Success Stories: I Found a Job after Long-Term Unemployment

Beth Braccio Hering, CareerBuilder writer

Headline after headline about corporate downsizing and businesses folding can leave you wondering: Is anybody out there actually finding a job?

Yes (though oftentimes not very quickly). Here are three real-life success stories of people who persevered through prolonged unemployment before landing a new position.

Volunteer work leads to paid position

"During unemployment, I became extremely hard on myself, questioning what was wrong with me as a job candidate that would cause my searching to be so fruitless," says Margaret White of New York City, who encountered a not-very-welcoming job market after leaving school in 2008. "I also felt enormously guilty that I was a burden on my family financially. It was stressful not knowing where my future was headed and how I was going to support myself."

Needing a morale boost, White decided to volunteer with Step Up Women's Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting and advancing women and girls.

"At first I started coming in on an as-needed basis, but during that time, I cultivated a relationship with the program manager," White states. "She started bringing me in more frequently to work on projects. Eventually, I asked if I could come in every day. I recognized that I was gaining a new, invaluable skill set and making amazing connections through the organization, not to mention I was loving the work. Eventually, the program manager left to attend graduate school, and I was the best-trained candidate for the job. I applied, and they hired me!"

Networking proves good use of time

After a downsizing in January 2009 left Barbara Cooper without a job, she went to local "job seeker" meetings, registered with various companies on their Web sites and checked job boards. Primarily, though, she focused on networking.

Her efforts paid off a year later when a former co-worker recommended her for an open position. Cooper is now the Learning Center administrator for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

"I knew that sooner or later I would find something, primarily because I had no other choice," Cooper says. "I kept reminding myself that every rejection -- whether it was résumés that didn't get responses or phone interviews that didn't lead to anything -- was one less step between me and my next position. I told myself, since it was taking so long to find another position, that the position that was waiting for me must be really terrific -- and it is!"

Thinking about what you really want -- and finding it

An account executive at a high-profile marketing/advertising agency, Sarah Humphreys of Burlington, Vt., was in shock when company layoffs left her unemployed. Though she admits that at first it was "hard not to take it personally," she eventually decided to make the best of her unexpected time off.

"I was lucky enough not to have to rush back into anything. I reevaluated what I really wanted to do with my career. If I was ever going to change career paths, this was the time to do it. Eventually I came out knowing that account management is really what I love and enjoy doing."

Armed with this knowledge, Humphreys began looking at area companies that interested her, and applied for positions that matched what she wanted to do. After many people told her that was a great place to work, she looked at the company's Web site and discovered an opening that matched her career desires. She is now an account manager at this leading provider of online marketing tools for the automotive industry. Best yet, the company hasn't laid off a single employee in more than four years.

Her advice for other job seekers: "Keep looking. It is exhausting, but something will come along. Everything happens for a reason. You will end up finding a company and a job that you love."

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