Coping with Unemployment; Job-Seekers Conference Set

[by R. Brayton Bowen]

Janet’s Story
Janet (not her real name) received a call from her supervisor, summoning her to an important meeting in her office.

Everything had to be put on hold. It was important. Very important!

Janet knew from the tone of Mary’s voice and all the chaos leading up to the call that it would not be a ‘good’ meeting. She had rehearsed the worst-case scenario in her mind repeatedly. And, yet every muscle in her body, every nerve screamed out in protest over what might occur.

In the end, her worst fears were realized. Janet was no longer wanted as an employee. She was escorted to the door like a common criminal, unable to collect her personal belongings or say good-bye to team members. A light was extinguished. Something ‘bad’ had happened to a very good person.


The Neutral Zone
During periods of unemployment, the time between jobs can be long. In the past one could expect to be unemployed for about one month for every $10,000 of income. A person used to making $30,000 a year could be off for three months; $40,000, four months, etc. In today’s economy that rule of thumb has tripled, even quadrupled. Maintaining self-esteem and a positive attitude, especially in the face of a career assault or professional rejection, can be extremely difficult during such a period, but doing so is vitally important for growth, recovery and future success.

William Bridges (Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes) refers to this period as the “neutral zone” – a time of uncertainty and chaos. Any number of the newly unemployed try to skip this period, determined to get employment as quickly as possible. But, in the process they rob themselves of the experience of going within – rediscovering who they are and what is really important in their lives.

This is also a time for healing – especially, when someone feels he or she has been dealt with unfairly. Ironically, one of the best ways to facilitate the process of recovery and renewal is to reach out by offering assistance to others, e.g., volunteering. Staying connected is another, especially through personal and social networking.

But crawling back into bed and hiding under the covers is not an option. This is the time to meet fellow ‘travelers’ and spread the word that one is “between jobs” and “available.”

“It Takes the ‘Ville to Raise its Economy”
From résumé writing and interviewing to letter writing and networking, Jewish Family & Career Services has coached, counseled and cajoled to buoy spirits and get people back to work. No matter how prepared, however, without available opportunities, many job seekers, like Janet, are “all dressed up with no place to go.” Paraphrasing a familiar saying, a number of community volunteers, business leaders, and educators, have concluded that “it takes the ‘Ville to raise its economy.”

Job-Seekers Conference
On Friday, October 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., job seekers will be able to realize a unique experience – a conference that brings together employers, speakers and support service providers, to help Louisville’s unemployed with issues of healthcare, housing, daycare services, etc., while looking for work.

The Job Seekers Conference will be held at the Louisville Free Public Library, 301 York St. Register online at or on location. Check-in begins at 9:30. Registration is free. Seminars will feature timely topics: Cracking the New Economy Job Market; Finding Work Without Losing Heart; Growing Your Career; and Relating Your Skills to the Job You Want.

Service providers include JFCS, Catholic Charities, Business First, Louisville Urban League, HIRE (GLI’s “Higher Income Requires Education” group, representing all higher education institutions) and Passport.
Some 20 employers will be on location, including LG&E, JCPS, Kentucky One Health, UPS, GE, Hyatt Regency, Hosparus, Louisville Metro Government and Stock Yards Bank.

Although there will be no on-the-spot hiring, job seekers will be given the opportunity to meet and be considered for positions with which their skills are a match. Resource providers will guide seekers to proper help.

The goal is for Louisville to become a full-employment community, enabling people like Janet to find a more satisfying work experience than the last and a quality of life that is richer and more fulfilling than before.
Editor’s note: R. Brayton Bowen is author of Recognizing and Rewarding Employees (McGraw-Hill) and leads The Howland Group®, a strategy consulting and change management firm committed to Building Better Worlds of Work®. For information, go to

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