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You Have Two Choices

As I see it, if you are unemployed you have two choices…work or don’t work. choiceIt may sound overly simple, it may even sound cruel. Take all the emotion, unfairness, the economy “sucks” and other excuses/reasons out of the equation and that’s what you have, right? Why isn’t it as simple as this?

Not long ago, I received some comments asking for me to provide insight, advice, help for the 99ers (99ers are those people who have been unemployed for 99 weeks or longer and exhausted their unemployment) and for those people who are living on the edge of homelessness. The readers suggested that my advice on networking over coffee and attending professional association meetings/conferences which both require spending money (which these folks don’t have) are not realistic.  I agree.

Starting Your Job Search Right

I primarily address the needs of those new to job search.  My belief is that if I can catch them early and get them on the right trail, it is sort of a form of preventative medicine.  The longer someone is out of work without appropriate treatment, the more severe the disease gets, so to speak.

Living Below or Within Your Means

I have never been on the edge of losing my home.  I HAVE lived through my husband’s 18 months of job search. We had always lived meagerly, but we had to cut back even more.  We canceled our cable. We ate a lot of spaghetti. We played the shell game with our bill paying.  We got depressed.  It was horrible and I NEVER want to go back there. We did learn some valuable lessons and still strive to live within our means and pay off our credit cards (when we seldom use them).

We hadn’t had a lot of money coming in before this either.  I remember crying over the phone with my sister-in-law as I told her I hadn’t bought any new underwear in over 5 years. The few I had left were either torn or the elastic was shot.  No- this isn’t the same as almost losing our home, but I remember how helpless and hopeless I felt.  This is my point.  The longer this went on, the more we both spiraled into despair.


When you have to worry about basic needs, food and shelter, all our energy goes into figuring out how to survive and there is little energy left for anything else. I have heard that those who live in poverty have adopted coping strategies to help them through this.  For many of the long-term unemployed, this is their first experience, and most may not have developed their coping skills, which makes their situations even more overwhelming.

Work or don’t work.

So, back to the 2 choices. There are jobs out there. Maybe not good ones or the ones you may want or ones that will pay all the bills. Think short-term, survival.  Some money coming in is better than no money coming in.

The other option is to create a job…there are lots of problems that need solving, services that need to be provided.  Think simple.  Think short term. Child care, dog walking, office cleaning, elder care, data entry, lawn care, handy person…look around.  I am suggesting simple, word of mouth advertising. Nothing complicated.  (Shhh, maybe under the table). Finding customers/clients requires hustle, sales, positive attitude. I know, this isn’t easy, but it is a solution. (Read “Are You in Survival Mode Yet“)

Barter for services you need such as a babysitter.  Call in a favor.

Don’t tell me you don’t know anyone…because that’s not true.  I think what is closer to the truth is that you don’t feel comfortable asking anyone.  That’s different. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to ask for help.  Moving forward, I hope you’ll see that building relationships is sort of important.

So, for all those long-term unemployed, ask yourself this.

Are you saying “I can’t, because…..” or “I will, because…”



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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ed Han August 9, 2011, 6:38 am

    Hannah, this is so important and it’s well said as well. I think you really got to the heart of it when you said: “I think what is closer to the truth is that you don’t feel comfortable asking anyone.”

    It’s very hard, no question. A sense of shame or embarrassment can be incredibly powerful. Don’t let pride stop you from doing what needs doing.

    Great blog, Hannah, and particularly timely as search processes continue to grow in many cases.

  • Hannah Morgan August 9, 2011, 6:44 am

    Ed, thanks so much! This post was difficult for me to hit the “publish” button on. I hope it helps someone!

  • Deborah Mourey August 9, 2011, 9:59 am

    Hannah, Thank you for writing this post. For those of us who grew up poor, we know the pain of having to do without. Instead of having it be a burden – we learned to make a game out of looking for bargains.
    The underwear story you tell is very real for a lot of people. We think our children will have terrible memories of having to economize but the truth is they learn, grow and feel a part of the solution when they are included. We don’t have to burden them, but we can share what’s appropriate.
    I learned to be grateful for what I have and everyday that I (& my family and the people I love) have good health , a roof, food and each other – I count that as a great day.
    Most of life is showing up…asking for help is part of showing up. You can network by helping out and never spend a dime. I do it all the time.

    Thanks for a wonderful reminder of how fortunate I am. Deborah

    • Hannah Morgan August 9, 2011, 11:59 am

      I love it when you comment!
      Most of life IS showing up! Yes! I can hear you saying this now!
      A dash of creativity and a heap of “positive attitude” can get you almost anywhere you want to go!

  • Marc Miller August 9, 2011, 10:29 am

    The last dozen years have effected caused most baby boomers to re-evaluate how they spend money and the concept of retirement.

    What you write is not about a few but many thousands. I live and serve in a community not hit as hard as the rest of the country, Austin, but we still have thousands out of work.

    The non-profit I serve, Launch Pad Job Club, our meetings are “down” to 100-150 attendees a week. That is “down” from the 350-400 in 2009. Although numbers are rising as the state government starts layoffs.

    Thanks for writing this.

    • Hannah Morgan August 9, 2011, 11:56 am

      There are still too many Boomers who anticipate retiring (in my opinion, at least). When the life expectancy keeps rising, it becomes unfathomable in my mind that one could retire and not work for 30+ years. Financially and mental health-wise. So I hope the message continues to spread rapidly.

      I am so glad to hear your numbers are dropping, that’s one of the few instances where dropping numbers are a good thing. Keep up the good work you are doing with the Launch Pad Job Club!

  • Frank Gullo August 9, 2011, 1:29 pm

    Hannah – Thank you for the honest and direct post.

    • Hannah Morgan August 11, 2011, 4:31 am

      Thank YOU for reading it. As soon as we can all start bootstrapping or piecing together some paid opportunities, the better we’ll all be (way too simplistic a statement, I know, but isn’t that what it all boils down to?

  • Jennifer Bulman August 9, 2011, 6:52 pm

    An excellent post! If career specialists don’t tell it like it is, we are part of the problem. Here in Ottawa, Canada, there are currently a number of free services people can take advantage of.
    And many independent professionals like myself give back on regular basis through presentations and support ot job clubs.
    In my experience, over 60% of the people who cry “broke” have tried NONE of the free services, and will not take advice when it is given. They have written themselves a script which says they are failures. They apply to the dwindling pool of jobs in their old specialty or they use their technical resumé to apply for a cashier job and wonder why they don’t get that job.
    The ones see unemployment as a left-handed gift , who write themselves a new script, are willing to work and take chances, willing to take a bridging job instead of a punishment job, willing to go for a job that is not there (but they create), willing to learn and take advice from a variety of sources – they *are * flourishing.

    • Hannah Morgan August 11, 2011, 4:34 am

      I am glad to hear Ottawa has lots of free resources too. I used to work for a Dept of Labor One Stop and I know we saw thousands of people, but certainly not everyone. It is a pitty.

      Thank you so much for your comment! Here’s an idea…what if unemployment were restructured as a work program? If you collect, you have to give your time in some way, doing something needed. Hmmm.

      This certainly isn’t the end, it is perhaps, just the beginning of a new world of work

  • Jeff August 9, 2011, 9:58 pm

    Good stuff. I had to laugh at the comment, “Most of life IS showing up,” because I just saw that quote again today by Woody Allen – “80 percent of success is showing up.” Many people get sidelined by the notion that they will get stuck if they take any job just because they need one. If you’re a 99er it’s time to look at things differently. Maybe the perfect job isn’t out there right now but a good “company” might be. Take anything they have and when something better opens up you’re in position to move. You can only go without for so long.

    • Hannah Morgan August 11, 2011, 4:40 am


      I’ve heard this about dating, “He isn’t Mr. Right, but he is Mr. Right now.”

      Let’s get into the game and start playing!

  • lili May 16, 2013, 6:07 pm

    Es complicado, yo soy una desempleada de  4 años de duración.
    Soy inmigrante y no conozco a mucha gente, así que tengo reducida esa red de contactos personales.
    Luego tengo problemas de salud (espalda) y no puedo cuidar niños, ni ancianos, ni hacer trabajos de limpieza…esos servicios que pudieran darme al menos alguna entrada de dinero.
    Mi currículum no me acompaña porque el trabajo que hacía no lo puedo hacer más (esfuerzo físico)
    La espiral de depresión ya se acompaña con la quñimica de mi cuerpo que comienza la premenopausia
    Es realmente triste la búsqueda infructuosa de trabajo,
    no tengo para comer ni para pagar un piso.
    Para mi, no es cuestión de trabajar o no trabajar…no es por mi elección

    • careersherpa May 17, 2013, 5:05 am

      @lili I am sorry to hear about your situation. 4 years is a long time. You are probably right, a resume won’t do you much good. Your small group of friends and family are your best choice. Ask who they know and ask for ideas! Best of luck.