The Chaos of Long Term Unemployment, the Optimism of Community and a Lesson of a Lifetime….

The long-term unemployed; the title says it all, it is a harsh reality that being unemployed has a defining affect that interrupts the lives of millions. In most instances, there is a hostile take over of emotions that clash within ourselves as personal feelings of disappointment, loss and desperation sets in like the “coupe de grace” of battle. There is no one certain method for our loss; we have been released from work in many ways; a lay off, company shut down, being fired, or just making way for replacements that have taken over your own tasks you once held at the business.

As an unemployed management professional who has been unemployed for over 15 months, I have faced more than my fare share of ups and downs while seeking employment. There are lasting effects of being unemployed and like any other mental health issues, unemployment has its own set of symptoms that are mentally and physically interruptive and can affect behaviors associated with professional and personal lifestyle.

Riding a roller coaster of emotions – You may fluctuate between feeling relieved and excited to phases of fear, denial, sadness, anger, confusion, and shock. Experiencing a wide range of emotions is a typical cycle that most people go through. Eventually, you’ll reach a stage of adaptation. Don’t go it alone – you can get help navigating the grief-like feelings and help creating a plan to move forward. If your sadness explodes into full blown depression, be sure to seek professional guidance immediately.

A Most Difficult Circumstance

It really does not matter if we have spent what seems to be a lifetime of dedication toward a company or industry. The many people that I have met who are unemployed have worked for many years at one job, or like myself have worked many years with several companies over the span of a lifetime. We all have one thing in common; we are the survivors of corporate war and are the casualties of a lost economy and now face the harshest job we have ever had to face, finding valued employment.

I have had 15 interviews over the past year, formal, non-formal, panel interviews and adaptive interviews. One thing I can say for certain is that there is no such thing as a “Standard” interview. Each interview was different than the other and questions related to the job are never the same. The one thing that I have noticed is that interviewers often are just as confused as the interviewee and are not prepared to ask questions that relate to a specific job function. This becomes challenging for a professional looking for that “dream job”, especially when a company is fishing or already has decided to hire within the company and are functionally just going through the motions related to a set of guidelines of the agency.

Turning down a job offer is difficult and I have turned down more than one job offer for separate reasons. Without going into a lot of detail, one offer was financially unsupportive while another gave me a bad feeling about the company culture and values related to their employees. Is making something better than making nothing? While for some who have no income this answer may change from person to person. In my own opinion finding a temporary position or part time work is fine, but falling into a trap where all of your time spent at a low wage job does take away from your job search and for some this becomes more damaging in the long term for many reasons.

Look at mistakes as learning opportunities. According to David Burns, Ph.D., assistant professor at Stanford University, and author of Feeling Good, “the quickest way to find success is to fail over and over again.” For example, I was once 30 minutes late for an interview. I did not get the job and I became very self-critical of my tardiness. Once I asked myself “what is the lesson I learned?” I quickly calmed down and applied this lesson to future experiences; which is harder than it seems especially if we are used to being in control of our own thoughts and experiences.

It is difficult not to sweat the small stuff, but the way I see it, it is the small stuff that at times really get to me. When ever I am treated unprofessionally by someone else; a clerk at a store, customer service, value of purchases and the faults of others, I am quick to notice what the problem is and automatically make a judgments based on first impressions and I often think to myself, “Why is it that you have a job and I don’t?”

So what is causing the frustration? Reflecting on past and even current experiences can be helpful in problem-solving and overcoming dilemmas, but brooding rumination takes this to the next level. It offers few new insights and often serves to intensify our negative feelings. We become narrowly focused on the things that are not going well instead of seeing the larger picture. These ruminative thoughts can keep us up late at night overanalyzing every situation.
Loss of concentration and focus: We spend so much time thinking about past mistakes or worrying about future events, that we spend very little time in the here and now. A good example of this is every time we find ourselves on “autopilot” while driving a car. The practice of mindfulness is a great way to reduce our “thinking” selves and increase our “sensing” selves in the here and now. For example, ask yourself what you hear, feel, smell, see and taste. This can help ground you in the present moment. Mindfulness is an important skill for enjoying the significant moments in life. Enjoying coffee with a friend can be disrupted if we begin thinking about all the things we need to do that day.

No one that I have met, who is unemployed, expects to be handed the golden key to being employed. As a matter of fact, the people who I have met have never worked harder to find work and to establish themselves as professional candidates for organizations looking to expand business and succeed through determined dedication of their own employees. They, like myself, do not want hand outs and are not looking for an easy way out, but rather have given all of their time as professionals toward the greater good of community and personal involvement.

Volunteering, Education, Professional Assistance and Organization:

Don’t engage in self-defeat – Avoid regressive behaviors that will keep you in a cycle of negativity. Don’t sleep all day – get up at a regular time. Don’t isolate yourself – get outside, seek out adventure and fresh air. Make a conscious effort to surround yourself with people who support and inspire you – avoid those who continuously harbor anger.

Keeping yourself busy is a great way to refocus your attention; it is also a way to rediscover yourself. ProNet Reno is a member-run, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that prepares unemployed professionals to re-enter the workforce. Members are trained in the areas of resume writing, interviewing, networking, and overall job hunting, but that is only a small part of what these professionals do on a daily basis. Over 85% of members dedicate themselves in one form of capacity or another. We not only expect ourselves to participate, but we encourage other unemployed professionals to donate their time and efforts within the organization and in the community as volunteers.

As an ASL sign language interpreter, I often donate my time assisting the needs of the hearing impaired by interpreting at job sites for meetings and individual conversations needed between the employee and the employer. Other unemployed professional donate their own time volunteering for the Food Bank and Community Programs throughout the City of Reno and Carson City. At least once every two months most members participate in donating blood, while other professionals donate their time dedicated to helping other unemployed professionals increase their knowledge and education by performing committee task within the organization.

(On a side note): The thought, or misguided opinions that have been vocally given by some of our members of Congress are shamefully untrue when it comes to the long-termed unemployed; if anything the long-termed unemployed have done more for our community than our own congressmen and women in office who continue to vote against extending unemployment benefits to those who deserve it and who work painfully hard toward the giving of themselves and to others in the community.

The Reality Bites Club is a small group of professionals that meet weekly at various restaurants in Reno. They are all long-term unemployed and all but have given up on the expectations of finding valued work within Reno. Now I say Valued Work because there is a difference of working just for the sake of working or making minimal wages and finding professional employment. As managers and esteemed professionals the expectation of employment has been diminished due to the circumstances of a ruined economy. By the way, they also acknowledge that the unemployment rate is much worse than our government agencies tell us. They have not given up, but rather have focused on each other in how they can help each other locate work, discuss topics such as trends in employment, which company is hiring and to give advice that helps each other cope with the difficulties of being unemployed.

The simple fact is, nationwide, people and organizations are providing more than social interaction, they are forming community based programs designed to assist others and develop new concepts when it comes to strategic planning regarding unemployment. There are millions of individuals who want nothing more than to be a part of something larger than themselves. While they are the causalities of a lost economy, they are true leaders within their own right often giving more than what is expected and expecting nothing in return. Imagine if our Congressional leaders took the same view…

There is no easy way to find employment; since 2013, I have done everything to keep myself busy while looking for work. I have networked to the point where my name covers almost two pages of Google search. I have involved myself in many different extended studies, obtained certifications, revamped my resume at least a hundred times and have applied to over 300 jobs during the past year while networking continuously.

Like so many others in the United States who have not given up the fight, I will still continue to help others and be involved with my community. The one good thing that I can take with me to my next job, or the experiences that I could share with others is the overwhelming kindness of others that I have had the opportunity to meet over the past 15 months. In all the time I have been employed, I have never experienced what it means to be a part of community and what it really means to give of oneself toward others. I can also say that the hardest job I have ever had is being unemployed and that is something that I will never forget as I begin my new career, (Where ever that might be)….
Chadwick Buchanan


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