HIAPy offers an effective job search strategy and lots of other useful information, including: your primary task as a job searcher; attitudes and habits that promote success in a job search; what to do if your last job, or a prior one, ended badly; the primary goal of every job application; why you should only send out a few resumes at a time; the common mistakes applicants make that sabotage their applications and prolong unemployment; AND the fundamental things ALL employers look for.
Unemployment is almost always a horrible experience: demoralizing, depressing and disorienting. We tend to punish ourselves harshly for our “failure,” feeling lots of shame and guilt, and sometimes others – even family and friends – punish us as well.
G.J. Meyer’s fantastic book Executive Blues: Down and Out in Corporate America (Franklin Square Press, 1995) offers the best narrative I’ve read of what it’s like to be unemployed and struggling to find work. He says he experienced shock, resentment, fear, envy, self-pity and shame during a several-year span of intermittent unemployment: a dreadful list. Here’s what he says about the shock, envy and shame:
Shock. “Bone-rattling shock at finding myself, for the first time since the week I graduated from grade school, without a place in the world of work…I walked the streets in an almost trancelike state, feeling like I was walking on the bottom of the sea, cut off from everything around me and not like other people any more.”
Envy. “If envy caused cancer I’d be dead by Sunday.”
Shame. “I’m ashamed in two ways. On a simple level I’m ashamed of myself for being out of work, for getting my family into such a fix…I’m ashamed of myself for losing. When I hear the guy next door start his car in the morning and drive away, I’m ashamed to still be in bed. I’m ashamed to rake leaves on weekday afternoons because everyone in the neighborhood will see – as if they didn’t already know – that I don’t have an office to go to anymore.
“The other shame is deeper, and, I think, more important…In some ways this second shame comes perilously close to self-loathing. Ask yourself: how are we supposed to react when bad things happen? Everybody knows the answer. The good and the strong react calmly, cheerfully, confidently, bravely…so, what’s wrong with me?”
Adding to the burden of Meyer and other unemployed people is the fact that – due to overwork, or plain old uncaring or incivility – lots of hirers treat unemployed people badly. Meyer describes the garden-variety snubs, like not getting calls returned or resumes acknowledged, which individually may not be so significant but which really wear you down after dozens or hundreds of repetitions. And he also describes some truly callous and hurtful behavior, such as the time a hirer had him fly out to New York for a job interview, then stood him up. Writes Meyer: “In Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream, a solitary, empty-eyed figure stands in a roadway clutching its head, mouth open wide. I hope that’s not what I look like as I walk the streets of Manhattan during the next several hours, seeing and hearing nothing, waiting for it to be time to return to LaGuardia. But it’s how I feel. Without making a sound I scream all the way back to Wisconsin.”
Your first job as an unemployed person is not to look for work, but to learn to cope with unemployment. That’s because: (1) you deserve to feel peace and self-respect even when unemployed; and (2) depression, discouragement, anger, anxiety, fear, shame, guilt and other negative emotions can undermine your job search. If unemployment is bringing you down, even way down, don’t waste time feeling bad about that – such feelings are entirely understandable – but follow the advice offered in Chapters 2 – 13 about seeking help and taking care of yourself.