Friday, November 19, 2010

8 Things People Say to You When You're Unemployed

I am in the process of looking for full-time employment. After working many years in a university setting, I now find myself in the pursuit of employment during a tough economy. Although I am doing freelance work, it is not nearly the amount I need to maintain my lifestyle. So, for the first time in my life I find myself filling out endless online applications, creating mind-numbing passwords, tweaking and sending numerous resumes, talking to strangers on the phone, and meeting all sorts of people — without earning any money. It's not all bad, but it is a job with small payoffs.

In all this I've been plunged into a world I didn't know existed. Just like becoming a parent, my existence is somehow different now. I am perceived differently. I spend my time differently. I am around different people. My experiences are uniquely different.

And along with all that, I've found that I'll get one of eight basic statements from people when they learn that I am looking for a job. They mean well, but — now being on the other side — I find that these impact me in ways I've never expected before.

Following are eight statements I've been typically hearing:
  1. "I am glad at least I've got a job." (Good for you! Too bad for me.)
  2. "How's the job search going?" (Great. That's why I'm still looking.)
  3. "Don't worry, the economy will pick up." Or "Something will come along soon." (You mean, my livelihood is dependent on luck or good fortune.)
  4. "You need to stay confident, because recruiters can pick up if you're down or desperate." (Great. I feel better already.)
  5. "There are plenty of jobs at (a particular listing, online postings, some organization)." (Do you even know what I do? Do you even care?)

    These last three, on the other hand, have been the most uplifting and helpful comments I've received during this time:

  6. "If you need anything, please let me know."
  7. "I'm here, if you ever want to talk." Usually followed by, "I've been there myself."
  8. "(Let me have you resume.) I'll (check/know of/ask) if there is any need where I work (or know of) that matches what you do."
The first five statements are not as helpful as the last three. But even so, I still appreciate people who try. It means that they care, even if they don't say it in a way that builds me up. I would rather have an awkward statement than silent avoidance any day.


  1. Anonymous10:45 AM

    Hang in there Kerry! I hope something comes to you soon.

  2. cuprado,

    Appreciate the encouragement. I really mean that.

  3. Kerry,

    I can honestly say I totally relate. Up until this past August, I had spent the last 2 years, 2 months and a few days in the same murky pool you now unfortunately find yourself in (as a designer as well, I was able to freelance to supplement my unemployment benefits, but even that required adjustments to our lives). I also heard all the same things you've heard, so I know exactly where you're coming from.

    If there's ever a way I can help out, by all means do let me know.

    Take care

  4. r armstrong,

    Thanks. I believe it's especially hard for designers because the term is so murky for most folks unfamiliar with the field.

    2 years is quite a long time. Did you find good employment? If so, congratulations.

  5. Define good. :)

    I think the worst thing in my situation was being a "middle of the pack" designer (experienced, way beyond entry-level, but not seen quite management/director material yet). That and my location (North Jersey/NYC area, where it's apparently quite competitive)

  6. I suppose good is a relative term. :-) Perhaps, a job you really fit well in, and enjoy. (Scale of 1 to 10.)

    Yeah the NYC area is tough. I too am way beyond entry-level, and I have management experience. But the DC area is getting tougher too. The economy, high housing prices, and a glut of guys with Dells and stolen software makes the competition for freelance work and jobs tough. Everyone wants "cheap-but-does-everything," or already possessing security clearances. (Again, cheap.)

    Some of the job postings for graphic designers actually ask for folks who can write text and edit, proofread, write software code for the web and CMS backend, design and project manage print jobs, and take dictation. (No kidding.)


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