First Person: Still Seeking That Elusive Job

Down But Not Out: Yahoo! Readers Share Their Stories of Unemployment and Job-Hunting

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First Person: Still Seeking That Elusive Job

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Being in nature helps keep me sane.

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 | On Nov. 5, 2008 , the day after Election Day, my company in Tucson, Ariz., let me and five others go.

What I never dreamed would happen is that after four years, I still have not found a full-time job.

As a landscape architect for 20 years, my gut feeling was that I would be facing long-term unemployment. At the time, however, I was preoccupied with my mother's serious health decline, and found solace that I could be with her in her final days.

After my mom passed away in February 2009, I realized the seriousness of my job situation. At the time, I applied to at least 10 companies in my field. But they were not hiring; in fact, they were looking to lay off employees. Clients held off projects or canceled them altogether.

I collected unemployment for two years until the last of four extensions ran out in 2010. The $280 per week helped; but it still required me to draw from my savings regularly to pay my mortgage and utilities. I've depleted my savings by more than $30,000. Reluctantly, I resorted to becoming self-employed, trying earn enough to live on while I continue to look for work. I have always resisted self-employment, as not knowing from one day to the next if I will have income is extremely stressful.

However, now at 57, I do not anticipate ever returning to a real job.

I've posted my resume on dozens of websites, searching in vain for jobs I could apply for. I eventually resorted to a daily search on Craigslist, and discovered multiple scams instead of real jobs. Luckily, I did not give out my personal information to scam ads, and became more cautious in my search.

Months passed. I replied to ad after ad, but no offers were forthcoming. Depressed and going stir-crazy, I started looking for ways to market my skills and knowledge. I have more than 20 years' experience in desert plants, gardening and landscaping, and I decided there just had to be a way to earn income using what I know.

It is said: If you can't work in your field, teach. I found my niche.

So, I taught classes in my community on caring for desert landscaping. The organization charges $50 per person, keeping 30 percent, but sometimes teaching generates a landscape design or consultation. I also recently picked up a part-time job teaching low-income families how to grow their own food.

While I am busy continuously trying to find ways to earn money, most months I do not bring in enough to pay my bills. I am on food stamps; but for everything else I continue to drain my savings. I still look for the elusive job, but I firmly believe what I am doing now I will be doing for a long time to come.

It will take time for this difficult time to pass. I just hope I can keep my head above water until it does.

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