From Long-Term Unemployment To Full-Time Job: How I Beat The Odds
I'm starting a new, full-time job this week. I've waited 34 months to write that sentence. I received an offer on Tuesday and accepted it on Thursday.
I can't even pinpoint exactly how I'm feeling right now, it's such a jumble. Happy, nervous, worried, anxious, sad, excited.
I think that, primarily, I'm feeling grateful: grateful that I didn't give up on myself and on my belief that there was a good job out there for me in this moribund job market. I truly feel I'm one of the lucky ones, given my 50-plus age and the length of my unemployment.
It's difficult to view 34 months of unemployment as a "learning experience," but we can learn something from everything that happens to us in life.
I also didn't buy the advice that no one is hiring and that full-time jobs are a thing of the past and the sooner I "got" that, the better. I didn't believe that and I still don't. There may be fewer of them out there, but they are still out there.
We each have to find our own pathway out of unemployment, so I really don't feel qualified to give advice to others. I did learn some things, though, that may be helpful to someone.
1. Remember that you have value.
You have something useful to give that an employer needs, even though repeated rejections can make you feel like you're worthless. You're not! You just have to keep searching until you find an employer who recognizes your potential to meet their job needs. Don't quit on yourself.
2. Listen to everyone's advice, but sift through it.
Use your own brains, good judgment and most of all, self-knowledge, to decide what to try and what not to try.
3. If you're newly unemployed, start right away to find your next job.
The longer you're unemployed, the less likely it is that you'll find another job.
4. Consider a career coach.
Learning on your own -- the hard way -- how to present your qualifications in your resume or how to handle tricky interview questions, can cost you valuable time. Using a coach doesn't mean that you're acknowledging that something's "wrong" with you. It just means that you're smart and want to be sure that you have every advantage in an extremely competitive job market.
5. Don't stop living because you're unemployed.
You may feel like doing that, but it's better for you if you keep your spirits up and do things that you enjoy, and that make you and others feel better. You may also cultivate lifelong interests and friendships.
I remain extremely concerned about the 23 million un- and underemployed people who may face another four years of the same economic stagnation.
I also temper my happiness about finding a job with the reality that, even when you're able to find one, it doesn't mean that you can't end up losing that job in a future round of layoffs. I've read about this and I've seen it happen to people I know. Nothing is particularly secure or stable economically these days.
Still, I'm determined to get off to a good start at my new job. I'm feeling positive, but I have lots of questions.
How will I adjust to all the changes: commuting, waking and sleeping hours, daily routines? Will I be able to combine my expanded personal life with my new work life? What's the workplace like these days? Are people with jobs just as stressed as people without them? How have things changed since I last worked in an office?
And am I too "mature" for all this change?
Nah, I don't think so. But I look forward to the chance to find out!
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Fran Hopkins is a lifelong NJ resident and Baby Boomer who’s been searching for full-time work since losing her job in a January 2010 layoff. While “between jobs,” she’s earned an MS degree in Health Communication, does freelance writing and public relations, and is actively involved in the NJ chapter of the Association for Women in Communications. Her household includes a college-age son and an assortment of pets.
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