Wednesday, October 7, 2009

There is no Shame in being Unemployed

There is no shame in being unemployed. The people who feel shame do not understand that the job market changed and that the out-of-date belief they hold and resulting feeling of shame is negatively impacting their ability to get a job.

Entering the job market without an awareness of the changes is like walking into a dark room and being told to go to the other side. You can’t even see your hand in front of your face so you surely can’t see where the other side of the room is, less how to get there. Most job seekers stumble around in the dark and, although they are working as hard as they can, they are getting nowhere.

Understanding the new truths about the job market is like turning on a light in that room. Although it is not a place you want to spend a lot of time, you can see where you are going, avoid the obstacles along the way, and you can get where you are going faster.

How the Market Changed

There are some major changes that occurred resulting in the new job market.
In my grandfather’s day, if you didn’t have a job, you were a bum. There were many jobs available and anyone willing to work hard could easily find a job. Back then, companies rewarded loyal, good performers with assurances of a job and retirement benefits. The Baby Boomer and earlier generations expected to work for a single company their entire career and receive a pension and gold watch when they retired.

Fast forward to today: The day of the gold watch retirement is over. Most companies no longer reward longevity with pension plans; many are even discontinuing the company match for 401K plans. Industries that have never done so before are laying off people. Even good performers are being “right sized” or “downsized” purely for financial reasons.

That means many of the unemployed are unemployed at no fault of their own. You were most likely adding value to your company and performing beyond the call of duty. It does not matter. Companies are having to cut back because of the economy and are letting good people, like you, go. Go to the many job networking meetings in town. We could create a fabulous company with all of the talent in the room.

There was probably nothing you could have done to prevent being impacted. You will see articles and books on how to recession proof your job. Although there are actions you can take to minimize the chances, there is nothing you can do to guarantee you are not cut from the company. Even if you own the company, companies are going out of business every day and if your company is one of those, you too are without a job.

The other major change in the job market is that your next job will not be your last. In the past anyone who changed jobs every 2-3 years was considered a job hopper and not favored for employment. Today, anyone who has worked for one company for over 10 years is at a disadvantage. The belief today is that anyone with that type of longevity with a single company probably has limited skills and experiences, whether or not that is true.

When asked what one word of advice he has for recent graduates, a famous author replied ”Do not spend 5 years getting 2 years worth of experience”. The new statistic being quoted is that most people will have 4 careers and 18 different jobs in their lifetimes.

Consider the home phone as an analogy for the job market. Your grandparents or great grandparents probably had only one phone in the house and it was hard-wired in a central location such as the kitchen or at the bottom of the stairs. If the phone was ripped out of the wall, it would leave a hole in the wall and loose wires.

Today, if there is a home phone, it is modular and there is an outlet in every room. You plug the phone into the outlet and when needed, you can cleanly unplug it and plug it in elsewhere. In the new job market, you plug into your new job, you work well, and you unplug cleanly when the time is right, leaving nothing behind, and cleanly plug into another company and work well there.

The market changed and it was not put up for a vote. There is no shame at being unemployed and your next job will not be your last. The only shame is when job seekers do not take the time to understand the new market and do what it takes to be successful. Let go of any shame you feel, get to know the new job market, and once you get that next job, do what you need to in order to prepare for the next job transition.

Pass the Word

Please share this article and others at with your spouse, family, and friends so they too can better understand the new job market. If they haven’t been on the job market recently, they will be one day and this bit of information will help.


  1. Tell that to the children of the unemployed. Who don't tell their friends and their friends parents & their teachers.. and....

  2. Good idea! This article would be helpful to share with children old enough to help get the word out and help network.

    I will be publishing an article about involving the family in the job search process (age appropriate ideas).

  3. Tell every one you meet or know that you are unemployed. The results will be eye opening.

  4. The article gives a good insight into the new job market. It would be helpful for new and old job seekers to be aware of the new job market. I think it's now common for job seekers to have a lot of work experience since employers usually prefer individuals with a lot of skills and experience.

  5. I needed to read this article today. I was laid off in early August and it is hard not to wind those old tapes in your head. I'll start the new ones running today

  6. Good advice, just when I needed it the most!

  7. I just read this article today and it is a great one. I was in the process of understanding my siutuation. I have been laid off at the end of July and still have a hard time accepting it. I still feel a little responsible for that even thought I kniow there is nothing I could have done against it. I spent 17 with htat company and never expected to get laid off. I have learned a lot since.


  8. Thank you for sharing! I am unemployed for over a year now. First 6 months were my choice the rest was the changing economy. In this one year I have been enveloped in self doubt and lost some self confidence too. Some days are good and some aren't. This article will help me rebuild my confidence on those not-so-good days!