The Long Unemployed: Emotional Effects of Unemployment


The Long Unemployed: Emotional Effects of UnemploymentWith the economy going nowhere fast in the U.S., more and more unemployed workers are looking toward endless unemployment with little hope for their future.

Two recent articles I read highlight this problem and the associated devastating impact being unemployed can have on one’s emotional health — especially theirself-esteem and sense of worth. While not all of us value ourselves based upon our job, it can’t help to make up a part of our self-worth no matter where we are in life.

Some people believe age starts playing more and more of a discriminatory role in the hiring process. Older people feel like they are often not hired because of their age, or perhaps because their greater experience requires a higher starting salary.

In any case, it’s no fun being unemployed for months, or even years. In fact, it can make a person downright suicidal.


Las Vegas resident Donna McQuinn was a former casino cage worker who has a high school diploma, but sadly not a whole lot else in terms of marketable job skills that many employers in the greater Las Vegas area appear to be looking for. She’s uncomfortable with computers, and so is pretty well stuck in an endless cycle of unemployment since being laid off 2 years ago:

Like many of those scouring the job listings, McQuinn has applied for hundreds of jobs during the past two years, rarely getting a call for an interview. “Age is playing a big role,” noted Debbie Kirkland, a 56-year-old former elementary schoolteacher who sat two chairs over from McQuinn, who nodded in agreement. […]

She has contemplated suicide but has found the strength to push ahead.

“I want to work. I want to work. I want to work,” she said, her intensity level increasing as she repeated each sentence.

It’s no better in computers. So many young adults today turn to the computer industry, web development, and programming languages thinking that the future is unlimited for them. And it is. At least for the first 20 years of their career (and if they haven’t become startup millionaires, as so many dream).

But once you hit 40, you can expect many programming and development jobs to start drying up. Even assuming you’ve kept up most of your programming skills.

“They’ll give us literally a laundry list of 15 technologies,’’ said John McBride, vice president of sales at the Needham IT firm Syrinx Consulting. “If [candidates] don’t know one or two pieces, then they’re down.’’

It is a particular problem for older workers, many of whom have worked for the same company and with the same technology for years, and may not have kept up with mobile applications, web development, and cutting-edge programming languages.

Back to Donna McQuinn:

“Unemployment just leads to more homelessness, moredepression and the suicide rates will keep going up. You lose something when you don’t feel worthy. I’ve gone two years without a job, and there’s no one in your life to say you’re doing good. We all need a place to go, a place that makes you feel productive and good about yourself. We all do.”

Being unemployed hurts. Many people feel depressed and can find it extremely difficult to pull themselves out of the rut of rejection and hopelessness. I was depressed for weeks after being laid off from one job, but eventually was able to pull myself together to find new work.

There’s no easy solution in a down economy. Everyone who is out of work suffers, even those who are young and well-qualified. What a person can do is to focus on making the most of the job search, expanding one’s geographic and career horizons, and focusing on the specific steps it’s going to take to make something happen.

Maybe it means going back to school or learning something new to be more competitive in the marketplace. Maybe it means moving to a city or state where the unemployment rate is significantly lower. The important thing is to find things you can do that may help, and get started on those.

You are not your job. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you may find new work around the corner.

Read the full articles:

Frustration, depression plague longtime unemployed – Las Vegas Sun

Tech hiring is tough on veteran workers – The Boston Globe

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