Laid off in America

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

When I was laid off, the unemployment rate in New York City, the closest metropolitan area to where I live and the primary target of my search was 7.6%. This has been rising throughout my search to the most current data in December of 8.2%. Thisnumber is higher than the national average which currently rests around 6%. And it is lower than what it was 10 years ago, the last time the country was in a recession (I know, we are NOT in a recession...).

A recent editorial in the New York Times (Herbert, February 10, 2003), quotes a headline from the past week in the New York Time's "Hiring in Nation hits worse slump in nearly 20 years. Two million jobs have vanished in the last two years. And the situation is much worse than official unemployment statistics indicate because they don't countr the people who have stopped looking for work. Over a million have given up since last summer. Even more dissturbing is the statistic that many out of work people are unable to find employment over fairly long periods of time. Nearly two million of the unemployed people have have been out of work for more than six months. The situation is looking pretty grim to me.

What these figures do not show is the unemployment rates by occupation. I don't have any hard and fast statistics here, but I have some anecdotal data around my areas of expertise--leadership assessment and development. My first company began seeing a downturn in the leadership development arena in 2000 with large cancellations and fewer new contracts. (Our reaction was to scramble and blame ourselves, since there was little indication yet that the market was dropping). My second company saw a downturn in the summer of 2001, a few months before I came on board. For both companies, things continued to get tougher, especially in the fall of 2001 and winter/spring of 2002. Although both companies are on firm ground, they are still struggling to capture business and aren't where they want to be (my first company had no raises for 2 years!). In terms of another indicator, I regularly look for jobs on the Society for Human Resources Managers home page. There aren't that many HR jobs posted compared to a few years ago. I've come to the conclusion that Leadership "stuff" is like the canary miners used to check for oxygen. One of the first things companies begin to cut when finances tighten is development activities. I would also guess that it is one of the last things to come back. Basically, there are few jobs in my area of expertise.

To compound my problem, I am still in the middle of my career change and have the added problem of convincing companies they should hire me over the many other available folks who have already DONE the job. In this conservative buyer's market, why should they select me? (not insurmountable, just difficult). In any case, I felt and feel in a tougher spot than I've ever been berfore.

"Everyone" told me that no one hires in the summer and the market was bad anyway. So I concentrated on networking this past summer. I was happy with the interviews that I got, but didn't pressure myself that I wasn't getting tons of interviews. Besides there are worse things than having the summer off! In September, the market did not "break open" as estimated, in fact it got a little worse. So I concentrated on networking. I was happy with the interviews that I got, but didn't pressure myself that I wasn't getting tons of interviews. One of my unemployed buddies finally landed a job after a year of searching. I was almost as happy as if I had gotten a job myself. I began picking up "interesting projects with interesting people" to give me a sense of accomplishment. I also began traveling with my husband on business trips.

The holidays started. "Everyone" told me that no one hires during the holidays. The market got worse. So I concentrated on networking. And I continued to get interviews at exactly at the same rate as the summer and the fall. Another unemployed buddy finally landed a job after over a year of searching. I was thrilled for her.

After the holidays, I continued. Networking, interviewing. All my interviews but one has led to a second interview. It is February. I am tired and bored. I began by putting 30-40 hours a week in my search and maintained a level of 20-25 hours each week after a few months. Now I'm wondering. Do I continue with the same methods I have been using or am I on a negative spiral to nowhere? If I change tactics, what are the new tactics? I'm feeling more lost than I have in a long time.

"Everyone" told me from day one that it would take at least a year to find a job in this economy. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. But I do know I have been on an emotional rollercoaster since "Day Zero".

posted by Valerie 11:27 AM

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The experience of the new rite of passage among today's professionals: Being Unemployed

Contact me
You can contact me by sending me email at

This blog's mention in the July 2003 issue of Fast Company
Web of Despair.

Other unemployment blogs I have found
Ask your ass.
All about Jen.
Homee's job search.
Get that job.

Some blogs I like but haven't been updated in a while
Where The Hell Did My Job Go.
Invisible Matrix.

Credit problems?

What's keeping me occupied while I'm unemployed?
My husband and my travel photography blog.


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