Dear J.T. & Dale: I recently met a woman who’d managed a coffee shop for several years, then moved to a job with a bank. After only four months at the bank, she was let go. That was five months ago, and she says she isn’t in any rush to find a new job, since she can collect unemployment. She said this in a joking tone, but it’s not funny to me. I’m a hardworking person, and I wonder how many other folks are using unemployment to excuse themselves from finding a job. — Ella
J.T.: I’m sure there is a group of people out there who are abusing the system. What percentage of the 14 million people who are between jobs fall into that category? We can’t be sure. But I can be sure of this: In the past year, I’ve worked with hundreds of professionals who’ve been out of work for a long time, and all of them felt strongly they were doing everything they could to get a job. However, as we started to dissect their job searches, we discovered they weren’t using the right techniques. The rules for job searches have changed, but the people seeking jobs haven’t been schooled in those new rules. Eventually, such job-seekers lose momentum and give up. Perhaps the woman you met falls into that category.
Dale: So, Ella, that woman may be making light of her situation rather than admitting to failure and hopelessness. On the other hand, she might be a layabout who’s misusing the system. The cost of trying to figure out which she is, multiplied by 14 million, would end up costing far more than the amount currently wasted, so we as a society put up with the slack in the system. Moreover, let us not forget that we Americans are a generous people and that unemployment benefits have saved millions of marriages, families and lives, all while helping to hold off a repeat of the Great Depression. So, instead of directing your anger toward the unemployed, I invite you to join me in directing it where it belongs: the greedy merchants who were running the financial companies that dragged us into the economic mire.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the career management blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.
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© 2011 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.