Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Accommodating and thriving in the midst of change in jobs and careers 5 – facing the challenge of long-term and chronic unemployment

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on May 21, 2013

This is my fifth posting in a series on change and even disruptive change as it can reshape our work lives and our careers (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 306-309 for Parts 1-4.) And I have been writing this series as a direct successor to my immediately preceding series: Career Changes, Career Transitions (same directory, postings 285-305.)

When you count both my main directory listings and my supplemental postings, I have added just over 350 short essay installments to my Guide and its Part 2 continuation page. And over the course of that I have at least tried to offer a fairly wide range of resources that can be used for job search and career development, and throughout their various stages. And what I offer here is all distilled from my own experience and from that of people I have worked with – I always seek to focus on the empirically validated in what I write to this blog. But with that said, I freely admit here, that there are circumstances where none of what I do or could offer would work. And I want to start this posting by briefly sharing a selectively abridged story of a friend and associate I have tried to work with and help. I will call her H and simply state that she is a younger graduate of one of my alma maters who I first met at an alumni event. I was working as a consultant at the time and enjoying a weekend day off; she was trying to network for job opportunities and leads.

I am not going to delve into any of the details as to how this might have happened, but H graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in what should be a directly practical field, businesses were actively hiring in her field even if not doing so at a maximal job candidate-favoring rate, and she was unable to get that first, foot in the door job in her desired field. When I first met her, she had been out of school for a number of years but she had still never landed that first full time position in her field that she had trained for throughout her Bachelor’s degree program.

I did try helping her to network more effectively, and I did share some specific leads with her to people who I knew and had worked with. And I tried helping her to more effectively write a resume and cover letter. Nothing worked and I do add that she vocally pushed back against and rejected any real change from what she was doing and how she was doing that. I am only occasionally in contact with her now, but to the best of my knowledge she has still never found that dream job – a full time job in her field of study. And considering how long she has been out of college and how dated her degree is, when she is competing against recent graduates and with her employment record she really is out of the running now. And she has been in need for a long time now, of a real and genuine Plan B change of direction – which she has never and probably will never fully acknowledge.

This all began before I wrote my first posting of any sort to this blog, so I have been aware of it and of her and her circumstances throughout all of it. So I have always written here with an awareness and understanding that even the most carefully planned and the most empirically validated and refined tools and approaches cannot help or even work all the time and for everyone.

On one hand, I cannot help but think of my efforts to help H to break out of her pattern as representing a real failure on my part. But I also know that I cannot take ownership of H’s decisions or actions and I should not try to. Some of the most important approaches and options that I tried to get her to at least consider trying, simply provoked anger on her part, driven by frustration. Ultimately, she has been the one who has made the same decisions and repeated the same actions in pursuit of them, in hopes of seeing new and different outcomes from them.

So I turn in this posting and in this series to consider chronic and long-term unemployment. I have addressed a few perhaps specialized aspects of that before, and in that regard I specifically site postings I have added here on addressing resume gaps (see for example, Unemployment Gaps and Related Resume Problems and its Part 2 continuation.) I wrote those postings with two very specific audiences in mind – people I knew who had simply been out of work for periods of time and who were looking to get back in, and a couple of people I knew who had become caught up in financial industry improprieties and illegalities and who had spent time in prison as a result. And for them coming out and getting back into the work world, meant that any door back to anything like what they had been doing was in most cases closed to them and by court order. They were barred from certain lines of work when reentering the workforce, and for life. I worked with them as friends, in finding new direction Plan B alternatives.

For H, her Plan A did not and with time it ceased to even be a realistic possibility. But she has never really considered any Plan B – and even as any conceivable doorway to achieving her Plan A has closed and disappeared for her.

There are a lot of reasons why doors can close and disappear. Sometimes a desired Plan A work and career goal isn’t a good or even a realistic one. Sometimes that Plan A is good at first but becomes a dead end and disappears out from under us. And the loss of a job and the ending of a Plan A career path does not necessarily have anything to do with fault or blame or failure on our part, and certainly when that happens as a result of changing workplace circumstances that do not in any way involve or reflect our effectiveness or value in the workplace. But regardless of cause, when we face the prospect of being chronically or long-term unemployed, or find that we have slipped into that circumstance, it is up to us to find and take action to get out of that trap.

This is my last posting to this series and I end it by stating that we own our careers and our lives and that this is a good thing. But it means we have to be willing and able to step out of our comfort zone at times, and not just in terms of what we would do professionally – in terms of how we view ourselves and think of what we can do and are willing to do as well. We have to be willing to set aside our pride at times and particularly when circumstances render it more hubris. And I add that most definitely applied to the failed financers I cited above – though time in prison had pretty well accomplished that for them. But mostly, Plan A, Plan B and further work life and career planning iterations are all about open eyed and open minded resiliency. And that is perhaps particularly true at a time such as we are all currently facing, with its rapid change and uncertainties.

I am finishing this series here and on that note. I will be starting a next series in this Guide in a few days, with that on “Offering a Unique Value Proposition as an Employee.” Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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