I went to the dog park yesterday with Emma and we were both pleasantly surprised. It was the middle of a weekday, so most of the folks there with their K9 pals were unemployed, just like me! As Emma romped happily among her kind, I excitedly introduced myself to mine.
After a few minutes, a twinkling little insight began to grow as I realized I could tell what stage of unemployment each unemployed person was currently experiencing, and thus, how long they had been unemployed. Observe:
Stage one: unemployed for up to 2 weeks
Internal panic. Disbelief. Denial.
I introduced myself to a woman who, under normal circumstances I'm sure was actually quite confident and competent, but at the dog park and recently unemployed, she had crumbled. Feelings of shame and the worry that I would figure her out for what she was (unemployed) lit up her face like beacons in a storm. Our conversation was something like "Hi I'm Pam, I hear you're from JP also?" Her: "Yes." Then she just kind of shuffled her feet, agonizing over whether I'd ask her what she did for a living or not.
Stage two: unemployed for 2 weeks to 2 months or so
Acceptance of situation. Inevitable depression.
Obviously, these people were not at the dog park; they were too depressed about their situation that they couldn't even get out and enjoy a nice day yet. Maybe I'll see them in a month or so...
Stage three: unemployed for 2-6 months
Aggressive job hunting.
These folks go to the dog park to network. They bring business cards they have designed and printed themselves. They dress like they are professionals on their way to work. Their #1 goal right now is to get a job, and they believe (for their sanity's sake) that they will get one soon. Stage 3s are sometimes beneficial to unemployeds in stages 1, 2, or 4 in that they do so much networking and job searching that they find jobs that don't work for them, but might work for another unemployed. And, at places like the dog park, they pass those opportunities along as they eagerly collect your email and resume.
Stage four: unemployed for 6 months or more
Total acceptance. Completely able to be funemployed. Where I am now.
There were a few of these stage 4s at the park yesterday. They were the ones eagerly talking to other people (but not busting out business cards), smiling and laughing at their dog's playful tongue lolling out of its head at a 45 degree angle, throwing a tennis ball joyously for their dog and even for someone else's dog, etc. Stage 4s are in an ok place about being unemployed. They know they'll get a job eventually, but they're no longer putting all of their eggs in the job search basket. Stage 4s are easily confused with self-employed folks or contractors, as they also have a strong sense of identity and freedom. Also, stage 4s can go through relapses, back to stages 3 or even 2. So that can get tricky and may throw off your estimate of how long the unemployed in question has been unemployed.
Of course, time frames vary for each person as they go through the stages (of unemployment, which are remarkably similar to the stages of grief, I might add). But the general gist is the same. After stage 4, some people even reach a stage 5. Well, there's like a 5a and 5b. 5a is the people who no longer care and embrace unemployment, stop looking for jobs all together, totally give up, etc. This actually may happen directly after stage 2. Stage 5b is the people who say, you know what, I'm going to start my own business.