My Unemployed Life: Selling Off My Identity to Survive
Day after day, week after week, month after month -- it's going on two years now since I lost my job. I've zapped thousands of resumes out, had only a few interviews and, as a 53-year-old Human Resources manager, I cannot get anyone to value a lifelong devotion to my profession.
I'm business-impacting, savvy, resourceful and up-to-date, with significant revenue-generating contributions to operations and strategy in business, with lots of employer recommendation letters attesting to this.
But no matter how many times I change my resume, update my LinkedIn profile, submit perfect applications and cover letters, nothing matters.
No longer relevant?
Age discrimination all too well exists, and will continue to do so. No matter what paragraphs of E.E.O. are placed at the bottom of job applications, it does. Those disclaimers are there not to inform me of my rights as an applicant, but as a protection for the company I'm applying to. As a professional in Human Resources, I know that this is true.
In the few interviews I've had, I've never been brought back for a second. In one interview, I sat in front of a table of 20-year-old decision makers, with the company's CEO being just 24, and even though I was tailor-made to their search, was not offered the job.
While my resume looks like I'm 35 -- and I can almost pass for it -- when I walk in and see the recruiter's face fall, I know at that moment that I will not be brought back, no matter how great the interview goes. This, on top of the crushing economy, is a virtual death blow that leaves me feeling like I'll never work again. And I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!
Uncaring relatives back home have reduced themselves out of my life, and with few quality friends, it's just me, my son and my white terrier getting by day to day. I cannot tear myself away from my computer, still looking for any opportunities to make any small amount. I normally spend 14 hours a day filling out applications, sending out resumes and selling my personal possessions that I've treasured for decades.
In particular, watching my collections of movie memorabilia as it leaves my apartment with strangers who can't possibly care about what those things have meant to me, almost produces tears each time. I feel that they, and the movies they're from, are what identify and define me -- and I am slowly selling off that identity, until I feel as if I have none.
Every little bit helps
During my last job, I bought a truck, planning to then buy a dirt bike for my son. Now that my unemployment insurance is about to end very soon, I certainly cannot fulfill his dream for that bike, and that tears me apart. But being a savvy and resourceful guy, I started to make that truck work for me.
For everyday pocket money, and to pay a few utility bills, I made up "Pick-up Truck" business cards, and I get a few calls each week as a delivery guy, to pick up and move someone's furniture for $30 to $60 a trip. And I scour Craigslist in my area for free furniture or dirt-cheap furniture; I go grab or buy it, then re-list it right away (often using their same posted pictures), usually making $50 to $100 on each item I resell.
When I do sell, I add another $20 to $30 for my truck's delivery service, and make sure to give them a business card for referrals. I am quite amused at times when I sell an item for over $100 that someone else has thanked me for taking out of their lives.
As I only live in a one-bedroom apartment with a small separate-area room for my son (whom I share custody over), I know I have to try to take on a roommate in the next month or two or I'll certainly become homeless. That scares the hell out of me.
My reason to keep going
In growing up on the very tough streets of the South Side of Chicago, I've always been a survivor and have always made it through. This time is certainly different, though, and the toughest of all. So I have to work harder than ever before. I think that old saying, "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger," is now truer than ever. You have to look at today's challenges this way and stay strong!
I cannot relax at night and pop in a movie -- as I just cannot seem to enjoy it, always thinking I have to keep searching. It's very, very sad, and very depressing. All my son ever sees me do for this past 18 months is sit in front of the computer, day and night, searching for work. I cannot stand this impression and my current way of life, but I know it's what I have to do to keep going. To keep going for him!
When I will finally get a break? It feels like never, but there is a steel ring I have on my desk engraved with a quote from Winston Churchill that reads: "Never Never Never Quit." And I keep it very close to me.
After losing my home and my wife and my savings and my 401k and my perfect credit history, the material losses seem meaningless. It is my soul and my hope and my pride and my instinct that I will not give up on. Or sell. I will keep going, knowing this has to change. It has to.
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