The long-term effects of unemployment have a power that few people grasp until it’s them. The New York Times recently reported that long-term unemployment affects the lifelong health and well-beingof the jobless. Kate Strully, a professor at SUNY,found that people who lose their jobs are 83 % more likely to develop stress-induced conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis and depression. Till von Wachter, an economist at Columbia University, has even more ominous facts.Von Wachter looked at mortality rates and income records and concluded that death rates increased astronomically for the unemployed in the year they lost their jobs.
Don Peck, the feature editor for the Atlantic haswritten a book entitled Pinched. Peck describes the aftermath of being out of work for more than seven months. This is what he found: More than half of the respondents were withdrawing from their friends; marriages had become quite stressful, and 15% of the unemployed had acquired a substance abuse habit. “Being unemployed is about the worst think that can happen to you. Psychologically it’s equivalent to the death of a spouse and is a kind of bereavement in its own right.”
My Second Debacle
My second interview—via Skype—was terse. Can you write research they asked me? How well do you write? Describe your educational history. Upload samples of your work, as well as a vita and a cover letter affirming your interest in the firm. My cover letter was understandably short because the firm never told me what they did. In my second Skype interview, they explained the job.
The firm’s goal was to write papers for college students who didn’t want to. I was tempted because I like to write and pursue answers. Unfortunately, I was also disgusted. However, this was never mentioned. I was growing up; I was cynical by now. I was improving. They hired me. My gratitude had no bounds until the next day when I quit. Apparently, I still had some ethical remants.
Third Time Around
My best friend gave me a job writing grant proposals so I could launch my own firm. One of the grants I wrote resulted in $858,752 dollars. The second grant was short-listed. This should be the paragraph where I grab the moon and sail into some sunset with a job. And then, my realization: I’m an introvert who can be socially capable. But never a diehard extrovert who schmoozes, who remembers to carry a business card when get apples. I’m from Boston inside, and therefore mildly repressed.
After the Facts
Everything is too important to me now: the length of my black dress, the right shoes if I get an interview. In retrospect, I wonder was my bat-like sweater too avant-garde? What day of the week was I being interviewed?
So, what’s a woman to do? Resort to social media, industry leads, join LinkedIn, swap phone numbers with everyone in the grocery store? Rent a seat at the Unemployment Bureau? Answer: All of the above.
The Job That Got Away
Good interview. Got the job: Exactly two states away from anyone I knew. And of course, what would I do with my husband? What to do with this beautiful warped luck? My prospective boss saw my value. Her kindness was palpable. I could restart a new life or rupture my marriage. I chose home.
Fears erupt in the morning when whole days sit in front of me. Hard work feels so enviable.But really, I am just an ordinary worker dethroned from safety. Pushed down an economic notch; lost in America’s broken promises. At least Paul Krugman understands. He doesn’t “have the impression that Americans are spoiled; despair seems more like it.”
At first, my best friends assured me that every skill set I owned would rise up and save me. After 100+ resumes and six months, I knew they were lying. This is what I did with their enthusiasm: stopped listening. Hummed like a child, my hands over my ears, rejecting whatever anyone said--as though their lies were the reasons why I had no work. Or rather, fragments of work.