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Thriving After Long-Term Unemployment

Not Once, But Twice Unemployed

In the past four years, Michael Young has experienced not only one, but two rounds of unemployment. Five months into his first job out of college Michael found himself unemployed and then again after a two-year consulting gig. In total, he was without a job for nearly a year and a half. Today, he is happily employed full time as a Content Specialist at Middlebury Interactive Languages and Michael says the job “hits all my strengths—language, writing and teaching.”

Repeat unemployment and long-term unemployment are major issues today. As of February 2013, 40% of unemployed Americans experience long-term unemployment, referring to those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more. The percent of the total unemployed population in the US has been 27% or higher for the last 46 months. To put this in perspective, since 1948, the highest that number has ever been in a given month was 26% in June, 1983, reinforcing the seriousness of today’s employment crisis.

How Michael Beat Long-Term Unemployment

Michael is on the “employed” side of these statistics after trying everything from job boards, to substitute teaching and self-improvement. It was finally the latter that helped him find work. Writing is one of his passions and he attends conferences to improve his skills and keep up with others in the field. At the Utah Valley University Book Academy Conference in 2010 he saw a flier in his conference packet from Middlebury Interactive Languages, advertising the need for a creative writer. It gave instructions on how to craft a writing sample, targeting grade school children and incorporating certain vocabulary words.

He sent in his entry to the representative listed on the flier, Kandyce Coston, and she invited him to meet with her and another company representative to discuss a creative writing project for their online world language courses over lunch.

In speaking with Kandyce, Michael let them know that he had a degree in German teaching and could speak the language fluently. He even suggested that they meet at a German restaurant to drive the point home. They exchanged business contact information and Kandyce outlined a plan for a series of creative stories to be incorporated into their courses.

This writing project, however, never materialized, leaving Michael to continue seeking employment.

When the company’s needs changed a year later, Kandyce remembered that Michael was fluent in German and had high school teaching experience. She contacted him about a two-year consulting opportunity to create their German language module and Michael accepted the position.

Trained as an educator, Michael was thrilled to transition his career in a direction that utilized both his writing and language capabilities. Two years flew by as Michael gained professional experience, creating online language education programming. At the end of those two years, there were no other open assignments and Michael’s contract ended. Over the next five months he kept in touch with his former colleagues and began a Master’s Degree program in Instructional Design (i.e., training program design) to build his skill set. After five months of unemployment, Middlebury hired Michael for a two-month consulting project based on his former manager’s reference. During that time, he put in extra effort to show how much he could contribute to ongoing projects and could apply many of the skills he had learned during his last contract to help other departments.

His hard work paid off and Middlebury Interactive Languages hired him full time shortly after he began the consulting project.


“Make Yourself Invaluable”

This recession has led to a significant increase in the use of temporary workers (2.3 million in 2011 vs. 1.8 million in 2009) by companies. In my own experience as an independent consultant prior to starting CareerFuel, it almost always led to an offer of permanent employment.

Michael says, “It is easy to get depressed in this job market, but I always felt better by being proactive and taking on temporary work.” His advice for those looking to find work is to stay hopeful, put yourself out there, make an action plan and find ways for self improvement. And if you have the chance to sub or temp, make yourself invaluable to your employer. It can work out.

Michael Young is a teacher and instructional designer with an active writing career on the side. He lives in Utah with his family and enjoys singing there with the well-known Mormon Tabernacle Choir. If you are on Facebook, connect with Mike here.

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