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Jobseekers' Perspective

The Cry of the Unemployed: I’m NOT Stupid!

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I just re-realized the most important thing when teaching—sometimes you gotta shut up and listen.

I decided to do just that this morning when facilitating a job club this morning for local job seekers. I asked a simple question and let the participants take it from there.

The question was: how do you keep yourself motivated?

Almost all of the job seekers at this morning’s job club have been unemployed for longer than 6 months. Some have been looking for 3 years! As hoped, the conversation took on a life of its own and became very active, especially after a colleague of mine asked another question:

Are you ever affected by a stigma surrounding being unemployed?

I was totally surprised by the answer. Having been laid off twice in the past 6 years, job seeking was nothing new to me, nor were any of the frustrations. Maybe because I have not been unemployed for a significant amount of time as some of these people have, I have not suffered the singular treatment most of my job seekers perceive.

One job seeker felt relief that she could finally talk about her frustrations and stress to someone who will listen. “My family only listens for so long, then they’re tired of the gloom and doom,” she said.

Another person said, “They don’t actually say it to your face, but the look in their eyes is like, get a job!”

“I DO hear it said to my face,” said another.

“My wife had to go on WIC after I was laid off,” said one displaced IT specialist. “We were both so embarrassed when we had to go through the supermarket checkout line, dividing up our groceries and pulling out those coupons. Everyone behind us looked at us like we were aliens.”

One thing every person in that room had in common: their job search had struck their own sense of self-worth. “I’m NOT stupid!” one job seeker protests.

A coworker of mine wants to start a new workshop for the frustrated job seeker. He wants to call it, “It’s not you, stupid, it’s the economy.” While I wonder at his choice of title, I find the use of the word stupid slightly ironic concerning this morning’s discussion. How many of us can endure weeks and months of “no, sorry, we’re going in a different direction,” or “we have chosen not to forward your application,” or worse, absolutely no response at all, without the pain of constant rejection affecting us? We all know the economy is in a turmoil, and unemployment rates are through the roof, but how easy is it to think that the reason for our not getting suitable employment is that we did something wrong? that we didn’t do something we should have? that we’re just not good enough?

I just received an email from a well-meaning colleague that gave me feedback on a meeting I attended last night. Apparently some of the comments I made were not well-received by others in the group. I found I don’t take criticism very well, but I knew that anyway. So today I’m telling people in my job club to “try to not let it get to you”, but can I practice what I preach?

Boiled down, my message is: job searching sucks. Especially now. A person has to really grow a thick skin to deal with the constant rejection and implied messages that you’re not good enough, or that it’s your fault that you’re unemployed. One thing is certain: you’re not alone. Don’t isolate yourself where your only companions are your own thoughts, because they can run away with you. Get out and about! Join a job club, do job search at a library or career onestop center. Talk to other people, share your frustrations AND triumphs. Even if you got a message this morning saying, “your application has been forwarded to the hiring manager”, it’s still something good.

Maybe I would change the title of that workshop to, “you’re not stupid, it’s the economy!”


About kimberlyjmyers

I am a workforce development professional in Washington State. I have ten years experience working with dislocated workers, vocationally impaired, and people with disabilities on many levels and backgrounds from offenders to non-English speaking refugees from around the world. The One thing the clients I have worked with all had in common: there was some barrier to employment, and I work diligently every day to identify, address and remove those barriers.


2 thoughts on “The Cry of the Unemployed: I’m NOT Stupid!

  1. What you’ve written here is very true. There’s a company called ProLango that has free seminars and holds free career mixers where job seekers and people representing hiring companies can network – http://www.prolango.com. I attended my first mixer and made the faux pas of bringing resumes – it’s more about networking. And while the resumes were a boo boo I made up some personal business cards with my job title and contact information for the next event and exchanged cards with many people 🙂

    Posted by Jeannie | September 29, 2011, 10:17 pm
  2. great work, love your theme, suits the blog well 🙂

    Posted by Ernie Frein | September 30, 2011, 7:13 am

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