Dealing with long term unemployment in a supposedly great economy
August 6, 2018 5:06 PM   Subscribe

Hey hive, I have been unemployed now for the last 5 months. I get tons of interviews but have not been able to score a decent offer so far. It is supposedly a great economy and yet I can't find anything so far. Have you been in a similar position and if so, what's your advice to overcome this situation?

I am a marketing executive with 13 years of overall experience. The first 8 years of my career I was a product manager and then did a switch to marketing after obtaining a marketing MBA.

In the last three years, I had gotten three straight promotions but my division was closed in late February. As a result, I became a senior director at a very fast pace which also means I enjoyed a high salary for my "relative" years of experience. I am not sure if this is one of the issues holding me back from getting a new role.

As I said earlier, I do get tons of interviews and at least on 5 occasions, I have gotten to the final round. Nevertheless, so far I have only obtained one job offer and it was roughly at 40% my prior salary.

I am getting incredibly sad and depressed at the thoughts of never finding a job or exhausting or my job possibilities. I hired an interview coach about three weeks ago and his overall feedback is that I am good but could have some improvement.

I fear that my only option at this point is to go back to an entry-level position. I am also ashamed and don't want to hang with friends or see anyone and tell them about my situation. There have been several of my friends (albeit none in marketing) that have lost their jobs and have been able to get back into the workforce. While I feel happy for them..It also feels like a dagger in my heart that I keep getting so many rejections in the face of a "perfect" hiring economy.

I have about 8 months to a year worth of savings but not sure whether to keep on holding out for the right role while improving my interviewing skills or just take the first offer that is given.

I am also unsure whether I should just give up on the field altogether.

Hive, have you been in a similar position? If so, what are your recommendations?

if it helps, I am in NYC.
posted by The1andonly to Work & Money (18 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
What was the specific feedback from the interview coach? That seems like a better place to start than a bunch of people who have no real information about you!
posted by ancient star at 5:15 PM on August 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

I think part of what you may be seeing is the summer hiring doldrums. A lot of people are out of the office, until about Labor Day, and many good places put their HR ads on hold until after everyone's back from vacation. I would say don't make any major decisions about leaving the field, etc., until at least October. I am hopeful things will pick up for you later. Good luck!
posted by Atrahasis at 5:43 PM on August 6, 2018 [14 favorites]

Hey, I've been in this situation and it's a terrible place to be. The good news is that if you're getting that many interviews, you're doing very well, and no interview is ever wasted. 'Perfect' economies for labour are only ever economists' approximations anyway, they rarely take into account local or industry-specific conditions.

First thing to remind yourself---and you will need to remind yourself---is that your level of anxiety or feeling-bad is going to have no material impact on work being there or not. Everyone falls into the magical thinking that if we just care enough or want enough then it will make things happen, but you might as well wish the tide to come in or out; there's absolutely no link between wanting and job roles opening up. Comparing ourselves to our peers is another intellectual trap we all fall into, particularly comparing ourselves to people we see as having better fortune.

I don't fish, but I've been told that going fishing is a good metaphor for it; it's not a matter where you can measure return from effort if you think of each rejection as its own individual failure, or each application-interview as a discrete act. Instead you have to think of the process as a whole. If what you want is to catch something, you have to sit and wait and wait for hours and maybe have no bites: a 0% return rate until something pulls on the line, at which point, the rate is suddenly 100%. At which point, who cares about the fish that didn't bite?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:48 PM on August 6, 2018 [14 favorites]

FWIW, I don't think the economy is nearly as good as the government says. All those part timers at WalMart are "employed" by official reporting standards, yet how many would prefer a real full time job with benefits? The jobs don't exist yet the official numbers sell that as "good" news. I know a few people that "should" have no issue getting a job, but are struggling to do so or are having it take way longer than they expect.

So hang in there, it's not you.
posted by COD at 7:12 PM on August 6, 2018 [14 favorites]

This "great" economy is actually adding primarily underpaid, low-end jobs, not jobs like the one you had. It's not a relevant standard at all.
posted by praemunire at 7:13 PM on August 6, 2018 [17 favorites]

In your position I would consider looking for contract, freelance or agency work as a strategist. It’s a lot of hustle but you do have the advantage of already being in marketing! You might also consider a Taproot type project pro bono to keep your skills sharp and fill out your resume. You’ll get there. Keep plugging.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:27 PM on August 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

praemunire: "This "great" economy is actually adding primarily underpaid, low-end jobs, not jobs like the one you had. It's not a relevant standard at all."
Yup, 94% of net job growth from 2005 to 2015 is attributed to "alternative work" (read: temp) arrangements, and over 60% due to "independent contractors, freelancers and contract company workers" (source). Original study can be found here, if anyone's interested.

Seconding chesty_a_arthur's suggestion, especially given where the growth is actually concentrated.
posted by postmortemsalmon at 7:27 PM on August 6, 2018 [15 favorites]

Just another vote for summer hiring doldrums. I see a ton of evidence of this summer slump around me.
posted by slateyness at 7:39 PM on August 6, 2018

I could have written this same question at this time last year. I was getting lots of interviews, but no offers. I'm also in marketing. For me, it took more time than it should have to find a job because I was awful at interviewing. Right at month five, the pieces fell into place after a ton of bad interviews. I ended up with 2 great offers in the same week.

Keep practicing and going on interviews. It's partly a numbers game and partly learning how to interview.

I never thought I would find a job since I am introverted and hate networking, but in the end I didn't need my network. I found these two jobs all on my own and aced the interviews. It felt great. I think the same can happen to you.
posted by parakeetdog at 8:28 PM on August 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

1. If you are an executive-level hire, it’s realistically going to take you longer to find a position than a more junior person. The rule of thumb is that it takes 1 month for every $10K in salary. I assume you were making well over$50K! I DON’T actually think it will take you that long because there’s so much turnover in marketing, but you shouldn’t feel at all bad about 5 months.

2. Definitely try out freelancing. I left my director-level digital marketing role at the beginning of the year and have been freelancing. There is so much freelance/consulting work out there and with your experience and connections, I bet you will not have to scrape by for gigs. And this way, you get to apply for jobs without having to appear unemployed. Also, in my experience, it’s really common for marketing directors to leave jobs and freelance while they look for the right next role. So it should seem natural to your peers and hiring managers.

Feel free to memail me if you want to chat about consulting/freelancing. I’m liking it so much more than I expected.
posted by lunasol at 9:12 PM on August 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

I got my current marketing job by starting as a freelancer (after a year of hunting and freelancing), so don't discount that option. It's a totally normal thing in marketing, it's not the black mark that some full-time to freelance transitions are seen as.

If you can up your interview game, by all means do that. But nthing the replies that this 'great' economy is only great for the 1 percenters. It sucks for people like us who are looking for actual decent jobs and don't have millions of dollars of oil stock to fall back on. I'm sorry. It's not you.

Don't give up. You can do this.
posted by ananci at 9:53 PM on August 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

You could always do some voluntary consulting for an overseas environmental NFP NGO startup created by a Mefite. Who would be very happy to exchange exotic (is Australia exotic?!) employment patches for some pro advice. Memail me for details if this could help you.
posted by taff at 7:21 AM on August 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was unemployed for 4 months in 2017 (well, I HAD job offer within a month but it was rescinded for really lame reasons). I freelanced, volunteered, and worked on my portfolio for the majority of the time until something came along in month 3. Took a month after the job offer to actually start the job.
posted by Young Kullervo at 11:00 AM on August 7, 2018

When I was unemployed, I volunteered with the Taproot Foundation. They provide pro-bono consulting to nonprofits, and they're always looking for marketing professionals. It was a fun experience, and it gave me something to talk about in interviews when they asked what I had been doing with my time.
posted by radioamy at 12:14 PM on August 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm mid-career as well and it just takes a while for mid-career professionals to get a job I think. It took me 6 months to find my last one and 5 months to find the one I am about to start.
Many of my friends of about the same experience level have had 6ish month searches as well. Shortest was about 3 months, one is going on 8 months now.
I think this is just the crappy new normal?
Best of luck, searching is demoralizing but you will find something.
posted by rmless at 12:27 PM on August 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

As a rule of thumb, it takes one month of job search for every $10K of salary. If you're aiming for $100K it should take about ten months.

You haven't mentioned what industry/vertical you're in, either. That makes a difference.

When you say "marketing", what do you mean? Do you have comprehensive knowledge of integrated digital marketing (web <> content <> advertising <> lead gen), or are you more branding and traditional forms of marketing?

In this economy, pragmatic marketing professionals are very, very much in demand. If you don't have that toolkit it will be much, much harder to get that position.

Allow yourself to feel sad or anxious, but move on. You can't give up. There is a position out there for you, you just have to find it.

Create a website, do some consulting... tons of work in SF right now.

NYC is a hotbed for marketing right now. Contently is doing some cool stuff, for example.

Really curious to hear more.
posted by JamesBay at 1:48 PM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just keep going. It's not unusual, even in this economy, to be looking this long. If you have a network of friends in the industry, use them. Don't be shy.

I once looked for a job for almost a year. I addressed this partly in my interview by talking about how much I loved the time off and had used it to hike, bike, and have all kinds of adventures. In some of those interviews, including the one where I was eventually hired, those stories were one of the highlights of the interview. At least in your interview, turn this negative experience of job searching into a positive one.


This is a little de-rail-ish but I helped a friend with his resume and interviewing when he was in a similar situation. He left off his resume a business he had started that failed. By the end of my coaching, that experience was central to his value - add for prospective employers.
posted by xammerboy at 10:02 PM on August 7, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback guys,

I signed up to a volunteer project with TapRoot and hope to complete my portfolio in the next week or so.

My aim is to score a part-time or some sort of remote contract job by month's end.

Most importantly, I'll work on my confidence and I am glad to hear I am not the only one who has been through this. Really really appreciate all of your input.

@jamesbay I am both a technical marketer who is able to code, do analytics and landing pages but has a background in strategic marketing from working at a CPG and a big telecom.
posted by The1andonly at 6:04 PM on August 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

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