My Unemployed Life: From Business Exec to Delivery Guy

After reading so many stories on AOL Jobs about some of the nearly 15 million unemployed, I find that their lives and experiences resonate strongly with me.

My name is Paul and I am 52 years old. During the 1980s and 1990s, I lived in Manhattan and had a country house. Life was good, comfortable and exciting.

Back then, I was a vice president at JP Morgan Chase. After 22 years there, I exited in 2002 for new challenges and joined Grubb & Ellis in the role of senior managing director, leading a new consulting practice at that firm. Then in 2004 I took over managing an S-Corp that had I started in 1997. I began working full time as my own boss with my own clients.

The old song by Joe Walsh called 'Life's Been Good to Me So Far' seemed like an accurate accounting of my life at the time. With two wonderful daughters, good health and a life filled with memorable moments, I was sure that the best was still yet to come.

Personal challenges

Then there was my nasty divorce in 2005 that dissolved a 23-year marriage. Great feelings of loss and sadness pervaded my life for several years after the divorce. Thank God I had my children, who kept reminding me what was really important.

The divorce crushed me financially, costing me more than $450,000 after-tax dollars to date. Yet I still pressed on, working hard with the knowledge that you cannot give up. You have to believe in a better day tomorrow. I have always felt that life without hope is hardly life at all.

By 2008, my business was generating enough cash flow so that I was beginning to get my financial house back in order. I began to be able to settle past debts (that I assumed from the marriage) and it looked like I would perhaps start to save money again, someday soon. There was some light -- albeit that I could barely see -- at the end of my depressing post-divorce years.

Also in 2008, a large development project in Arizona was taking up the bulk of my professional time. It was a publicly financed development that was complex in structure, with lots of moving parts to oversee, including everything from financing to vendor and contract management. My company also had a large project with a company to assess its real-estate portfolio. Both were challenging and solid assignments.

A roller-coaster period

Then in October 2008 the credit markets seized up. The financial crash in the United States was under way, and both projects ended. That was my first experience with unemployment. I had little to fall back on, except for a few months of savings.

I applied for jobs in the corporate sector, sending out at least 100 targeted job applications. I interviewed, but only three times in that period. In all cases, the interviewer would conclude that the job was somehow beneath me. It was like buying a car with a salesman telling you that the car you were ready to purchase is not right for you, it is too small.

I was somewhat incredulous at the assertions. I met all the written qualifications including work experience and education and I interviewed well, yet that apparently was not enough. In order to make ends meet I worked for friends, sometimes in construction. At other times I delivered food for a Japanese restaurant in an affluent suburb north of New York City. I was delivering food to make a living, but at least the tips were great.

What a strange journey I was on, from being a corporate executive to owning a business to delivering food to pay the bills.

Happily, by the latter part of 2009 I was able to find a consulting engagement that lasted until this past September 2010. Now once again unemployed and facing the prospect of losing my apartment and moving in with my 80-year-old mother, I am searching for a job. To keep busy and alert, I am writing freelance stories for different media outlets and am succeeding in selling some of the articles.

Yet even as I write this, I have at least 15 applications/prospects in play, but hardly a response from any prospective companies. I have not forgotten how to analyze a business opportunity, or assess risk, or run a meeting, or coordinate with colleagues, or conduct a cost-benefit study. I am a dedicated professional that always puts in the necessary time and effort to produce high-quality products.

Keep pressing forward

Recently thoughts of declaring bankruptcy have crept in, but my ego won't allow it. I have borrowed money from family, but can't stand asking for that kind of help any longer -- it just destroys my self-confidence.

These days, I often wonder why prospective companies are no longer hiring. Have I passed some invisible point in my life? Is it my age, or the fact that I was self-employed, or that I am divorced, or have a lower-than-desired credit score that makes me unappealing? These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night. Do we now live in a country where people over a certain age are no longer needed? How does a credit score properly define an individual with 30 years experience? Does anyone even check the veracity of the data?

I feel like I have so much to offer at this point in my life. My kids are entering their college years and I can devote the bulk of my time toward professional activities. I can now only keep trying and hoping and praying for a better tomorrow.

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