to Me So Far' seemed like an accurate accounting of my life at the time. With two wonderful daughters, good health and a life filled with memorable moments, I was sure that the best was still yet to come.


Personal challenges

Then there was my nasty divorce in 2005 that dissolved a 23-year marriage. Great feelings of loss and sadness pervaded my life for several years after the divorce. Thank God I had my children, who kept reminding me what was really important.

The divorce crushed me financially, costing me more than $450,000 after-tax dollars to date. Yet I still pressed on, working hard with the knowledge that you cannot give up. You have to believe in a better day tomorrow. I have always felt that life without hope is hardly life at all.

By 2008, my business was generating enough cash flow so that I was beginning to get my financial house back in order. I began to be able to settle past debts (that I assumed from the marriage) and it looked like I would perhaps start to save money again, someday soon. There was some light -- albeit that I could barely see -- at the end of my depressing post-divorce years.

Also in 2008, a large development project in Arizona was taking up the bulk of my professional time. It was a publicly financed development that was complex in structure, with lots of moving parts to oversee, including everything from financing to vendor and contract management. My company also had a large project with a company to assess its real-estate portfolio. Both were challenging and solid assignments.


A roller-coaster period

Then in October 2008 the credit markets seized up. The financial crash in the United States was under way, and both projects ended. That was my first experience with unemployment. I had little to fall back on, except for a few months of savings.

I applied for jobs in the corporate sector, sending out at least 100 targeted job applications. I interviewed, but only three times in that period. In all cases, the interviewer would conclude that the job was somehow beneath me. It was like buying a car with a salesman telling you that the car you were ready to purchase is not right for you, it is too small.

I was somewhat incredulous at the assertions. I met all the written qualifications including work experience and education and I interviewed well, yet that apparently was not enough. In order to make ends meet I worked for friends, sometimes in construction. At other times I delivered food for a Japanese restaurant in an affluent suburb north of New York City. I was delivering food to make a living, but at least the tips were great.

What a strange journey I was on, from being a corporate executive to owning a business to delivering food to pay the bills.

Happily, by the latter part of 2009 I was able to find a consulting engagement that lasted until this past September 2010. Now once again unemployed and facing the prospect of losing my apartment and moving in with my 80-year-old mother, I am searching for a job. To keep busy and alert, I am writing freelance stories for different media outlets and am succeeding in selling some of the articles.

Yet even as I write this, I have at least 15 applications/prospects in play, but hardly a response from any prospective companies. I have not forgotten how to analyze a business opportunity, or assess risk, or run a meeting, or coordinate with colleagues, or conduct a cost-benefit study. I am a dedicated professional that always puts in the necessary time and effort to produce high-quality products.


Keep pressing forward

Recently thoughts of declaring bankruptcy have crept in, but my ego won't allow it. I have borrowed money from family, but can't stand asking for that kind of help any longer -- it just destroys my self-confidence.

These days, I often wonder why prospective companies are no longer hiring. Have I passed some invisible point in my life? Is it my age, or the fact that I was self-employed, or that I am divorced, or have a lower-than-desired credit score that makes me unappealing? These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night. Do we now live in a country where people over a certain age are no longer needed? How does a credit score properly define an individual with 30 years experience? Does anyone even check the veracity of the data?

I feel like I have so much to offer at this point in my life. My kids are entering their college years and I can devote the bulk of my time toward professional activities. I can now only keep trying and hoping and praying for a better tomorrow.



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Sky Fairlane

Regarding unemployment and debt:

If you’re unemployed or under employed, chances are you are not going to be able to pay your way. People are getting arrested for their unpaid debts in six states. And collection agencies are behind it. A petition has been started on moveon.org to prevent the return of debtor’s prison in the USA. Once enough signatures are obtained, it will go to the US Congress and President Obama.

To sign the petition go to

http://signon.org/sign/outlaw-the-return-of

February 18 2012 at 5:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bill Plesher

Paul,
Very touching article, I know so many extremely talented people that are out of work and in similar postions. I have been very fortunate because my proffession is so specific but even so there have been many challanges. My wife was working for a financial institution here in Arizona First Arizona Savings and Loan and after 13 years the FDIC came in and closed it down. No warning and the company had been doing quite well they had just been slated to go. She has been out of work now for 6 months. Very tallented and experienced with a dinomite resume but you would think that she is trying to sell ice to eskimos. I like your quote about putting in the necessary time and effort to produce a high quality product. I have always felt if you do business with that attitude you cant fail. I had to leave a solid position with a good company I was with a few years ago only to work as contract labor for an international company. I had seen the writing on the wall there and looking back it was a good decision. I was recently made an employee with bennifts. Believe me I earned it. Our bankruptcy was recently discharged something I did not want to do either. Being down 1 income with a family of five we could hardly feel the benefit. We had great credit until the credit card companies decided to pillage all of their customers. turning $150 a month payments into $300 a month payments. Don't even get me started on the refinancing mess with our house. I hope that the light in youre tunnel gets brighter for you. Reading your article gives me hope. Always remember (Good things happen to good people) I believe thats the side your on.
Respectfully
Bill

November 10 2011 at 2:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MAYO GROUP

You are like a blacksmith looking for a horse to shoe! The Internet has made resumes irrelevant as blacksmiths. Your resume joins hundreds if not thousands of resumes because it is so easy to hit the "send" button and "paper” the employer with an excess of resumes.

Employers need only a sampling of 50 applicants the remainder is an expense most Human Resource departments will not make. Can you say "delete button"? At that point your resume is one entry in a game of chance. Like sperm swimming for an egg, only one is relevant.

At this point in time do not panic, think logically and use common sense. Basic principles have served me well for over 50 years. I started to learn before I went to school. There is no free lunch. My uncle taught me at four years old that you must have a value that someone would trade their value for. I got my lunch, my uncle got entertainment value.

Please do not look for excuses why your values are worthless. Look for opportunities. This is America! Immigrants come from the far corners of the world. They do not take our jobs, they take the opportunities like working overnight driving a taxi or in a convenience store where they may loose their life for minimal wages. To them it is worth the risk. You do not need to do that.

Principles have served me well and created three entrepreneurial opportunities that gave me income sufficient to meet my needs. Zig Zigler's (google him) quote, "You can have everything you want in life if you will just help enough other people get what they want." is similar to my principle. My principle added, "You must be friendly, cheerful and use integrity when helping people get what they want."

No one likes to be cheated. No one will tolerate disrespect when they deal with you. If they have an unpleasant experience they will go elsewhere unless you correct it quickly and fairly. Think about your divorce. It is applicable in all aspects of interacting with people. I did not know of Zig Ziglar or his principle when I first started applying this principle. It is common sense applied.

While I operated three service-oriented enterprises, I was also a Paralegal for 30 years. I proactively mentored recent college and law school graduates over the threshold from academia to professional carrers. The Continuing Legal Education Program (CLEP) is mandatory in New Jersey. I saw that need and I offered that program for FREE to my co-workers 10 years before the State of New Jersey saw that need.

Albert Einstein said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created those problems. Since I "retired" and I am waiting for my friends to come out and play, I look for opportunities to mentor, offer additional thinking, suggestions, and mentorship for FREE to those who will apply it. Your issue does have a solution. Knowledge, thinking, mentorship is a wonderful thing. I owe my success to it,

Learn, Do, Teach. Help others.

Dave Mayo, Mayoaid@com

September 27 2011 at 1:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
marlem320

Garry,

My heart goes out to you, as I am a long time divorced Mother, trying to keep a roof over mine and my disabled son's head. I, too, have submitted resumes after resumes, and am lucky if I even receive a response. Anger settles in once in awhile, wondering why we are have to stand out professionally, be the perfect candidate to be called for an interview, when most businesses we apply to, are not acting professionally themselves by not having the common courtesy to respond back on whether or not they have hired someone for the position. It's as if our resumes fall into a black hole, and is never found. I, too, am no longer considered young...57 years...and as more time lapses, I have doubts that I will ever be considered. However, the working world have forgotten that my generation comes from very hard working people. We can do a job of two people, and age never slows us down. I don't know how long I will be able to hang in here...

March 15 2011 at 12:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
R.J.

Garry:

You are still a relatively young man, and so, the ball game 'ain't' over till its over ? (as Yogi Berra once said)

First, you'll need to re-invent yourself...Perhaps you should get a job in sales to pay the bills, while starting a business on the side, focusing on what you love to do ?

What make you passionate ? Find something and bury yourself in this activity...

Next, let go of the past, look forward and not back...

Like you, I once lost everything; career, wife, kids...

Now, it's coming back to me...

Life is often cyclical, so the better you prepare for the busy cycle, the more successful you'll be, overall...

Keep busy, as empty hands are the tools of the devil...

Also, stay away from negative people, lest you become a tyrant when it's your turn to rule....

good luck,


R.J.

February 17 2011 at 5:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gene Kahler

I read about so many unemployed. Yes the economy is bad. I own and operate a HVAC company for 12 years. Construction is not building as it used to. So this take me to my point.
I have been un employed over and over for 12 years. Its nothing new to me. I have for over a decade looked for a job every day, seven days a week. It never stops. My advice to the O.P. is like Donald Trump told me, Never never, ever give up. Thats the key my friend. So I still, as I did today, looked for a job. And I found one, for my company to start in the morning. I will look tommrrow for a job also.
The jobs are not as grand as they used to be, but pays the bills. The people and companys who make it through these hard times will really pervail when the economy gets good again, and maybe be on top.
I have met top dogs in many companys, like the OP was in. Many were so arrogrant it made me want to puke. Soooo much better that the hvac/ construction workers and other trades, so they thought.
Hopefully you wernt that way, if you were,,,just maybe thats why your having a hard time finding work. What goes around comes around. (Karma)
Good Luck and God bless.....oh ! can I say that.

January 25 2011 at 2:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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