Wandering in the unemployment wilderness
Having been lost in the unemployment wilderness for over two years, I am still searching for the trail that isn't on the map. As a matter of fact, there's not even a map of the wilderness.
After 35 years in the real estate profession as an agent, a manager and as a state-certified real estate instructor, I found myself reaching the burned-out stage just as the market was collapsing.
So the first step was to create a resume, seems like a simple step - but over time I learned that the skills which had served me well in the past may not be as marketable as I thought:
- Ability to identify a prospect's needs
- Negotiating and mediation
- Public speaking and teaching
- Development, implementation, and monitoring of marketing plans
- Hiring and training sales teams for large, multi-use projects
- Knowledge of sales/marketing techniques
- Ability to work independently or as part of a team
- Writing = ability to translate complex legal and technical subject matter into laymens terms for class approval by state regulatory agencies
- Management and organizational skills
I know what I'm good at - managing and motivating people, organization, training, preparing and delivering presentations, writing, teaching, negotiating, mediating, conflict resolution, public speaking, selling ("don't sell the product, sell the benefit"). Besides a Bachelors degree from college, my professional designations are those earned and related to real estate.
I hired a "resume coach" and talked to several human resource managers, and came up with a resume that I distributed wherever and whenever possible: on-line, networking, door-to-door, employment offices (private and government). It was then that the echoes started - it was like hollering across a great divide and the only thing coming back was the echo of my own voice. Very few employers even bothered to respond, let alone offered an invitation for an interview.
Living on unemployment and drawing early Social Security, I next decided to research what appeared to be recession-proof industries. The reason being that real estate is always the "first in and last out" during periods of economic downturns.
"What do people have to have, regardless of economic conditions?" Answers I came up with are: energy, food, insurance, health care. Energy jobs and health care require some kind of specialized education and degree, food industry is either in the science realm or service arena - which left insurance. So I got a health insurance license and quickly learned that insurance companies aren't too interested in paying an initial salary, which by this time is urgently needed.
And the echoes keep bouncing back - "..you're too old; you're overqualified; you're underqualified; you don't have the right degree; we'd have to pay you too much."
The downward financial spiral during all this accelerates, and very quickly you find yourself behind on your mortgage, credit card bills, etc., etc. One feels like Gulliver in reverse - you're a midget being ensnared by more and more ropes from large financial giants - mortgage companies, credit card companies, collection agencies, all of which are faceless and do not care one bit about what their actions are doing to people; destroying lives, marriages and families. They won't work with you, they are faceless monoliths caring only about their bottom-line.
It's not that I am denying my financial responsibilities, I always have in the past - but now I need help and some consideration until I get back on my feet financially. The fear factor keeps ratcheting up and it takes self-control to stay out of panic mode. Bankruptcy is just around the corner.
Next I decided to do a self-examination - what would my ideal career and ideal location to live be? What would be my passion? What do I enjoy doing? Having lived in Denver in 1974-75 it has always been my desire to get back to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and the dream job would be working in a national park or a resort/dude ranch in the mountains; working with wildlife; working with horses (Western style - intermediate skill level rider); or a combination thereof. I enjoy the outdoors - fishing, hunting, and hiking. But what skills have I acquired over the years qualify for a career in any of these?
To be in this condition - financial, emotional, and personal - at this stage of life can be depressing if one doesn't keep a positive attitude and doesn't keep trying. It is embarrassing and demeaning to admit that you're in such a desperate situation, but it is what it is.
If you have a job now - get on your knees every day and thank God, even if you hate the job. You're a lot better off than millions of your fellow Americans. If you are an employer - please don't neglect the potential employee who may be older, those of us looking for meaningful work aren't demanding high salaries, we know the value of loyalty, persistence and a strong work ethic - it's the way we were brought up.
We are not looking for a hand out, only a hand up.