Surviving Unemployment ? One Woman?s Story

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The road through unemployment is rarely a straight line

I am hoping that my story will keep some other “laid off” person ENCOURAGED. Although it took 2 years to find another job after being “laid off” – I never stopped looking.

At age 50, I lost my job working in a school for juvenile delinquents. While I was relieved, as it was not a job I enjoyed or planned on doing for a long time ? being laid off was both a blessing and a challenge.

This was my second time being laid off and this time I was prepared with savings which supplemented my unemployment benefits.

For the first few months, I enjoyed my blessing and really did not start to look for a job even though it was required in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits. I did the minimum of 2 job searches each week on two different days of each week. But deep down, I was hoping no one would call me for an interview and that is exactly what happened.

The emotional impact of a job loss

Although I knew I needed to find another source of income before my savings and unemployment ran out, mentally I was still not ready to do the interviewing routine. I had read several articles throughout the years and one thing each article stated ?you have to sell yourself? in each interview. We had to forget the past and focus on the present.

It was not until I had been jobless for about one year did I seriously start job hunting and really making an effort to follow up on job leads. From June 2008 to December 2009, I depended solely on my savings on unemployment.

In January 2010, I participated in a Stimulus Program called the Re-Employment Connection. I found out about this program through word of mouth. It was like they did not advertise this program although President Obama had put it in place for the unemployed. This particular program was for 12 weeks and you were paid $12 an hour for 40 hours a week. You had to attend an interview after submitting your online application. Ideally this process was supposed to work as follows:

1. You submit your online application
2. They call you to schedule an interview
3. If they approve you ? next step is the group meeting in which you were told the rules
4. You then attended a ?job fair? ? there were no guarantees that they would hire you

In my case, number one never happened. I had to keep calling the number I had located on their website, leaving several voicemails and finally getting a human on the line. I did get assigned to a company that did not give me any breaks and I ended up quitting which cancelled my remaining unemployment benefits of $1,499. I appealed and lost. This was when I had to rely solely on my dwindling savings which ran out in May 2010.

Hard choices when the money runs out

From May 2010 to July 2010 I was without any funds and had to rely on first my boyfriend for a place to stay and then my grown daughter. It was a very ?shameful? situation to be in but it made me more determined to regain my ?independence and pride??..

It took 3 weeks once I finally made up my mind to figure out a way around the fact that I am 52 now and obsolete. The last office software I had used in 2008 was Microsoft 2003 ? now it was all about Microsoft 2007 with only a few organizations still using Microsoft 2003.

I went ahead and made myself complete all the FREE Microsoft classes the public library was offering keeping in mind that book knowledge alone would not convince a future employer of my knowledge. They wanted ?working? knowledge and the trick now was to use this newfound knowledge. This was when I thought of developing a ?flyer? stating my situation and that I was willing to work for anything ? even mentioned in exchange for a Tracfone Top Up card to add minutes to a prepaid phone. I was without the means to keep adding to my cell phone and knew that I needed to be available for possible job interviews and offers.

While I was staying with my boyfriend for two months, not having a car really prevented me from setting up job interviews due to a non-existent public transportation system where I live. I would walk to the public library every day (they were open 7 days a week) to use their computers and tried to find something within walking distance. The few city buses they had did not run on the weekend and stopped running at 4pm during the week. Now I understood why there was so much poverty in the area, folks could not get around.

Success…and what it took to make it happen

I knew I had to get back to Orlando, Florida, in spite of not wanting to do this and ended up staying with my adult daughter and her roommate. This was a very ?traumatic? arrangement and one I am still in but know I will be back home in Alabama soon.

My daughter was working at the local university and in spite of me putting in 22 online applications, nothing happened.

For 3 weeks I sat down every day and emailed out my ?flyer? to the university staff after locating their online email listing. A professor sent me an email asking me to come in and interview. I did and got the job.

I am still not out of the woods as yet. It is temporary, 35 hours, started at 15 hours then got increased to 25 and just this week to 35. She is paying me out of 3 research grants that she has. Grants come and go and I keep this in the back of my mind so that I do not go back to the ?comfort zone? and not continue to work on getting a job back home in Alabama.

My advice to the unemployed:

  1. Look around you to see what is needed
  2. Evaluate your skills to see if you can fill the need or obtain the necessary skills
  3. Approach the organization or person you want to work for
  4. Offer to work for “free” so that they can “evaluate” your skills
  5. And keep looking – always have a plan just in case you get “laid off” again 🙂

Are you unemployed? What are you doing to find work? What are you doing to make ends meet? What works–what doesn’t?

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31 Responses to Surviving Unemployment ? One Woman?s Story

  1. It’s too bad that first year off was wasted. Nearly anyone over age 50 is going to have trouble finding a job; it’s just a sad fact.

  2. Kay – So true. A friend of mine who has a recruiting agency says times have never been worse for people over 40. I know a number of middle age people who are out of work, some for a year or more. There’s always someone out there who will do the job–any job–for less money.

    So much of the trauma is emotional, ie, how do you pick yourself up off the mat after you’ve just been knocked down. I think that explains why Angela was slow to action early on. Before you can do anything you first have to come to terms with your situation, rebuild a sense of purpose, then charge forward fully prepared for rejection.

  3. Hi Kay!

    Thanks for responding. To be honest, I was so “depressed” from the job I was laid off from, the lay off was a godsend. Because I had BOTH savings and unemployment coming in, I was able to be “laid back” about looking for another job while I got my “head” straight.

    At the time it was what I needed to do as no one would have “hired” me in the mental state I was in. I was so “numb” from dealing with the juveniles I had to supervise and living in constant fear that one of them would jump me in my neighborhood. Yes, back then I lived in a poor side of town and 90% of the kids that attended this program lived there.

    And you are both right (Kevin), it is a challenge at any age right now to get any job much less being over 50 (lol). But there is ALWAYS that ONE person who will give you a chance – that is why I am constantly looking for a job back home in Phenix City, Alabama. When this temporary job ends, I want to have something in place and ideally back home. Orlando, Florida has been good to me and I am so GRATEFUL for the job, but I do miss my boyfriend and our dog – a Jack Russell Terrier named Jeremiah. I have a picture of my “cutie” on my blog.

    Have an AWESOME day both of you!

    My Blog: “A Story of Hope” http://survivingunemployment.weebly.com

  4. I’ve read this story 3 or four times over the past week or so before saying anything. I am sorry that you were depressed enough that you used your savings and did really take advantage of the first 1.5 years. I wish that you had sought free (they are available now with so many people out of work) mental health counseling then because it would have helped you now.

    The longer that you have been unemployed the harder it gets. Are you able to take advantage of any classes at the school? Can you sit in on a class without getting a grade, just so you can learn something new? Perhaps upgraded computer skills or anything to make yourself marketable. My stepfather is in his late 50’s and his factory is closing in a month. He is a blue collar worker with no other skills. We have tried, many times, over the years to help educate him because even a job at Walmart is better than no job with more than half a decade left before retirement.

  5. Hi Sandy:

    Thanks for taking the time to post.

    Yes, you are so right – I should have taken advantage of some counseling. Sometimes it does help. In my case, I guess I was tired of talking about my problems – being laid off was just the icing on my cake (lol).

    Now that I look back, all of what I went through made me stronger and wiser and through my TV interview and blog, I have been able to offer some “comfort” to others. Sometimes it takes you being in that person’s shoes to understand.

    The temporary job I am now in, working for a professor has offerd alot of “on the job” training. I am also working on getting some “medical” knowledge behind me. This would help me gain employment back home in Phenix City, Alabama. A car is also on the list.

    Again, thanks for posting!

  6. I am back home in Phenix City, Alabama and start a six week training course at the local community college that will issue a certificate that will help me find work in this area. I am excited about the “possibilities”…

  7. Angela – Forward motion–that’s what that sounds like, and it’s what we all need. Best of luck to you!

  8. I can’t imagine myself losing my job and I am 48. I have seen a handful of people around me over 50 years of age who have lost their job within the last 3 years and almost all are still struggling to find a job. The one success story I can share is that one of them actively searched for a job (he made it his job to find a job) and applied to at least 5 different companies a week for a month. He then made it a point to follow up either in person or over the phone. In the end, this 54 year old male was able to get 3 job offers and he accepted the highest paying one, and he was only out of work for 6 weeks. I guess he was a little lucky but he also put forth more effort than other people I see.

  9. Sandra – That seems to be pretty common–late 40s, 50s, lost a lifelong job then struggling to find/keep something going. I know a number of people in that situation and see even more of it on LinkedIn. A lot depends on the field you’re in–some fields are in demand, but people have lost jobs at individual companies that were struggling. They can usually find jobs with other companies in the same line.

    Others have lost their jobs in declining industries or job fields, and that’s where the chronic unemployment is. From what I’m seeing, there seem to be more middle aged people in the second group. A job lost seems to tranlate into the need for an entirely new career.

  10. Hi Sandra:

    I see you work for Walmart, I use to be a cashier many, many years ago and was fortunate to get “on the job” training at that time. With the recession still with us, I am finding that option is scarce if at all. I really can not blame companies – why train if you have so many folks out there looking for jobs that already have the experience.

    Secondly, thanks SO MUCH for stopping by and sharing. I love to hear “success” stories that I can post on my website to ENCOURAGE others – including myself(lol). Yes, we can sit around and discuss the unemployment and the consequences (loss of a roof over your head, no food and so on) – or we can find solutions. When I run across other folks like myself that are finding jobs in spite of the circumstances, I want to know how. Awesome that he found a job – deserves a standing ovation indeed.

    I was going to update my status and saw your response and Kevin’s.

    MY UPDATE
    Working for a temporary work agency 11pm to 7am since Monday, today is Sunday. Was suppose to work last night (Sunday) but the machines at the manufacturing plant broke down. The company refuses to update their plant, so the managers are stressing out with an already behind schedule. From what I understand, the folks there have not had a day off since April and morale is very low. And to be honest, at age “soon to be” 53, I am not doing well at all with being on my feet the entire shift with only three 15-minute breaks, enough time to walk off the plant floor, hopefully get an empty stall in the ladies room (not many available), line up for the water fountain (only one/lol) and check your cell phone (not allowed to be used inside plant) and then pray someone will let you back inside (being a temp I do not have access to get into building). Part of me was disappointed about the canceled shift last night, but it felt good sleeping finally. I have not been able to sleep when I get home after my 7am shift ends and end up staying up until 2pm doing online job searching and of course household stuff. Thank goodness my boyfriend and myself do not have any minor kids around but he does have family that love to “stop by unannounced” and I am lucky so far not to have any. It is enough trying to stay awake during the shift when I am so needing my sleep. I get up at 8pm to get ready, cook and not even daring to sit somewhere. Yes, I will doze off/lol. During the 6 hours I make myself stay in the bed, I may sleep 3 hours. Anyway, staying home although it is Memorial Day just in case the agency calls. This is my life right now, but I am so GLAD to finally be able to get my FIRST paycheck this Friday for a week (they hold back a week) after ending my 6 month temporary assignment in Orlando, Florida in January of this year.

    God was so GOOD, because a lot of companies including this temporary agency will use “welfare” folks before the regular folks like myself. Why? They get a “tax break” – and the only reason I got a call finally after walking up to their office every day to sign up for work – one of their favorite folks did a “no show”… Thank goodness I know how these agencies work and in spite of not sleeping, I took the Monday assignment and only God kept me awake after not sleeping for 24 hours. Ever since then, I have been working and will not refuse any work. And yes, I am way overqualified for this production worker gig – but not complaining at all 🙂

    I am also “volunteering” during the day starting next week at the Columbus State University here in Columbus, Georgia for a professor in the education department and in the provost department. This is where my heart is and a “smile” comes to my face as I write this. Ideally I am hoping that when the professor’s grant money comes in, she will hire me on and when the hiring freeze is lifted, the provost will hire me in. Until then, I pray through the pain in my lower back and legs, and trying not to be vain as I watch my already huge veins in the back of my legs get bigger 🙂

    Talk later and HAPPY Memorial day everyone especially to our present and ex arm forces. Words can NEVER thank you enough for the sacrifices you have made in order to keep us safe.

    Angela J. Shirley
    My Website: Surviving Unemployment!
    http://survivingunemployment.weebly.com

  11. Today is Tuesday 6/14/11 and I am back to WAITING for another assignment from my temporary agency(lol).

    Yep, made it 3 weeks at the bakery for Lance Incorporated and for that I am GRATEFUL = 3 paychecks 🙂

    Things came to a head on my LAST night there, Sunday 11pm to 7am. Bottom line, they are now “weeding” out temps that are not up to par. And by this I mean, good PRODUCTION WORKER material. While I am disappointed that I did not make the cut, my body is GLAD. Finally feeling better physically and got some sleep. Only GOD got me through those 3 weeks of being on my feet all of the shift with only three 15 minute breaks, just enough time to get off the production floor, visit the ladies room, get some water and head back to my workstation. Note: no lunch(lol).

    At age “soon to be” 53, I am PROUD of myself for being able to do this assignment for my agency who are ever so grateful and now have me on their list for another assignment.

    So today, I have dedicated my day to figuring out some NEW income sources and enjoying our 2 dogs who have been missing me at nights while my boyfriend is visiting his family in Orlando, Florida. We live in Columbus, Georgia.

    So how is your job hunting and day/night going?

    Talk later…

    Angela J. Shirley
    My Website: Surviving Unemployment!
    http://survivingunemployment.weebly.com

  12. Happy Holidays & all the BEST for 2012!

    I am now permanently living in Columbus, Georgia and working for Primerica as a life insurance agent. Still working on gaining my financial independence as commissions only work is not steady. Some weeks it is ZERO(lol).

    Talk later?

    Angela J. Shirley
    My Website: “How To Survive Unemployment”
    http://survivingunemployment.weebly.com

  13. Merry Christmas Angela! I’m glad to hear you’ve started on a new career venture. Nothing is safe, so finding a way to make it on your own, as in through sales of some sort, is becoming the wave of the future. Perhaps you can get a part time job to supplement your income while you’re building up your book of business. These days, it’s all about having multiple income sources!

  14. Hi Kevin:

    You are right and I am constantly seeking some income sources and working on getting the word out for my freelance gig.

    I am heading now to see what you have been up to. Been TOO LONG since I visited(lol).

  15. Happy 2012 Everyone!!!

    Just a quick update on my story and hope to hear your story 🙂

    Today was a day of “realization” of what “miracles” are!

    Yes, I have been battling with “believing” since 2008 (laid off for the 3rd time) and at age 54 this year I had my personal miracle. Yes, there have been miracles throughout my life – ones I was not paying attention to/lol.

    This one I did!!!! Why?

    The power cord to the second-hand laptop I had been “blessed” with this January 2012 decided to act up, just when I do not have it in my budget to replace it. With the battery being old, I have to stay hooked up at the local library I go to use their free wifi. It was about 1 week of stressing myself and my daughter out over finding a replacement and the cost attached.

    LOL, just when I had resolved myself to going back to using the library’s free computers for 3 hours each day if they are available – the power cord now works.

    Now that is a “miracle” and of course the enemy tried to tell me each day I hooked it up that it would not work.

    Thank you Jesus for not giving up on me even when I had.

    Now your turn…

    Be Blessed,
    Angela J. Shirley
    Blog: How To Survive Unemployment
    Virtual Assistant Site: Whatever Needs To Be Done, Inc.

  16. Hi Angela–it’s those “little” blessings along the way that remind us that we’re always in God’s care no matter what our circumstances. Keep believing and looking for those miracles, they’re everywhere!

  17. I am so glad I have learn’t to accept the things I cannot change and move forward with the awesome things I still have in my life.

    Yep, yesterday I found out I no longer qualify for my FREE blood pressure medicine. Here in Columbus, Georgia where I live – they recertify you every 3 months. Not like a whole year in Orlando, Florida were I used to live. As of today, I am going to finish up the 10 pills have left and trust that I will soon be able to afford to visit a medical doctor in order to obtain more or this may be my miracle = no longer need to be on them.

    In the past when I had to stretch out my pills (skipping every other day) just to make them last, I had allowed horror stories from the internet to scare me into worrying when I was without my pills – strokes and so on.

    Well, LOL/this time – I am not going to think about these stories and continue on my quest to become financially independent again. It has been 4 long years of being “creative” with this issue (the finances) – some days I do get tired and scared – but not today. It was like the news gave me more energy to prove to myself and society – she is just going to be fine.

    So how are you doing today? I would love to hear about your day – life or whatever you feel comfortable with sharing. Thank you SO MUCH for reading my blog!

    Hugs and much love coming your way, Angela

  18. Hi Angela–You can only do what you can do, and then let go of what ever might happen. Joyce Meyer talks a lot about letting go of worry and trusting God. Worry will only hamper your efforts to improve your situation, where trust is relying on God. Most of us don’t fully appreciate that the only reason we’ve lived as long as we have and have avoided far worse circumstances is the merciful hand of God.

    If we tune into the media we’ll have plenty to worry about. They hype us into a state of fear that way they can sell us what they have to offer. We have to let trust replace fear, because a state of fear is no way to live, and no way to move forward. “Let go and let God” has to be repeated again and again. Make your best efforts, trust God with the outcome, and choose not to live in fear.

  19. Tomorrow will be another day to celebrate our fathers who are employed or unemployed. I know personally, this year’s mother’s day was a bittersweet one. Why? I was glad to be alive to celebrate it, but sad that I am still on that famous route of “creative” income generation/lol. Missing that regular direct deposit into my bank account!

    Well folks, I am back in Orlando, Florida – arrived this morning at 1:20am via the Greyhound bus. Staying with my adult daughter and her roommate and working on some “creative” solutions to my homelessness status.

    I was disappointed things did not work out between my boyfriend and myself in Columbus, Georgia but arrived back in Orlando for some good news!!! My 25 year old daughter finally met a decent man and he is talking marriage. LOL, now for MY talk with the young man to warn him that “Mama” does not play and he better treat her baby right.

    He wants to meet me, but to be honest, I am in no hurry to do so. Why? He did not accompany my daughter to the Greyhound Bus station this morning using the excuse of having to get up at 9am for a meeting. So what? It takes just a few minutes to come get the Queen and then head back to bed. Oh well, he will learn really quickly, while I do not demand a lot from my daughter – when she is needed, she is ALWAYS there for me. Being raised by a single mom does that to you – makes you protective of the lady that was ALWAYS in your corner when other folks was not…

    I did soften a little (still on my guard duty) and asked her to tell him to call me tonight when he gets off his job. Yes, he has a job. By the way, she was not thrilled with him either about the Greyhound station. Hey, we both could have been kidnapped in the parking lot/lol. It was 1:20am – yikes.

    All I told her was to make sure she talked with him about issues as they come up to make sure she can live with him the way he is. And so that he knows what bothers her. Don’t do what I just did I told her – kept ignoring the caution flags here in Orlando and ended up with a red light in Columbus, Georgia = wasted 2 years of my life (2010-2012). It was either him or me and I chose me. I no longer care about him, wore me out mentally and emotionally – now to regain my insides and move on to plan B. Where to live as I am so not staying with my daughter. But it was nice to have somewhere to come to and rest my weary head and body. I don’t know how folks do that Greyhound routine – wore my 53 year old body out…

    So what’s been going on with you?

    Lots of love coming your way as usual, Angela

  20. Hi Angela–With your daughters boyfriend, just be careful not to hit too hard too early. He may be a decent guy with a few bad habits, or just some things that rub you the wrong way. Try not to scare him off–:-)–after all, none of us are perfect! Be thankful that you have a place to go that feels like home–loved ones ARE home, much more so than places are.

  21. It is now 8/20/13 and I have been able to generate some income with my Virtual Assisting Business (Whatever Needs To Be Done, Inc.). Now to figure out a safe and affordable living arrangement. And I turn 55 next month. The month to start another year, wiser and full of expectations.

  22. Hi Angela – Your update convinces me even more that self-employment is the ultimate answer to unemployment. There aren’t a lot of jobs around – at least not the full-time with benefits kind – but there’s work all over the place. Self-employment is often just a matter of finding what work needs to be done and offering your services. Not easy, but there aren’t many options otherwise.

    As far as a living arrangement, can you board/rent a room in someone’s house? Not perfect, but safer and generally a lot cheaper than a house or apartment.

  23. Hi Kevin:

    I am staying with my adult daughter at the moment and would rather have my own place. When it is not family, you run the “risk” of the other person either not paying their part of expenses or not working out. lol, did the sharing of living quarters with roommates and my ex who I finally left of good last year June. And to be honest, I do not see myself ever giving up MY place again. My personality needs “peace” and when sharing with someone, there are no guarantees with that. It took 54 years to LEARN about myself, wish I had this wisdom earlier in my life – but I have been able to teach my daughter and now at age 26 she is a whole lot WISER than I was at her age/lol. I ENCOURAGE all parents to “share” with their children in the hopes of saving them some of life’s experiences we do not have to go through if we have KNOWLEDGE. As the saying goes “knowledge is power” and I am an example of this being so true. When I have some time, I plan on visiting the rest of your blog to see what you have been up to. Thanks for the response 🙂

  24. Hi Kevin, I am finally at the end of my homeless journey. Stayed one year in a shelter and used that time to reinvent myself. Received my certificate for medical administrative assistant and just started to work for Carilion Hospital. I am moving into my own efficiency near to work so that I can walk just in case my second-hand car does not want to work. I am on a flexible schedule which means I may have to work anytime between 5am and 12midnight and 7 days a week. I wanted to thank you and your readers for supporting the homeless. Once I get moved in between now and September 1st – I will be moving on to my goal of helping other age 60 not to become homeless. Lol, it has been a rough 5 years and have I learn’t alot about that way of living. I want to educate them so that they do not end like I did. Wish I had the knowledge I now have. Have a great day all, Angela 🙂

  25. Hadn’t heard from you in a while Angela, glad you finally checked in, and glad to know your absence was due to good developments. It’s a tough climb when you’re in a bad place, but you’re experience shows it can be done, even at age 60. We have no choice but to never give up, and it sounds like that drive you forward. Congratulations! We all wish we had the knowledge “back then” that we have not, but we have to be thankful we have it now. I believe that saying, “what ever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

  26. Hi Kevin, had deactivated everything online on July 9th of last year in preparation to my move to another city in Virginia. This shelter is set up to help people if you want to help yourself. When you have some time, I would like to pass an idea your way with no obligation to accept 🙂 Being homeless at my age does create some challenges as we do not qualify for housing help and jobs are scarce. But there are ways to work around this and I finally figured that out/lol. Wish I had this knowledge back 5 years, but do not regret the journey I had to take as now I can offer my knowledge to anyone who wants help. Knowledge is power especially for women on their own and a senior. Thanks for all that you do with this website and lets chat some more when you can. Best wishes to you and your family. My only child has been there for me and I am so grateful. Too many seniors do not have this, but there are ways to still survive and get back on your feet.

  27. Hi Angela – You’ve learned a lesson that I’ve learned in my own life, that you’re not destroyed just because you fall on hard times. If you keep pressing forward and never give up, you’ll find yourself in a better place. Most of us even have advantages that don’t seem obvious when we hit bottom. It’s only when we recover that we realize what we had. It’s taught me to focus on the positive. I don’t think of myself as a positive thinker necessarily, but I’ve learned extreme pessimism doens’t help and isn’t useful. You have to see that you have value – even apart from your circumstances – and keep moving forward.

    It’s not easy when you’re going through it, but enough people break through that we should all be encouraged to make the climb. Your story Angela, is an example of this.

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