Long-Term Unemployment Ended: 4 Success Stories

Last Updated Jul 28, 2011 11:41 AM EDT

One in 10. According to recent Federal Reserve figures, that's the chance a person who has been unemployed for longer than 27 weeks has of getting a new job this month. Shorter-term unemployment -- less than 4 weeks -- boosts chances to a still sobering 3 in 10 chance. On the Job has previously covered strategies to deal with long-term unemployment. But one of the biggest tools is optimism. To help those out there struggling with optimism being in short supply, here are the tales of 4 folks who were unemployed for longer than 6 months -- and are happily working in great new positions.

1. Gay Pinder, Baltimore, MD
Age: 50 Current job: Media Relations Specialist, Towson University
Previous job: Director Of Communications, National Conference on Citizenship

After losing my position at NCOC, I was unemployed for 19 months. I spent 8 hours a day looking for work. I used every method available including making a sandwich board and stationing myself outside of the buildings of potential employers. It was depressing, but I had faith in myself and my abilities. There were definitely days where I just gave up and laid on the couch and watched TV...until I had to give up my cable. [I finally found my job at Towson because] I am a two-time Towson graduate and had been applying to positions there for several years. Then, [a friend was] interviewed for the alumni magazine, and when my position became available, I contacted the writer of the story on my friend and she assisted me in getting my resume to the right person. I still had to go through HR and compete with 200 other candidates. I interviewed twice and succeeded!

My advice is to stay current in your skills, network, and show confidence even if you feel defeated. Also put in the work to find a job -- don't use a lay off as a vacation. But also give yourself a break. If one day you've had enough, allow yourself a day to just wallow in self-pity, then start anew the next day. A job won't find you. You have to find it.

2. Sally E. Bahner, Branford, CT
Age: 61
Current job: Publicist/office manager/writer/customer service, The Intrepid Traveler
Previous job: Newspaper editor, Journal-Register Corporation (JRC) - Shore Line Newspapers
Management, in its infinite wisdom, decided to axe the 13 weeklies associated with JRC a week before Christmas in 2008. I went back to a day job a year to the day after I was laid off. I had seen the writing on the wall, so my resume was updated and I started exploring all options immediately, while teaming up with others for online projects and freelancing.
 In July of 2009, I saw a job with a small publisher advertised on Craig's List, applied, and was interviewed immediately. They chose someone else but said I was a strong contender. In December 2009, I received an email from my now-boss saying that the [same] job was mine if I wanted it. (They had hired a young man who had to leave due to family issues.) I started that week and have been there ever since. There's just me and a husband-wife team, who are the sweetest, absolutely best people I've worked for. We're a small, independent book publishing company (5 minutes from my home) that has far-reaching interests. When I was laid off, I was scared to death. I'm now 61 years old. Obvious, it's especially hard to find something solid at this age. [My advice] is to do everything you can to make use of your skills. However, if I had known I was going to be out of work for so long, I would have taken some time to just chill.

3. Erika Walker, Orlando, FL
Age: 26
Current job: HR Manager, Best Essay-Help Previous job: HR Manager, Noble Transportation & Limousines
After three months at Noble as HR Manager, I was subject to a layoff as a result of the on-going economic crisis. I got to the point of being depressed. Human resource management is my dream job and losing the opportunity to master my skills was disappointing. People were being laid off everywhere and the job hunt was fruitless. I was unemployed for almost seven months and simply could not stand it anymore. [So] I started reviewing job openings in all possible industries and to my surprise found an online writing agency looking for an HR manager. I was hesitant at first as it was an industry I never thought of working in. They were satisfied with the skills and experience I had and hired me. I was over the moon with joy -- to say I was relieved is to say nothing! For all those looking for a job, I would advise not to be afraid to experiment. If you cannot find a job opening you are particularly interested in, try to cross the boundaries you've set for yourself. I was not afraid to give it a shot and have now been enjoying my HR management position for over 2 years now.

4. Name: Janet Brown*, New York, NY Age: 33
Current job: In-house counsel, top design firm in New York, NY
Previous job: Manager of business affairs, major music corporation in Los Angeles, CA
I worked for a terrible boss. I had been promoted internally but he never wanted me there, so he never trained me or gave me feedback, and then suddenly laid me off. I have a law degree and had 2 major music labels on my resume -- but it took me a year to find a job. During that time, I sent out hundreds of resumes, and had probably five interviews. I kept busy by doing freelance consulting and picking up clients through word of mouth. Then, almost a year later, I received a call from a recruiter asking me if I would consider moving back to New York, where I'd started my legal career. I was initially hesitant when she told me that I would be switching industries, but I wasn't going to say no. My current bosses are the most amazing, wonderful people to work for, and I'm making more than I ever made in the music industry.

There were many, many times during that year that I almost gave up. I've been ambitious and career-oriented my whole life. When you identify yourself by who you are professionally, you question everything when you suddenly find yourself with nowhere to go every day. I can't stress enough the importance of staying positive and never giving up hope. It's important to know that your situation is more a function of the economy than of your particular skill-set. I think the freelancing helped, too. The more you can show that you're still doing something and keeping current, the better that looks to potential employers.

*Name changed for privacy
What's the longest you've ever looked for a job, and how did you find a new one? Please share your experience in the comments section below.

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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