I think that looking for a job can be a full-time job—only for me, it has been much less rewarding. When you’ve been looking as long as I have, the hope of finding a job in your industry or making the same salary is just not probable. I’ve lost hope of going back to the industry that fueled my working life to this point, so I’ll have to think of something else to do. The question I have, as I assume millions of other unemployed people have, is what do I do next?

It’s tough to think that all the years of experience, value and respect earned through hard work have little value in the midst of our generation’s worst recession. Over my career I made millions of dollars for the financial institutions I’ve worked for. I could sell everything from checking accounts to mortgage loans, and make people feel good about building a relationship with us. But through my unemployment journey, I quickly found that what you did in the past really doesn’t matter anymore.

When I looked for a job a decade ago, you sent a package directly to a contact in Human Resources, and it took a few days to get there through the Postal Service. Now you send everything electronically to an inbox and you’re only contacted if they want to screen you by phone. With so many people applying for each opening, it must be a challenge just to scan all the applicants. HR people use scoring software to electronically rate your package and only have to open the ones with the higher scores.

I feel at times I’ve been the victim of age discrimination, but that is hard to prove. I’ve taken graduation dates off my resume and list only the last 20 years of work experience. Most jobs now require a background check and if you don’t sign the paper (listing your SSN and date of birth), you go no further in the process. I have several other friends in the same age range who are also unemployed and have complained about this same issue. When was the last time you heard of someone in their 50’s getting a good job after being unemployed for a long time?

Early in my unemployment, I spent several hours a day searching for jobs on the Internet and at the unemployment office. I would create a customized package for each position, using verbiage contained in the in initial ad. The score so far:  400 packages sent for positions (some outside of Calif.); 10 interviews (two by phone); a couple of second interviews; no offers.

(Courtesy of Daniel Joyce)

I tried networking but found that almost all the people I worked with in the past have moved on to other industries or are unemployed themselves.

How does this all make me feel? Frustrated; angry; disappointed; and wondering how my family is going to survive.

I wonder if at my age I’ll ever get any type of job again.

Daniel Joyce, a 54-year-old former financial marketer from San Jose, Calif., has been unemployed for three years. Read more about him here. Read about the “Help Wanted” project here. Visit the project home page here.