Start crying, but keep trying

If you’re unemployed, you have a good sense of the job market. But things are actually worse.  My wife sent me this Bloomberg story yesterday afternoon…

U.S. Payrolls Post Biggest Annual Drop Since 1945

This morning I saw a similar story on the front page of the New York Times

Jobless Rate Hits 7.2%, a 16-Year High

CNN ran their version of the story while I was at the gym this morning, complete with partisan bickering. (It hurt my head just to watch, even with the volume turned down.) And I saw some homeless guy peeing on an office building wall – no doubt, his personal commentary on the state of the economy and the companies that put us here. Needless to say, this is a big story, and everybody’s talking.

Here’s the situation. The U.S. lost more than half a million jobs in December, pushing the total number of unemployed up to 11.1 million. This figure almost doubles if one counts the underemployed (part-time workers seeking more hours) and those who have given up looking. Consumers are scared, so they’re not spending money. Employers are scared, so they’re reducing payrolls to stay liquid. Norm is scared, so he continues to blog away his fears. The incoming Obama administration is eager to implement a multifaceted stimulus package, which may boost confidence immediately but will otherwise take months to show any real effects. The outgoing Bush administration has its collective thumb up its collective ass. Experts see unemployment reaching 10% in the second quarter and plateauing there until well after the recession ends.

It seems like any job search is a futile waste of time in this climate. So the question the jobless masses may be asking is, “why bother doing anything at all?” I’ll tell you why. Continuing a job search provides the chance to find something, while doing nothing leads to nothing. There are still jobs out there – maybe not good jobs or relevant jobs, but jobs. The education and healthcare fields, for example, both enjoyed modest job growth last month. It may be worth focusing your efforts there. The Economy is in a recession, meaning economic activity has slowed somewhat but not stopped altogether. Companies still need people to work.

This is also the perfect time to do all the necessary job search legwork – the stuff that reveals openings and puts you in the position to apply immediately. Here’s a list of activities that could yield results…

  • Research jobs and fields of employment beyond what you’re used to.
  • Create different versions of your resume and cover letter for those jobs and fields.
  • Explore all the general and company-specific job boards you don’t normally use and create applicant profiles.
  • Reconnect with people in your network.
  • Become (or remain) active in LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking sites to expand your network.

When the job market improves, you’ll be prepared, or already gainfully employed.

Unless you’re in dire financial straits, looking for work all day is overkill, even in a good job market. Some time would be well spent learning new skills or practicing hobbies which could theoretically lead to work. Ever wonder how writers become employed writers? You have the time and hopefully the inclination to improve yourself. And online resources are abundant and cheap (or free). This is a great time to become more employable, and expand the realm of opportunities.

A bad job market is a terrible excuse to do nothing.  But it’s a perfect opportunity to get your ducks in a row and improve your skill set.  And when the recession clears, you may find yourself in a better position than before. Turn off the news and get to work, you unemployed slacker!

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  1. retired at 24 wrote:

    Unemployment rate is at 16% dont believe the numbers the us government gives. for cpi price they don’t include the price of food or fuel. My guess is most banks are insolvent without fed bailout.

    Monday, January 26, 2009 at 12:05 pm | Permalink
  2. unemployed wrote:

    its so freakin disheartening. thanks so much for your blogs. tell us more about how your wife is dealing with all this. i am depressed, angry and absolutely no fun to be with. i dont know how much more my lover can take, thank god for that support – financially, and emotionally.

    Friday, March 6, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink
  3. Traci wrote:

    This is a great article. Don’t give up and be prepared! Many of my clients are customizing their resumes and cover letters for jobs outside of their normal field.

    I’m offering 50% off my resume writing service fees for those who have been out of work for more than 6 months. If you’re interested in my offer, go to or e-mail me at

    Good luck to everyone!

    Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 12:48 am | Permalink


    Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Permalink
  5. thomas wrote:

    Thank you for this blog Norm and I hope you find your dream job soon.

    Monday, April 6, 2009 at 6:59 am | Permalink
  6. Norm wrote:

    Thanks, Thomas. Given that I have to be unemployed, it’s my pleasure.

    Monday, April 6, 2009 at 7:54 am | Permalink
  7. job search wrote:

    ya really well said .I also lost my job due to recession . But i kept trying and now i am enjoying a new job new responsibilities.

    Friday, August 13, 2010 at 5:59 am | Permalink