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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An Unemployed Black Man’s Story

I’ve been unemployed for close to three years now. What truly aggravates me are the generalizations and judgments people make about people like myself who have been unemployed long-term.

I get no pleasure out of being unemployed. Since I lost my job, my life has been filled with stress, pressure and frustration. It’s been nerve-wracking trying to budget my savings since my unemployment ran out in October 2010. I have bouts of extreme anxiety and tension thinking about what the next day will bring and worrying about how to stretch a dollar until I get that next paying job.

Some would say that being out of work for close to three years that I’m lazy and I don’t want a job. Not so. I’d take any job if it were offered to me. I have no qualms about taking a job in a fast-food or a retail. When I first got out of college my first job was working in a supermarket. Unfortunately, in today’s job market retail and fast food places frown on hiring college graduates because they’re taught how to THINK. And Fast food and retail want people who will OBEY and follow orders.

And they also don’t want college graduates around talking about workplace safety, sexual harassment, living wages or that U word- UNION.

Others would say I was sponging off unemployment insurance and taking a 99 week vacation. Not so. when I was collecting unemployment for the 99 weeks there was no vacation. Since the day I lost my job in 2008, I’ve been looking for work intensely, putting in applications and sending resumes wherever I could send them every week. I went to interviews, but got no callbacks. And as the recession worsened throughout 2010 and into 2011 I soon found that the want ads were the same postings every week.

Then there are those who say I should get training for another career. I went to training at the Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center for 16 weeks for PC repair. Scored high on the A+ Certification exam in November of 2009.

And I’m still looking for a job that allows me to utilize my new skills. So far, no takers.

So while I’m still looking for a job that allowed me to utilize my new skills I taught myself self-publishing. Working for myself and other authors, free-lance I have gained four years of experience in doing page layouts, cover design and can turn raw materials into a finished paperback in 30 days or less. I’ve published four of my own books and assisted in the publication of four books for other authors. All satisfied customers.

And this year I learned how to publish eBooks. After helping a national bestselling author get their eBooks to market, I’ve been working on a summer campaign to target young adult readers using eBooks.

I haven’t been sponging on the government dime. I’m not taking a vacation. Since October of 2008 I’ve been working hard. Developing marketable skills. Networking. Looking for work.

And realizing I have to be more creative about it than searching the want ads or going to job fairs. 

So I really take offense when people say that long-term unemployed people like myself are lazy and don’t want to work.

I realize that in a post 9/11 great recession world that the traditional methods of pounding the pavement and sending out resumes are a waste of time. With many of the job listings repeating themselves and others telling unemployed people not to apply, It’s going to take imagination and creativity for an out-of-work person to like myself to find the hidden opportunities in the job market.

And employers are going to have to understand that most people like myself aren’t going to have the traditional work experience records over the past three years. With the job market being a mess for so long, people are surviving any way they can. Odd jobs, free-lancing, hustling, self-employment, this is how people find work and pay bills these days.

I’m asking everyone to be a bit more sensitive and understanding to the struggles of out-of-work people like myself. If the shoe were on the other foot and you were out of work for a year or more, you would want people to be compassionate and understanding of your situation. Instead of attacking long-term unemployed people, how about throwing them some support.


  1. Great blog POst.

    Creativity, ingenuity, as well as networking skills are important to have in these hard times. I think it's cool that you learned to start from scratch and helped yourself.

  2. Hi Shawn,

    I'm a sociologist doing research for a book on what expectations are placed on men, and how they deal with those expectations. A key part of the book will focus on the recession and unemployment. Can you email me so I can tell you more about the project and see if you're interested in being interviewed? Thanks.