home »

dear headhunter columns »

career insider columns »

syndicated newspapers »

internet/on-line readership »

the buzz about George »

biography/references »

order advice/order book »

send email »

Terminated '03 – How to Survive Unemployment

This year, 2003, has seen the highest unemployment rate in ten years, with a high rate of 6.4 percent in June. I double-checked and confirmed these figures with Suzana Harris, senior consultant with Oi Partners, The McGuire Group, which is the largest outplacement firm in the world. Harris added that the unemployment rate tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor only reflects the number of persons who have applied for benefits and that the actual rate could be near 12percent. So, if you are currently among these percentages, I hope this column will help you move toward employment.

The normal reaction to being out of work is anger and asking, "Why me?" Next is acceptance of the reality of your situation, knowing "It's me!" Finally, "It's up to me!" — determination to fix your situation and move forward. Unemployment feelings are the same feelings as the breaking of any relationship (i.e. divorce, separation, death of a loved one). Acceptance and your resolve are the new feelings you need to use to attain your next career relationship. Unemployment slowly erodes your dignity and feelings of self-worth. The longer the gap, the more this erosion will attack your psyche.

Now, here are positive tips to help you cope, remain positive, move forward and get back to work. Save these tips and read them daily. Stick them on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Read and re-read these reminders to keep you focused. The following tips will help you move your career life from surviving to thriving.


Today is my only reality. I must stay in the present. I can only control and direct my actions today. Forget yesterday. Don't dwell on your former job or company. Even if you were treated unfairly, forgetaboutit! Look forward knowing that you will find employment regardless of how long it takes. Develop an action-oriented plan.


Stay in motion. The law of inertia states "An object in motion stays in motion." Proactive networking is the most important daily goal. Talk to everyone you know. Become assertive and always ask for referrals. Make a list of anyone that can help you. Motivation is external and can fade, but determination is internal and will lead to success.


Take a good look in the mirror. Is my image a problem? If you have been unemployed for a long time, you may have neglected your image. Do I need to upgrade my wardrobe? Ask friends and family for honest feedback. Do I need more education? This may be the opportune time to restart my education and set new goals.


Keep track of my activities. Take as many interviews as possible. It's good practice and will sharpen your verbal skills. If you receive a job offer you don't want, just turn it down. Keep a log of the number of interviews and results or feedback. When you do not get a job offer or a second interview, ask the interviewer, "What do I need to improve?"


The spider with the biggest web catches the most bugs. Work the Internet everyday to find job leads. Think of ways to expand your networking contacts and ask for new contacts from your list. Forget what your mother said; Talk to strangers. A survey indicates that talking to others and getting referred to a company is how 62 percent of the unemployed found their new jobs. If you are referred by a current employee, you have an immediate advantage over other candidates.


Your situation will change. Recognize this truth: you are not your job or your job title. Your earning power and stability may be in danger, but remember that you are still a hard working, loyal, committed person with integrity, honesty and a good sense of humor. If you feel like a victim, it will affect your ability to move forward. Resentment can destroy a positive attitude and be a total turn-off if discussed during an interview. Staying positive and knowing that low tide is always followed by high tide. Nothing is as permanent as it appears.


Volunteer and create your own luck. It is very difficult to help others when you're down. How can I reach out to help a friend when I'm getting calls from a collection agency? Remember cause and effect. By helping others, you create an avenue for someone to help you. This is an unseen force that I have seen work many times. What goes around truly comes back around to you.


Family, church and friends are some of the most important support groups. Some people isolate themselves from the closest people in their life. They try to ignore the pain by not sharing their concerns and fears. Staying involved means sharing the pain and valuing those who will help, understand and support your efforts.


What other choices do I have? Self-employment, relocation, temp work, buying a franchise, consulting? Expand your options. Is the answer to start a small business? Should I be open to relocation to get the right job? What can I do to generate income? Think outside the box you've built around yourself. Accepting temp work is a dual opportunity to explore companies and industries you may never have considered, and it will add cash flow to pay your bills. Temp work also allows you flexibility to make interviews.

Harris also said, on a positive note, "Everyone I work with through Oi Partners eventually gets another job if they are persistent in their job search. I am also encouraged that so many middle-age high school grads are thinking of going back for a college degree. It's never too late — in 4 years you're going to be 4 years older, you might as well be 4 years older with a college degree."

So, the bottom, bottom line is persistence. Believe that, do it and it has to happen.


Counting your blessing sounds really corny, but make a list of positives, like your loving family, good health, and supportive friends. Listing your assets will give you a sense of self-worth. You must stay positive even when that seems unrealistic.

"Action is eloquence." -Shakespeare
"Change your thoughts and you change your world." -Norman Vincent Peale

PLEASE NOTE: emails received become the property of "Dear Headhunter" and may be published unless otherwise requested. Questions may be edited for content and length. All questions will be reviewed, some without a reply.

George Gurney has been a leader in the employment industry since 1976. He founded an executive search firm that conducts domestic and international assignments.  He has won numerous awards for recruiting excellence.  He has been a guest speaker at national conventions and seminars.