Why Job Hunting May Be More Effective When Done Alone

Businessman at the beach walking toward seated colleague, both smiling

Seeing all the recent reports on the thousands of people becoming unemployed at the same time in Atlantic City this month, and then thinking of all the people, including me, who were laid off during various waves of the last Recession, I got to wondering if, when unemployed, misery loves company as is true in so many other cases?

Is it better to be unemployed with many compatriots and all be in the same boat at the same time, or does it then seem like the competition for jobs is too steep with so many vying for so few open positions?

I did a little research on the topic, and here's what I found:

According to one Bloomberg Businessweek report misery does love company, but not if you're part of the long-term unemployed. The report notes that although it doesn't feel good to be the only one unemployed in a time of prosperity, it feels worse to be part of the ranks of the long-term unemployed as the economy picks up. The long-term unemployed is one crowd you want to try to avoid.
The long-term unemployed are generally better educated, and a very astute crowd. But due to the time out of the workforce, can have a real positioning problem to overcome on their resumes. It's just one reason to get cracking at finding a new job as soon as you're laid off rather than taking a rest from the job market.

>> Related Article: The Worst Advice I Received After a Layoff

Did you know that there's actually something called a Misery Index? According to one blog post from Middlebury College, the index is a combination of inflation and unemployment rates. When misery indices are high, sitting U.S. presidents have a harder time winning re-election. The index suggests that if enough people are unemployed, they make sure the president becomes unemployed as well.

Another article entitled Misery, Apparently, Does Not Love Companysuggests that company is generally good for your mental health, feelings of personal security, and also job prospects. It seems that when there are lots of people in a place, and the place is vibrant with growth, it's likely that there are more jobs. But it's not a perfect formula. Here's why: Job seekers in Atlanta, a city with strong growth, are almost as challenged as job seekers in Detroit, a city with poor job prospects. What gives?

That's a question that Paul Krugman, an economist and NY Times op ed columnist asked more than a year ago in his piece Stranded by Sprawl. Krugman writes:

So what's the matter with Atlanta? A new study suggests that the city may just be too spread out, so that job opportunities are literally out of reach for people stranded in the wrong neighborhoods."

If you're reading this post because you're unemployed, surrounded by others in similar straits and feeling miserable, what can you do? For one, see this post by Elizabeth Alterman on three ways to reboot your job search. But here's the rub: ultimately job hunting is a lonely personal endeavor and experience. The person who lands a job is the one who generally stands out from the crowd in some way, even if it's having a positive attitude in a negative situation.

Consider two people recently laid off from one of the casinos closing in Atlantic City. They are both equally qualified, and both unemployed due to no fault of their own. In an interview, one is appreciative of their years within the casino industry and the many people met over the years. The other is bitter and upset at the state's lack of support for Atlantic City.

Which one do you think is more likely to get hired?

On any one day, it's a safe bet that someone in your town is starting a new job. You can concentrate on making sure you're that next person, or wallow in misery with unemployed colleagues. The choice is yours. So although the old saying is that misery loves company, and it is true that being unemployed no longer has the stigma it once did -- if you want to work for a new company, it's likely a far wiser move to separate yourself from the crowd and go on the job hunt alone.
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