First Person: How I Made Unemployment Work for Me

It Took Some Time and Some Thinking, but I'm Finally Figuring Things Out

Yahoo Contributor Network
First Person: How I Made Unemployment Work for Me
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Taking a rare break - but enjoying every second of the work.

Five million Americans are among the long-term unemployed--those without a job for 27 weeks or longer--according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another 7.3 million are looking for work, while the unemployment rate sits at 7.9 percent. Numbers aside, individual stories illustrate how America is affected. To see how joblessness hits home, Yahoo News asked unemployed workers to share their job-hunting stories. Here's one.

FIRST PERSON | I lost my first professional job in October 2012. Though it was retail, the company had generous benefits, and I was very fortunate to have a pension to live off of for a few months while I pondered what to do next.

The clock was ticking, though. I appreciated the extra time with my son (and the lack of stress finding a babysitter had been in the past), but seeing my wife leave for work stung me every day. Not because of male pride or anything -- I have huge respect for stay-at-home parents of either gender -- but because I was ready and willing, yet still unable, to work.

One day in December, I stumbled across an article talking about the swell in thirtysomething men with liberal arts degrees floundering in the professional market. Though I don't live in Portland or Pittsburgh (two cities dealing with the issue in particular) my hometown of Bloomington, Ind., was certainly close enough demographically. Worse, the description fit me to a T. It's a shame only the unwillingly unemployed can truly know: I saw (or thought I saw) friends and relatives judging me the way I had others who didn't work when I had a job. The article only gave a name to those feelings.

It was a jumpstart. As a creative person and a father, the time restrictions of a busy retail job were not at all appealing to me. I had to find a way to work for myself while keeping my ego in check enough to decide whether doing so was a viable means of income.

I was lucky. I can't be 100 percent sure yet, but I think I've found my niche: freelance writing. In only a few weeks I've fostered several valuable contacts, and in the last few days I've signed my first few work agreements. It's exciting, thinking my work -- that I created myself, as my own boss -- might support my family. I understand the lifestyle isn't for everyone, but the idea of giving my wife a chance to stay at home and watch our son grow while I provide the income we need to live comfortably is a huge motivator. When he grows older, she'll likely return to work -- until then, though, being able to work from home with my family is a hugely rewarding perk of the trade.

Where will I go from here? It depends. If the freelancing gig goes well enough I'll definitely stick with that. If not, I'll use the skills (and the snazzy resume) I've built in the last few months to find a job that works for me. Either way, the bleak future I stared at only a few months ago is all but gone. I could not be happier for that alone.

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