True Tales: I Found a Job After Long-Term Unemployment

When faced with hard times, it helps to know that others have been in our shoes and have come out on that proverbial other side; hence the popularity of things like support groups and self-help books. Often the stories of others are not only encouraging and comforting, but they can also teach us how to get through a hard situation ourselves.

Now, after millions of Americans have faced job loss, perhaps some of the most needed and sought-after stories of encouragement come from those who have faced long-term unemployment and still eventually managed to find work. Below, how five workers were able to do just that.

Find transferable skills

I was unemployed for one year and one day -- 2008 to 2009. I was working as a paralegal and was laid off from the law firm I was working for. When I was laid off, I applied to endless paralegal positions. I devoted three or four hours a day searching on job websites. I had a handful of interviews, which likely would have resulted in an offer, but the pay was too low for each position. I didn't feel in my gut to take any of these jobs with low pay so I continued searching for work.

"Through the process, I stayed motivated by using positive affirmations like 'I know there is a job out there for me!' and by believing that I would land a great position and not have to settle for an underpaid one. I did pray of course; for me that always helps. Also, being active in my job search was the most motivating. You get what you put into it. Tailoring resumes and cover letters takes time, and I made sure that I put the work in so in a way I felt like I was working -- working to find an excellent opportunity.

After about eight months I began to worry; even though unemployment benefits were extended I knew they would not last forever. So, I assessed my transferable skills and said, 'What else would I be great at?' On a whim I applied for a temp position doing marketing. I learned social media marketing, Google AdWords, SEO, website design and other marketing skills -- and loved it! I am a creative person and love to write so it was a great fit. [Then] the temp position ended and I was back on unemployment. However, I had some new skills under my belt, so I started searching for marketing positions.

Lo and behold, about four weeks later I got a call for a marketing position. I was hired and have been working at the company ever since. My title is now the VP of marketing, so it feels really great to know that I am doing well.

-- Tasha Mayberry, vice president marketing, Corporate Compensation Plans, Inc.

Don't settle

I was unemployed from January 2009 until March 2010. I work in legal marketing, which is a very small industry, but I knew that's where I wanted to be. I was unemployed at the height of the collapse of both the economy and many law firms. I knew law firms wouldn't be actively hiring in any capacity, so [at first] I didn't even bother looking for work and just focused my time on myself and my children -- a mini vacation of sorts.

I started actively looking for work in October 2009 by responding to postings on legal marketing websites and staying in touch with placement agencies I had previously worked with. I started a contract marketing director job in March 2010 through a referral from my previous HR director, whom I remained in contact with. In June 2010, I was offered another marketing director job at a law firm closer to home. After competitive offers from both firms, I left the contracting job (that would have gone full time) to accept my current, closer to home, position.

To stay motivated, I clearly defined what I would accept as far as compensation and stuck to it. In the process, I did turn down jobs that offered lower pay but I knew something better would come along.

-- Adreena Thomas, director of marketing, Wasserman, Comden, Casselman & Esensten, L.L.P.

Find your inner entrepreneur

I left a high profile job in architecture in China when my partner got transferred back to San Francisco. When I returned with him in May 2009, I searched high and low for a job. I tried every connection I could think of -- my Ivy-league alumni association, my previous work colleagues, my partner's current work colleagues, and I followed leads on developing building projects religiously. After going to several interviews, the story was always the same: 'We just can't afford to hire someone right now.'

By January 2010, I was deflated and tired of waiting for a job, and didn't qualify for unemployment since my previous job was overseas, so I decided it was time to make my own job. I started a custom re-upholstery and custom rug business. Now, my items have landed me on TV and in magazines, and I'm starting to get requests from stores that want to carry my furniture and rugs."

-- Meghan O'Halloran, graduate of Cornell University's architecture program

Explore new skills

I graduated from the MBA program at Pepperdine University in April 2009 and I didn't find a job until January 2010. [But] there's not a day that goes by that I'm not thankful for the fact that it took so long to find a job. While I was unemployed I started a blog called 'The Skool of Life' in order to keep motivated. That blog has opened up a whole new life to me -- I ended up with my dream job leading social media for an online travel company and managing a team of travel writers. It's opened up opportunities for speaking gigs in my industry [and has] enabled me to build a global network of contacts.

-- Srinivas Rao, director of social media, Flightster

Keep in touch with past interviewers

I was unemployed for about a year and a half and finally found a job in May 2010. I was offered a job when an employer, whom I had interviewed with several months prior, called me out of the blue and offered [me] a job.

When I first interviewed, he had been looking for an entry-level employee and said I was not the right fit, but he was impressed with my resume and kept me in mind. So the moral of the story is that it pays to keep in contact with employers, because you never know when they might have another opening.
-- Manny Otiko, Desmond and Louis Public Relations

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