Sunday, July 31, 2011

2 years, 73 cover letters, 10 interviews and still unemployed

Message to the White House last fall, on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building.
(photo by me, via cellphone)

This month, I marked the two-year anniversary of being out of work.

As the date approached, though, I felt things finally were looking up. I had three hot prospects on the line: one, an employer with whom I had already had a face-to-face interview (and had moved on to the "critique our product" stage), and two others, with whom I was due to interview in a matter of days.

So I had no reason to sulk. Instead, I looked back on the two years and crunched some numbers:

  • I counted 73 cover letters on my computer written over the 730 days in those two years, meaning I averaged one cover letter every 10 days -- which is miraculous, given that I dread writing cover letters. (And "averaged" really is a key word, since earlier this year I'm pretty sure I came close to becoming a discouraged worker as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: pulling the covers over my head and giving up. On the other hand, I subsequently entered a phase of extended unemployment benefits, now ended, during which I had to prove to state labor officials that I met a weekly quota of job inquiries -- meaning that my pace of cover-letter writing surpassed the average.)
  • Over the two years, I landed 10 interviews: two in late 2009 (plus a "howdy" face-to-face before the employer was ready to interview for a new position), four in 2010 and four so far this year. None, though, has yielded a job.
  • I also had 3 preliminary phone conversations that led nowhere, one in which I was told a candidate was already in hand, but they wanted to talk to me anyway (to reinforce that decision, I suppose), and one in which the employer, who had asked applicants to specify salary, wanted to see whether I'd bite at a lower figure. (I couldn't afford to relocate for the stated salary, and didn't relish a commute of up to three hours a day.) The third was with an employer I quickly determined I didn't want to work for.
  • There also was 1 prospective employer that conducted an extensive conference call with me and then had me critique/edit some stories and send along copies of a feature I had created at one job, which had piqued their interest -- and then stopped answering my emails and phone calls. other prospect had me do a trio of tests, two of which I passed with flying colors. I apparently stumbled on the third and was told I could try again in six months. (Huh? The logic of that escaped me.)
To mark the first anniversary of my unemployment, I compiled a list of the 10 things I had learned in those 12 months. A few of them still apply, including this big one: you need a job to get a job. Just the other day, the headline again was about how the few companies that are hiring prefer the employed or just slightly unemployed as candidates. Meantime, some 6.29 6.185 million (updated for July) unemployed have been without a job for six months or longer, down from the year-ago level in June 2010 but at a year-to-date high for 2011.

We know now that the 2007-09 Great Recession was more severe than first thought, which provides a tiny bit of solace as I approach 25 months without a full-time job. But writing about it, and living it, really hasn't gotten any easier.