from the void, a voice of the unemployed.

Were that I could impart, instruct and impress upon a small world the experience as a longtime unemployed, what would it be?

Would I write of hopelessness? I certainly would. (And have and did, frequently and privately in Tacoma.)

Would I write of struggle? In a singular heartbeat.

Hardship? Uh huh.

Deep depression? Absolument and not without a counselor at the side, even if s/he be internal or imagined, to assuage the pain and temptations to end it all.

Those are all unwell and good and valid.

Yet what I’d write of above all is the dispiritedness and weariness that set in because people don’t respond.

I will forego exploration and analysis of the cultural and societal shifts; I think we’re all fairly aware that courtesy is uncommon, manner is menial and thoughtfulness is tempting the fates of demise.

This is personal, this post. As one who has walked the walk of the longtime unemployed and really not talked a lot about it, I’ve arrived at the awareness that for the shitload of stressors and damages psychologically, emotionally, financially and spiritually, the isolation created by lack of responses to resumes takes the greatest toll of all.

In fact, for that very reason I initiated a support group in Tacoma. Like all else, including life itself, it went nowhere.

I couldn’t begin to enumerate the quantity of resumes/applications/letters of interest submitted over these 36 months without work (excepting the brief PT tutoring stint). Guesstimate: Deep into the hundreds, easily.

Overall response rate: 1-2%.

Of that miniscule figure: automated responses: 7%. Personalized: 3%

I write of this — this isolation created by near-ZERO responses — partly because it goes unrecognized and overlooked and is not oft-talked about; it is poorly understood, if understood at all, by the great majority of employed.; for the millions unemployed, it is a way of life. The grinding isolation is a topic that falls through the cracks like most of our resumes.

Isolation. To be clear, I write of it in the context of the longtime unemployed who truly want to work, who are actively looking and applying and doing their sincere best.

The others, the lazy bums / I’m entitled / what’s a work ethic? / love that socialism! sorts taking advantage of and feeding off our burgeoning welfare state and blowing off employment efforts can go … elsewhere. To them, this writing does not apply.

Are employers overwhelmed? Sure they are. No question.

Why, just a few weeks ago, I submitted a resume/samples for a career opening.

I didn’t hear back and didn’t hear back. I followed up (one of my strengths).

He finally responded. He not only responded but acknowledged and apologized for the discourtesy (now there’s someone I’d like to work for!) and then shared that he’d been flooded with responses — 400-500 resumes in the day after the ad posted!

That’s a fucking lot of people out of work and/or seeking gainful employment!

I sympathize with employers. I do.

I sympathize with the plight of the unemployed more. Job-seeking is a tireless, thankless, taxing and exhausting endeavor.

It takes everything you’ve got. Never mind whether you’re looking for work in career; so very many of us are looking for anything. And when you’re emptied of all energy, hope, faith, stamina and spirit, these times demand that you do it again and again and again and yet again. There is no rest for the weary. Neither, all too often, employment. Or even a voice on the other end saying “thank you for your resume and thinking of us.”

For my part, I’m king, queen, prince, princess and page of endurance. I’m not easily defeated. My life has, starting at a very young tender age, depended upon my fight and will to live. I know the ropes to survival.

Yet even I, in spirit of soldier and survivor, have been beaten down and defeated by the search for jobs. I’ve seen my workhorse stamina skeletal and collapsed to the ground, my hopes vanished, my gumption gone, my spirit dispirited, my energy evaporated. In Tacoma/Washington. (Spaces and places matter.)

I daresay that the chief reason is the isolation when human beings toward whom I’ve poured my best efforts and sincere wishes/desires for a job simply. do. not. respond. Not. a. dewdrop. of. acknowledgment.

Try bearing through that for years and retaining optimism. It’s no wonder the polls show Americans giving up and more hopeless and despairing about jobs and the economy than since The Great Depression.

I’m not alone. So spare the “it’s not you.” The heart knows what is.

What is in our job searches is isolation.

You know what I do on that exceptionally rare occasion when I receive a response that’s not automated?

I’m so dang grateful and so darn THANKFUL that someone responded, someone saw me, that someone had the courtesy and kindness or, simply, manner to acknowledge the human being on the other side of an emailed resume that I write a thank you in gratitude. The potential employer’s voice sets the tone of my response; this one for example:

Hi Liz,

I appreciate your response, I surely do; responses are exceptionally rare in today’s labor market. Only two sightings of a snow leopard in a single day is rarer.

I wish you the best with your hire and again thank you for taking a moment to reply. If even half the companies did as you did, the world would be a much more thoughtful, considerate, mannered and kinder place.

Best to you and all at the Advocates —

Will I remember Liz a decade from now?

You bet! Because she responded.

Isolation is the Great Eroder and Destroyer of that which we as humans need most: connection.

Without it, we wither into nothingness. (Not unlike our economy; that, however, is a post that shan’t be written.)

Were I to offer a single suggestion to employers, it is: Respond to your applicants. All of them. Even an automated response is better than no response at all. It’s a pin light in the void. A simple small gesture that just might comfort, for a split second, the longtime unemployed and remind that somewhere across the cold void of isolation is a human being.

To the general public (with special attention to those employed or only briefly unemployed): Talk to your friends, family and others who are long without work. Invite them to your homes. Give them a meal. Take them on an outing. Treat them to a cup of coffee. Encourage them to talk and share their experiences and realities. For God’s sake do not say “it’s not you” when they despair; it devalues their experience. Listen. Learn. Be there. Because 98% of the employing world is not.


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