Whether you’re headed to a wedding (even your own) or just a barbecue, you may interact with someone who is unemployed. Do you offer a hug? Should you feign laryngitis and walk away? It can be stressful for the employed, or otherwise economically stable, to know how to respond.
Trust me. Since I was laid off, family, former colleagues, and especially, strangers, (albeit indirectly and always unsolicited) let me know how challenging my joblessness is for them. These rules of thumb will help you handle the unbearable lightness of being around the non-working class.
JUDGE: If someone admits to being laid off, fired, let go, or otherwise not working, let her know that her current situation is directly related to her defective character. Use strong simplistic (not to be confused with simple!) terms. Cloak statements in the form of questions like, “What did you do wrong?” or “Who can blame them (insert: corporation here)?” If the unemployed person seems defensive, remind her that you have a job for a reason.
People who want a job but aren’t actively looking are called “discouraged workers” by the Labor Dept. CNN is calling them the “hopelessly unemployed,” and there are a lot of them: “Five years ago, before the recession began, about 2.5 million people said they wanted a job but hadn’t searched for one in at least a year. Now, that number is around 3.25 million.”
I Used to Be a Great Worker, Really Type A, And Then I Lost My Job And Now I Am What You’d Call Not That Into It
Almost didn’t read this WSJ article (“Out of Work Over 9 Months? Good Luck Finding a Job” on how hard it is for the long-term unemployed to get hired because duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh but sure glad I did because this line is POW BAM ZOINK: “Economists worry many of them will never work again.”
From CNN Money, five stories of the hopeless unemployed (you know, people who don’t have jobs and have stopped looking for jobs because they have found the job search to be … hopeless). Anyway, here’s what we’ve got:
—A 53-year-old former manager who is “too old to start an entry-level job and I’m too young to retire.”
—A 42-year-old cancer survivor (“Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I worked for the state of Oregon and was the number one service manager for the Department of Human Services. My job was to help low income families find work and get food stamps and insurance. Now, I cannot even get a job at McDonalds, and I’m the one living on social assistance.”)
—A 24-year-old grad student who went back to school because he couldn’t find a job (“I also took out the full amount in student loans, and I’m very worried about that. But basically, I had to make a choice between hard times now or hard times later.”)
—A 49-year-old former admin worker who was laid off, worked in a factory, tried to go back to school, ran out of financial aid, and now is trying to start a business (“What’s the worst that could happen? We can’t end up any worse off than we are now. And it’s better than taking a part-time, minimum-wage, whatever job.”)
—A 58-year-old man who worked for the same corporation for 28 years, was laid off, and applied for corporate jobs for years before giving up. He now lives off a small pension (“At this point in my life, I cannot get my head around starting over again. I realize that whatever I do, it will have to be something independent.”)
These people are not outliers. There are 3 million “discouraged workers” in this country.