Top Menu

How Unemployment Has Changed the U.S.

I’m writing this on Memorial Day Weekend. We commemorate the people who have died to preserve our country’s freedom. Even during this time of the Great Recession, I am grateful that I live here in the United States.

IwoJima_Brandon Do we commemorate or celebrate?
Many of us will participate in family gatherings, picnics, and other outings. We might finish our meal with vanilla ice cream topped with blueberries and strawberries as a reminder that this is a national holiday. Perhaps we are practicing for Independence Day, just a month down the road. It may not be as bad as the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year triple whammy that is a strain on everyone. For jobseekers, holidays, celebrations, social gatherings are difficult.

During both of my layoffs, I detested three-day weekends. From Friday, usually about noon, through Tuesday, I knew it was extremely unlikely that anyone would call me about a job. I enjoy solitude and silence, but these weekends were a challenge and always left me exhausted.

On the other hand, going out to be with friends or family was a different challenge altogether. “Did you get a job yet?” “You need to get out of the house—do more networking.” “If you’d just try harder, you’d get a job.” “What about Wal-Mart? Nothing wrong with that!” “My friend’s son just graduated college and he got a GREAT job!” …I wondered if they were trying to help, or maybe they were just angry that I was still unemployed and it made their celebration awkward.

* * *
Has unemployment permanently changed the U.S.?
Being unemployed changes people, especially when it becomes a long-term condition. It can erode self-confidence, wreck relationships, and undermine physical and mental health. It doesn’t stop there; the list goes on without end. With so many Americans who are, have been, or will soon be in this situation, I wonder if it’s changing the core of our nation. We seem to be slowly making our way to economic recovery, but many of us will sustain permanent scars.

What changes?
A lot changes. Jobseekers and those that walk the path with them get a lot of “new” as they navigate their way down the treacherous path of unemployment.

New Vocabulary: A new terminology becomes part of household conversations. Examples are: Jobseeker, personal branding, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), transferrable skills, LinkedIn, and austerity measures…the list goes on.

New Skills: This includes the obvious, such as time management, budgeting, and managing the emotional roller-coaster.
Liz Ryan, a contributing writer for Monster, in her article, “Five New Skills Job Seekers Need”, includes Pain Spotting, and Showing Relevance, as top skills. (The article makes excellent points!)

Meghan Casserly, of Forbes, writes includes Critical Thinking, Complex Problem Solving, Judgment and Decision-Making, and Active LIstening as skills found in 9 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs for 2013.
New Understandings: First, comes the importance of work. Although most unemployed persons are grateful for their unemployment checks – the ones I know would rather be working. This isn’t just about having more income; it’s about their dignity. It’s about their identity and purpose.

Second, comes a new understanding about debt and personal economy and with it comes a deeper comprehension about our national debt. A Bloomberg article from 2011, How Household Debt Contributes to Unemployment is indicative. Another article by Marcus Mitchell, a senior research fellow from the Mercatus Center writes, “How the U.S. Debt Problem Magnifies Unemployment”. Both articles are worth the time and still relevant.

Surely, we are gaining a deeper understanding that our nation is comprised of individuals who are integrally linked together. My actions and my decisions affect others. I have a responsibility that extends beyond my home and family.

New values: Perhaps the value of having a job, even if it isn’t “the dream job” is a poignant change for many jobseekers. Perhaps those prickly people who were so irritating at the office, weren’t so bad after all. Maybe we aren’t “sweating the small stuff” as much. With the excruciatingly slow economic recovery, perhaps we are learning to value patience.

MartinLutherKing_Mig Where’s the hope? Where are our dreams?
  • As we learn to count our pennies, we are also learning to count our blessings. Many jobseekers, completely discouraged about their job search will say, “I know I have a lot to be thankful for.”
  • Another common thread is, “I know things happen for a reason.” This comment sometime follows someone who has been laid off just before a close family member needs major surgery… or after a job rejection, that leaves room for a better opportunity. Perhaps we are learning to trust and have faith.
  • Perhaps we are learning to persevere; to keep trying until we win.
Sacrifice
This nation has a history of fighting and sacrificing for freedom. We still have the privilege of speaking our opinions. We still have the right to a fair trial, and to participate in protests as well as commerce. We still have the freedom to choose our religion and to openly go the house of worship of our choice.

We also have the freedom to compete for jobs and our government doesn’t mandate where we will work and what we will do. We still have the freedom to vote and to influence government. People died to protect these freedoms.

AmericanFlag_Joyner In some ways, I see a sad comparison between the people who gave their lives to protect our freedoms and the men and women whose careers and futures have been sacrificed because the freedoms that were so hard won, have been misused.

I hope I live my life in a way that honors the intention of those who have died for my freedom. I hope I live my life in a way that honors those who are perserving through this economic tragedy to rebuild their lives in a meaningful way.

Are you a job seeker? Do you know one? What changes have you experienced or noticed?

, , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to How Unemployment Has Changed the U.S.

  1. Dusty Parsons May 28, 2013 at 11:27 AM #

    I love this quote, “I hope I live my life in a way that honors those who are perserving through this economic tragedy to rebuild their lives in a meaningful way.”

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Marcia LaReau May 31, 2013 at 6:57 PM #

      Thank you Dusty, for reading the blog. If you are a jobseeker, I hope you find a good job soon and that there are supportive people around you to up-gird and encourage you.