Lisa (not her real name) had been crying the day that we talked.
"This job thing is just wearing me down," she explained. "People don't know how awful it is not to have a job. People (who have jobs) never think it could happen to them. People think they are smarter, they'll know someone, they would never get caught up in this."
Lisa and I exchanged e-mails for a couple weeks over this dilemma. She thought I should write about joblessness. She had a lot to say.
"No matter how high the unemployment is, if you don't have a job, people still think there's something wrong with you. ... I have never been so depressed in all my life. I've got a college degree, and I can't get a job at J.C. Penney."
She said she knew people who have gotten so discouraged they just stopped looking for work. "I apply for 10-15 jobs a week," she said. "I do everything I'm supposed to do, like send thank-you cards, etc., and then I see the job in the paper again. It's incredibly frustrating. If you're a woman and you don't have money, you feel even more powerless, like you're living at someone else's mercy. Men? Their families are depending on them."
There's also the embarrassment.
"People ask, "You don't have a job yet?"
Lisa has observed that though many homeless people have counselors, support groups and programs to help them find jobs, there seems to be nothing of the sort for people like herself.
I asked what would encourage her the most. She said, "To know that I'm capable and smart, to know that someone's going to hire me." We began to brainstorm tips that people could use to manage their journeys through joblessness.
1. Keep a journal as a stress reliever. If you really enjoy writing, consider starting a blog as a way to chronicle helpful and not so helpful strategies, gain perspective and encourage others.
2. Inform every person you know you are looking for a job. Even the cashier at the store may know something or someone.
3. Try to lay aside any embarrassment or shame about this. Remember, it could happen to anyone.
4. Consider going back to school. (If debt is an issue, research possible grant programs.)
5. Parlay an interest/passion into a way to make supplemental income. (Hire yourself out to sing, write, assist someone in a small business, plan parties, clean houses, baby sit animals and children.)
6. Volunteer for organizations you might like to work for, a great way to meet key people, build relationships and keep yourself from going stir crazy.
7. Do something that causes you to stand out in the job-search jungle. Organize an event with a cause; make sure there's something interesting and unique on your resume.
8. See a counselor, support group or start one of your own to help keep your emotional head above water. Write positive statements on your bathroom mirror to help you stay focused.
9. Find an interesting hobby to fill out your day; let yourself feel the success of being good at it in your own way.
I noticed that Lisa used lots of examples, colorful language and was highly expressive throughout our interview. As it turns out, Lisa is also a great writer. She intends to begin to make use of this talent in the coming weeks along with other items on the list. All the best to her and so many others out there. Keep believing.
Tabi Upton, MA-lpc, is a therapist at Richmont/CBI Counseling Center. E-mail her at email@example.com.