I’ve been unemployed for 2 1/2 years. That’s 30 months. 130 weeks. 910 days.
At age 59, I have serious doubts as to whether I will ever find a job.
As I was thinking about what to post for my first blog, I realized how public my unemployment will become and how vulnerable that makes me feel … especially in this international forum.
I can blame the economy. I can blame companies who don’t want to hire a 59-year-old media and PR consultant. For employers, we’re too old or applying for a job that exceeds our qualifications or past experience. I’ve had it suggested on more than one occasion by potential employers that the company would hire me but management assumes I’ll leave as soon as a higher-paying job more in line with my skills appears. No amount of talking will convince them otherwise.
I’ve also seen the job advertisements that specifically say they won’t consider someone who have been unemployed for more than six months. In today’s employment-stagnant economy, that’s an employment death sentence for many of us, especially in my age bracket.
And don’t forget what has become mandatory — the credit check. Of course my credit rating is going into the toilet — I’ve been out of work for 2 1/2 years. I can’t repair it until you give me a job, but you won’t hire me because my credit rating is tanking. It’s a catch-22.
Potential employers and friends see those of us who have been out of work for so long as pariahs. Employers don’t want someone who has been unemployed, and friends and associates don’t want to get too close — unemployment might be contagious.
People look at the unemployed and are scared to death — scared they are one small step away from joining our not-so-exclusive club.
One thing I have learned during this time, brought into excruciating clarity after talking with Brian Rosenthal at The Post about my unemployment journey, is how much time I’ve spent trying to create an unemployment persona to cope with the feelings that come with being chronically unemployed.
The facade is carefully crafted to minimize the effects of 2 1/2 years of not getting a paycheck, not being part of the working-class social mix and generally being shunted aside by society.
The persona I’ve created shows me as out of work but surviving nicely. I don’t want my friends and acquaintances to really know how dire my circumstances have become. I’ll fake it as much as I can even if that means using a credit card to give the appearance of living a normal life.
I don’t think many employed people understand what happens to someone after they’ve spent a couple of years trying to find a job — any job.
We’ll do or say just about anything to pretend it’s not as bad as it really is. I don’t want you to know how badly I’m hurting. I don’t want you to know how much I miss every part of working: the job itself, the hours, the social aspects, the hassles, the joy of success and the pain of failure. I miss it all more than you can understand.
So I will do anything — fudge a resume entry, misrepresent a job skill or accomplishment. ... I’ll do anything to get a job.
After 2 1/2 years of unemployment, nothing is normal. Every day is a new day of trying to survive, trying to figure out how to pay existing bills, how to rob Peter to pay Paul and how to become normal again.
I don’t want your pity. I can give myself a really good pity party whenever I want.
I want a job.
Stephen Rhymer, a 59-year-old former public relations official from Edmond, Okla., has been unemployed for two and a half years. Read more about him here. Read about the “Help Wanted” project here. Visit the project home page here.