The Have-Nots

I’ve always advocated for the causes of the downtrodden, the unlucky, and the beset upon – In short, the have-nots.

Bad things happen to good people. This is certain. Sure, bad things also happen to bad people, but I refuse to believe that this is the norm.

I’ve been gainfully employed for most of my life, but I’ve always seen the world through the eyes of those were not as fortunate as me. Being out of work was something that I could easily envision, since our jobs are not guaranteed. That I have been able to avoid being in that predicament, by finding the right jobs, is due as much to good fortune and being at the right place at the right time, as to anything else.

Those who disagree with my assessment can point to individual instances in support of their claim, but that kind of empirical evidence never made any sense to me.

Who would choose to live on less (or none) if they were able to work?

Extenuating circumstances always seemed a more plausible explanation for unemployment than to simply dismiss, as lazy, those who found themselves waking each day with nowhere to go.

Now that I have been unemployed for several months, I see that I was right all along.

My job does not define me.

I’m still the same person that I was when I was working. I have the same responsibilities and the same worries – although those worries are magnified now that a more uncertain future has been added to the mix. Throughout these months, the world hasn’t skipped a beat – moving onward without me.

That’s what the world does.

My mind is as sharp as ever and I possess the same skill-set that I had before. The only difference is that no one is paying me at the moment. The job market, at least the market within a 60-mile radius of my home, has dried up. The process of trolling job boards, applying for the positions in my field that would sustain me, and interviewing is interminable. Each promising lead that fades takes a piece of me with it, leaving me to feel a bit more vulnerable; a bit more defeated.

But I’m still me.

I’ve hesitated to write about this topic because I wanted to avoid the inevitable pep talks from well-wishers. It may seem harsh to say, but words of encouragement, no matter how well-intentioned, don’t help. But I’ve decided to use my less than enviable position to write about the process and what it does to a person who is experiencing it.

Working vs. Finding Work

I’ve discovered that there is no correlation between job performance and the skills required to find a job. While working, your job performance is its own barometer of accomplishment. However, when searching for a job, you have to convince someone, who does not know you, that you are as competent as you claim, without actually doing the job – a very different proposition. If you are unaccustomed to selling yourself, you’re in big trouble.

The interview process is fraught with possible pitfalls. Be confident, but not cocky. Be aggressive, but not pushy. Stress your proficiencies, but don’t brag. The list of Dos and Don’ts is long. If you focus on them, it can lead to paralysis and self-doubt. Yet ignoring them can also be fatal to your chances of success.

The Experience Trap

By far, the question that comes up most often is “Why would a person with your experience want this job?” The follow-up to that question is a discussion of the prospective employer’s concern that I will leave for a better job at the first opportunity.

If I’m too experienced for the available jobs, what am I to do? The concept of starting over cannot be foreign to prospective employers, can it? I point to my employment history which depicts long stints of several years at each company, but that does not convince them. It’s a no-win situation. Clearly, I will move on to another position eventually, but isn’t that a universal aspiration?

I’m often left feeling that nothing short of indentured servitude would sway them.


Easily, the first casualty of any job search is the applicant’s confidence. How could it not be? Regardless of the reasons given, rejection is tough to take. In the short-term, it’s easy to dismiss those rebukes, but as they begin to pile up, it becomes impossible to justify them to ourselves. The negative thoughts seep in and begin to wear away at our resolve.

For me, confidence had never been a problem, but it’s easy to be confident when things are going well. I feel tested each day. I don’t always pass the test.

Pressing Forward

I know in my gut that I will find a job and that things will eventually get back to normal, but knowing that doesn’t make this time in Limbo any easier. Until then, I will try to stay positive by believing that my long career to date has been more than some happy accident, and that someone, somewhere will recognize that I still have much to offer.


Have you endured a long period of unemployment?

How did that experience affect you?

Published by

Ray Colon

He works with numbers for a living, but don't judge - boring accountants need love too. His blog has no niche (unless writing about things that are important to him is a niche). Some folks cringe when he gets “all political” on them, but he does it anyway when he's in that kind of mood. Sometimes, he writes something nice about someone, but you shouldn't get used to that. His first book, the one he hasn't written yet, is not available on Amazon. Subscribe to Ray's Blog via RSS  or Email.

20 thoughts on “The Have-Nots”

  1. Hi, Ray. It’s great that you’re writing about this. I’m impressed that you’re sharing your experience.

    I’ve been laid off four times in my life. The longest I was without a corporate employer was for about a year, in 2002. During that time, I freelanced and did ok, which I defined as paying the bills and not having to dip into savings. We cut back on expenses, and we felt a bit pinched, but I was glad to have something coming in. At the end of 2002, a recruiter put me together with the company I worked for in Phoenix, so we moved from St. Louis.

    That employment ended five years ago when the company was bought. At that time, I decided to forget about looking for another job and to look for clients instead. It has worked out well. I’ve been blessed, fortunate and lucky (depending on who is sizing up my current situation!)

    If you’re situated to be able to do so, I would recommend it. It can be a frightening step, but I’m glad I did it. If you ever want to talk, let me know. Pete Faur

    1. Hi Pete,

      Thanks. It seems that I could think of little else when I’ve sat down to write over the last couple of months, so I figured that I’d get writing about it out of the way and hopefully clear my mind.

      I haven’t reached the point of considering a move. If possible, I’d like to maintain stability for the family in that area. That must have been a tough decision for you to move to St. Louis.

      I have considered going on my own. I’ve done some consulting work for one client, but haven’t been successful in signing on with others. The price points are fairly low and rigid for basic bookkeeping and there’s little demand for the managerial accounting that I’ve done for corporations among smaller potential clients. I’m hopeful that if I go this route I will be able to have enough of the smaller clients to make the effort worthwhile.

      Thank you for your offer. It’s very much appreciated. I may take you up on it someday soon.

  2. Just off the top of my hair brained head, what about charging a modest fee for accounting advice online? Let’s say, just as a starting point, a buck a minute?

    Setting yourself up with an 800 number is surprisingly cheap. All you need is a way to drive people to your website without paying big bucks in advertising, or, without advertising at all.

    I’m learning how to do that. Generate and direct traffic to my website without having to pay google or facebook. Maybe I can help you with that, if you decide that going online is a viable route for you.

    As for what you must be going through on all other levels, I can tell you that this particular mill of which you speak, crushed my ego and soul beyond all recognition.

    The odyssey lasted way longer than I would ever care to have anyone know. People have referenced Groundhog day with respect to these times, time and again. I guess that can only mean that this is a situation that won’t go away until we’ve learned mastery. Mastery as well as surrender. And that it will take the time it takes to incorporate these things.

    How’s that for a non-pep talk?

    Oh, YouTube has been advertising some kind of book about how to find clarity in the whirlwind so that we are enabled to make key decisions at key times, despite the ensuing chaos of circumstance.

    I affirm you in your courage and strength going forward.

    1. Hi Elysia,

      I love your non-pep talk. You got a big laugh out of me with that one.

      Your hotline idea is something to consider. Thanks, but I’ll probably continue along the traditional route for now. I keep telling myself that it’ll take just “one” job offer for me to return to a sense of normality. That can happen on any given day.

      The experience is crushing at times, as you say, and that can lead to unwanted changes in one’s personality. It’s a struggle to maintain an even keel, for sure. I diligently go through the ads each day, but when I’m done I try to not think about it, so I don’t drive myself crazy.

      Don’t worry, I haven’t gone over the edge yet. 🙂

  3. If your are noticing “unwanted” changes in your personality, it’s probably safe to say you’re a fair ways away from careening off the edge. Desperation is the mother of innovation, and it sounds like you’re a fair ways from that as well.

    Good to see you blogging again.

  4. Hey, Ray,

    I was laid off in 1993, just as I was about to close on a home in Long Island. I was terrified the bank would find out and cancel the closing. I made it through that and managed to get a job closer to my new home. When that ended a few months later when they moved to another state, I decided there was no job security and started my own consulting business. It was the best thing I ever did. With that said, I’m starting to sense that the work is drying up at my current gig. So, I may be looking for new work soon. What’s different now is that I have a lot more responsibilities and am the sole income earner. Back in 1993, I practically made a game out of pounding the pavement in search of a job, knowing that my husband’s income would carry us for a while.

    Possible future job for you: Stand outside the studio where The Shark Tank is recorded and give advice to the rejected entrepreneurs that don’t have a clue how to value their business. 😉

    1. Hi Margaret,

      Ouch, losing your job just before closing is about as bad timing as one could have. I’m glad that that didn’t derail your plans.

      It’s tempting to try to work for oneself, but it’s definitely not an easy option. I can imagine that it’s an all-consuming proposition — at least during the start-up phase. You’ll go into your next venture with all of the valuable experience that you’ve amassed during your current effort.

      You’ve touched on the primary driver of my worry, in that I am/(was) the sole earner. So I walk the tightrope without a net. <== Net recommended. I had never seen the Shark Tank and had to Google it so that I could glimpse an episode. The panel comes off looking a little bit like pricks during the show's opening (with their jets, limos, and such), but as I watched the show, they were okay. For the entrepreneurs, it's tough for creators to be as capable in other aspects of business, so most, I'm afraid, are probably doomed to be rejected. Should I bring a tin cup with me, just in case? 🙂

      1. I was stunned that Mark Cuban invested in that. How did you like that cocky pair trying to get them to invest in the garter purse? Some people just don’t know when to stop talking. 🙂

        Check out some of the other episodes. The Christmas episode was my least favorite so far.

        1. The garter purse couple were off the wall, each in their own way. As I watch, I want the people to succeed, but the ideas they come up with have to be at least half-baked. It’s a difficult thing to do.

          There are six episodes available online.

  5. Hi Ray: About time you blogged again!

    I’m sorry about this tough time period. I’ve been unemployed 3 times:

    lst time (if I don’t count job searching for 1.5 months after university) was 7months after I left a well-paying job with a global firm (accounting. I was in tax research) to relocate from Toronto to join my partner in Vancouver. It was a tough decision because I knew how hard it meant to find a job.

    2nd time was 3 months.

    3rd time was 18 months …I applied and was interviewed. Yes, an experienced skilled candidate is seen differently by some folks. I finally did get a job offer and moved to Calgary from Vancouver. It is a govn’t job and is a good employer with a job that draws upon my skills and experience but challenges me at time which is great. The downside is that my partner and I jockey between 2 is complex. I also began this job when a sister died before I moved. So it was a very difficult time with 3 major life changing events occurring simultaneously.

    The Canadian govn’t offers at major cities, some support services for the unemployed. One of the services was with job search counsellors who did provide practical advice on analyzing one’s resume, mock interviews, videotaping .. Yup. It’s all useful. For the unemployed who register, the service is free.

    My greatest problem with my resume was shortening and distillating my work experience because I’ve worked for several employers for the past few decades.

    By the way, are you jogging again? I cycled every day for 1-2 hrs. to keep my own personal energy….going on the job search.

    Alberta has an active economy. I know there are global/foreign companies operating here…maybe hook into them.with an U.S. affiliate…. Some positions are simply unfilled because experienced people are required. Oil and gas industry are full of technical, engineering types…who use Excel heavily … then there’s costing folks, accounting, etc. needed.

    1. Hi Jean,

      “About time” is right. I’ve been feeling out of sorts with writing and with reading blogs. The number of unread posts in my Reader rivals the US national debt ticker!

      The 18 months you cite for your third stint must have seemed like an eternity, along with the other things that you had going on during that time. I’m glad that you made it through.

      I’ve always worked in the private sector. I’ve visited government job sites in the past, as you suggest, but haven’t found anything that fits. I’ll take another look.

      The resume shortening can be tricky. I’ve managed to keep mine to one page, which I use for submissions, but I also have the full version available that I bring along to interviews. I can then point to relevant experience from prior years. When prospective employers use LinkedIn, they view the full resume.

      No, I haven’t done any jogging yet, but I have gotten back to doing some indoor exercises fairly regularly — mostly push-ups and sit-ups.

  6. Hi there Ray,
    Years ago I went through a trying 18 month period of time when I was unemployed and did everything short of moving mountains to find any job I could. That long period of worrisome lack of income commenced with me leaving a job in one province and buying a home and applying for a great job I was qualified for in another province.

    I was devastated to find that the candidate chosen for the job had no credentials, experience or related skills, while I had the whole enchilada and an excellent reference. I guess all she needed was a mother-in-law on the selection committee and no provincial preventing nepotism such as there was in the province I left behind.

    I was demoralized and depressed but I rallied and was determined to take any job I could find but wherever I applied and was interviewed I was considered to be over-qualified. I finally did find a good job, a federal government job but the experience of being unemployed is still very clear in my recollection.

    Welcome back to blogging and hang in there!

    1. Hi TT,

      Referring to that long period of unemployment as ‘trying” is surely an understatement. I’m travelling a difficult path that you have already traveled, so I know that you understand my dismay at some of the hiring decisions that have been made. In your case, to learn that an unqualified applicant has been given the nod over you must have been tough to take.

      I believe that I’ve interviewed well. Some of those interviews seemed to morph into planning meetings as we discussed how I would address the specific issues within their organizations. I left each brimming with confidence. Then I’d hear nada, zippo, silence. When telling friends about this, they’d suggest that I call to learn why. “Being rejected by them once is enough,” I’d reply. I just can’t see what good would come of it. Why obsess over a job I didn’t get?

      So I move on. Today, I responded to a Facebook contact who was feeling down about his unemployment. I ended by writing: “The next job that you apply for may be the one that you land.” That goes for me as well.

      Thanks, it’s feels good to be back to writing and reading blogs.

  7. I have endured unemployment. It sucked. You wish you knew the job was coming and you could enjoy the unemployed time as vacation. It feels worthless and fraught with rejection. I just wanted to give, help people. (I am a social worker.) I had so much energy, and no one wanted me to help. It was strange because I could see the need before me and couldn’t do anything. Worse than worthless. I am glad you shared, because I think loads of people are going through this!

    1. Hi Jodi,

      So true. I did try to enjoy the time off initially, but that was short-lived because it’s hard to enjoy yourself as the level of worry rises. I’ve been though this before, thankfully not often. This is one area that doesn’t get easier with experience.

      Keeping at bay that feeling of ‘worse than worthlessness’ that you mentioned is definitely a struggle. Pressing on in spite of that feeling it is the best that we can do.

  8. No pep talk I promise…but the encourager in me is having a hard time keeping it’s mouth shut.

    What I will say is you’re a good writer. Just saying.

    Love Elle

  9. Hi Ray,
    Sorry about your misfortune of not having a job, perhaps you can locate an opportunity in this. I prefer doing work that I already do now for free. Once I find something I love it is just a matter of attracting the right person who will pay me to do what I would already do for free.

    Either way, I agree that your job does not define, nor if you have one or not.

    Take care.

    1. Hi Justin,

      That’s a different way to look at it. In my case, I’ve enjoyed working with numbers for so long that my search fits in with your suggestion.

      I’m okay. We all go though difficult periods from time to time. It just helped me to write about it and share my experience with others who may be going through the same thing.

      Thanks for visiting.

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