How to survive unemployment

IT professionals share advice

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George Moraetes, an information security executive, hasn't been able to find a steady job in two years. As a result, he's had to consider moving into a smaller home. His wife is losing her patience with him and with their financial situation, and his children tell him he's a loser.

"Did you find a new job yet?" he says they ask him every day. "Why can't you find a job?" they ask.

"They don't understand," Moraetes says. "There are no jobs. Unemployment, especially long term, is devastating."

Joblessness can lead to much more than financial ruin. It precipitates bouts of loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, even full-blown depression. Unemployment ravages people emotionally because it disrupts every aspect of their lives, their routines, identities and relationships.

Mental health experts say those emotions are common among unemployed professionals, but they can cripple a person who needs to tap her self-esteem while job hunting in a tough market. Such emotional trauma doesn't bode well for the 14.9 million people who are currently unemployed, according to the US Department of Labour.

Despite his troubles, Moraetes keeps fighting back. He spends 10 hours a day on his job search, firing off résumés to suitable job opportunities, attending networking events, staying active on social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, and doing volunteering in his field. He's even written software that mines unadvertised job opportunities on the web.

Coping with feelings of worthlessness, resentment inside his family, and financial insecurity hasn't been easy. Moraetes and other IT executives have faced many psychological trials following their job loss, and in this story they share how unemployment has affected different aspects of their lives.

"The stages you go through when you lose a loved one, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, many people go through the same thing when they lose a job," says Lisa Caldas Kappesser, an executive coach and author of The Smart New Way to Get Hired: Use Emotional Intelligence and Land the Right Job (JIST 2010).

Stage One: A life out of balance

Jason Alba remembers stepping out of his house to get the mail one weekday when he was unemployed four years ago. It was midday, and Alba was still dressed in his pajamas. As he squinted at the houses lining his street on that bright, sunny day, something seemed out of place.

Alba's suburban neighborhood was eerily quiet. No cars passed. No dogs roamed. All the houses were locked up. Alba was the only soul haunting his street.

Then it hit him: He was the one out of place.

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