Unemployed? Are You Rocking or Are You Rolling?

by Joe Plemon on January 25, 2010

Losing your job is more than just losing a source of income.

It often brings on a loss of self esteem, especially with men, who too often equate work with identity.  Extended periods of unemployment can bring on shame, hopelessness and depression.

An interesting study

Studies by University of Chicago economist Bruce Meyer and Harvard’s Lawrence Katz show that people are most likely to find a job just as their unemployment benefit runs out.  The length of the unemployment is irrelevant; whether two weeks or ninety-nine weeks, they find work just as the benefit expires.  Assuming the merit of this study, I conclude that many do not passionately pursue employment until they know that real hunger is really close.

But what has happened to this person in the interim?

I suspect that the shame, low self esteem and possible depression has become more and more deeply entrenched into the psyche of the individual. The longer the time frame, the greater the erosion of confidence, creativity and enthusiasm.

Challenge and Encouragement

If you are currently without work, I want to challenge and encourage you.   You may have read that Congress is currently considering extending the unemployment benefit again, but let me ask, “Do you really think it is in your best interest to rock for month after month after month?  Do you want your life on hold or would you rather be rolling?”   There are lots of jobs out there…many are seasonal and many require relocation and many don’t pay very well.  But working is therapeutic; it cleans your spirit, brings new energy into your life and often opens doors into long term and meaningful careers.

So…are you ready?

Here are only a few of the hundreds of jobs that employers are offering.  I will give a link to the web site and a brief job description from the prospective employer:

  • Alaska Fishing Job: Alaska fish processing companies offer many benefits to their employees, including good wages, free lodging and meals, and often free transportation to and from Alaska if you fulfill all your contractual obligations. Jobs include working on the processing line, operating machinery, being a deckhand, quality control, or even finding a job as a government inspector or aquaculture scientist.
  • Work on a Cruise Line “Shipboard employees are typically divided into departments relating to service, passenger accommodations (sometimes called “hotel administration”), entertainment jobs, general ship maintenance, engine work, and safety. Different cruise lines use variations on these categories, but for our purposes we have divided onboard job descriptions into the areas of Activity/Entertainment, Deck & Engineering, Service/Hospitality, and Personal Care.”
  • Working at a dude ranch can be one of the most incredible experiences you ever have, leaving you with memories and friends that will last your entire life.”
  • Broadcasting Jobs: Learn about radio and television broadcasting career options, including on-air and post-production jobs. Audio engineering, script writing, producing, directing, and even Internet podcasting
  • Green Collar Jobs: What is a green collar job? Find out! Environmental job trends, green energy jobs in the wind and solar sectors, plus environmental law and green science employment opportunities.
  • Pyrotechnic Jobs: Find out how to become a licensed commercial pyrotechnician. Learn about fireworks display training, transporting hazardous materials, and more.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

I got most of these job opportunities  from the Job Monkey web site, but I have included several web sites where dozens of employers are advertising for thousands of jobs.   Take time to browse…you might just find something you had never considered.

I want to close this out by challenging those who are unemployed to consider this time of your life as an opportunity to try something you may have never done had you continued in your previous job.  These two vignettes (told by career coach Dan Miller) make my point:

“Honey, I just got fired.”

When Nathaniel Hawthorne went home to break the news to his wife that he had been fired, her response was, “Good.  Now you can write your book.” “But what will we live on meantime?” Hawthorne asked.  “With this,”  she replied, opening a drawer full of cash.  “I have always known you were a man of genius, so I have been saving a little each week.  We have enough here to live for a year.”  You can probably guess the rest of the story: Hawthorne used the time to write “The Scarlet Letter,” a great American literary masterpiece.

Fortune During the Depression

When Charles B. Darrow of Germantown, Pennsylvania was unemployed during the Great Depression, he passed the time by creating a board game that provided the possibility of fame and fortune.  This game is still the best selling board game in the world.  What is it?  Monopoly.

You might not write an American masterpiece or invent a great board game, but my guess is that there is some untapped passion waiting to be expressed.

Now just might be your time.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

penny January 25, 2010 at 1:09 pm

yman, not very good, getting fired. Have some friends going thru it now, husband and wife both high income both canned.


joeplemon January 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I feel for your friends…tough times. But sometimes tough times will stretch people in ways they never dreamed. Hopefully, that can be the case with your friends.


Patrick January 31, 2010 at 11:07 pm

GREAT article, Joe.

While I was in college I thought about working on a cruise line, but I joined the USAF instead. 6.5 years later I separated with an Honorable Discharge, but couldn’t find a job right away. I was on unemployment for several months while looking for work. I wanted to work, and I was able to work, but I couldn’t find a good match for my skills. After 4 months of dedicated searching I found a good job in the industry I was trying to break into.

The unemployment benefits helped (and I also had a solid emergency fund in place so I wasn’t hurting for cash), but I would have preferred to avoid using the benefits at all – I wanted to work. It’s a tough transition going from a high tempo work pace and a lot of responsibility to going to nothing overnight. It can be easy to get discouraged.

But even though it was a difficult time for me, things turned out better than I ever hoped. I have made a couple career transitions since then and my job now is more enjoyable, rewarding, and lucrative now than any other job I’ve had.

My advice to anyone looking for work is to maintain your focus, get creative, network, meet people, volunteer, take a freelance or consulting gig, and otherwise get out there and market yourself and your skills. If you have the drive and the skills, your situation will only be temporary, and quite possibly will lead to places you never imagined.


joeplemon January 31, 2010 at 11:23 pm


Thanks for sharing your story. I am sure that it will encourage other readers. The key for you was to be a self starter…to be persistent and to believe that by knocking on enough doors, one will surely open.

Your last paragraph is great advice, which, if followed, will make the difference between an exciting and fulfilling life and one that is only going through the motions.


Ryan @ Planting Dollars February 5, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Being without work is really depressing, I’ve been there. I actually put myself there a week ago as well when I quit. However, it’s nice to always have some side projects to focus on so you feel like you’re always working towards something positive. I do this by writing, working on websites, and staying physically active. For many their job is their purpose, so when they lose their job they lose their purpose, kinda sad.


joeplemon February 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Yes, being out of work can become depressing. Especially, as you say, when peoples’ jobs are their identities. I like the way you have activities to focus on and how you are stretching yourself to keep learning. My guess is that, by staying active, you will discover some new paths toward success that you never dreamed were out there.

The only way to steer a bicycle is to keep it moving.


Arthur @ FinancialBondage.org April 25, 2010 at 7:09 am

Happened to me in 2003 when I lost my job, pre Dave Ramsey days. I was not ready. Had tons of debt and payments and NO money. Like most Americans today.

If you are under 30 years old, your odds of being fired or laid off in the next 20 years is 90 percent!

Getting debt free and saving money and being prepared for life’s emergencies is really important.


joeplemon April 25, 2010 at 11:29 am

That is an amazing statistic…90 percent chance of losing job in the next twenty years if you are under 30. I realize people think, “It won’t happen to me.” But it really does happen, as you well know.

Other readers: Listen to what Arthur is saying!


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