The Unemployment Diaries: Changing Perceptions

When you’re unemployed for long enough you will end up in one statistical category or another. As I’ve been dragged through this journey there was one I hadn’t ever quite understood- in talking about changes to the unemployment rate analysts refer to a subset of long term unemployment: those who have given up. I would read that and think ‘How can that be? You can’t give up; you have to find a job’. How cute and naïve is that?

There are a lot of explanations behind this phenomena but here’s the one showing up in my life: a loss of belief in one’s own judgment. Last month I applied for a job where I did not meet one of the minimum requirements. I didn’t do this to fill my quota; I firmly believed that the rest of my experience might make up for this lack. Or, so I believed until I made it to the third round of interviews where I sat, looking outwardly poised but inwardly looking for the exit, and listened to one of the key managers describe their expectations- none of which had anything to do with my skills or background. How was it I knew I could not possibly do this job but they did not?

The flip side came last week when I applied for a job on Craigslist. By and large it was a customer service position but with a thin patina of ‘writing’ added which is what piqued my interest. Less than one day after the interview the hiring manager sent me an email outlining the comp package. He’s loving me, right? You don’t send that to every candidate. He asked me back for a single afternoon“trial run” of the job. Odd but…all right. I spent the afternoon performing customer support duties and realized I was over-qualified for the job only to be told today that they had hired someone else with “more experience”.

On the one hand, I’m not qualified but the employer pursues me and on the other, I’m over-qualified, the employer acts like he loves me but then rejects me. This is messed up in a way that reminds me of a guy I dated all through college. He was a serial philanderer and his psychological M.O. was to blame me because I didn’t ‘trust’ him which caused him to cheat. Twisted, yes, but he was my first love and I was young and stupid. What he left me with (which is making itself apparent again 30 years later) is an inability to trust myself. The way I perceive things is inaccurate. I don’t feel as if I know any longer how to interpret people’s words and actions. As I step forward, what I believe is ground may be thin air.
If I can no longer trust myself how can I project confidence when and if I get an interview? How much longer do I want to put myself out there in a situation that causes me nothing but pain? How high a price should anyone pay to get a job? I’m reverting to a self I fought for years to overcome and rather than do so may join the 14.5% of unemployed Americans who have “given up”.


  1. I don't think it's so much a lack of being able to trust your own judgment as it is the universal inability to be able to read the minds of everyone else. That sounds kind of wonky, but not everyone operates under an umbrella of rationality or reasonability (is that a word?) Anyway, while I understand your thinking, I'm serving as that annoying reminder that sometimes it's really not you--it's them.

    That doesn't help, but I also think it's important that you trust your own judgment in being confident in what you can offer. It might not be a perfect job you're qualified for and you might have to lower your expectations, but that doesn't mean you're lowering your worth or self-confidence.

  2. I can see how your self confidence and self esteem, pretty much the same thing, would suffer through this demeaning process. I agree with Abby that its more them than you. It might be that the person with "more experience" is really willing to accept a lower salary. Probably you don't get the real truth behind the rejection. Something will happen for you, as it seems from your post you certainly have the drive you need to make it happen. I'm wishing you success - soon!

    People Do Things With Their Lives

  3. Isn't it scary and annoying when something happens that makes us think we haven't really learned our lessons from youth? Sometimes I worry that my luckiest outcomes were simply that--a lucky fluke without which I'd still be that same insecure 18-year old making dumb decisions.

    But you are not that. People can just be hard to understand sometimes. Keep trusting yourself.


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