Are Americans Taking Unemployment Too Seriously?
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) For many Americans, having a job is bundled up with pride and purpose, a major contributor to their overall well-being. When we become unemployed, it's not just the bank account that takes a hit self-worth and happiness can take a nosedive as well. Americans take the job hunt, and unemployment, very personally. But is this a purely American problem, and do other countries have a better answer?
"I feel like a loser, I'm 25 and still live with mommy and daddy," says Leah Salomoni of Shelton, Conn. She is one of the 3.8 million unemployed Americans who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, and her sentiment is probably a common one.
"The trend is, over time, in the American case, to think 'something is wrong with me,'" says Ofer Sharone, an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who recently authored the book Flawed System, Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences . For his book, Sharone interviewed and compared job seekers in both America and Israel. Americans, he found, tended to heavily blame themselves.
The social game
Networking often plays a crucial role in finding a job in the United States. Since creating a good social chemistry between the interviewer and the applicant is a high priority, failing to do so can be seen as a personality flaw.
"When you're networking and trying to have people like you, and in a job interview you get rejected, it's understood as being evaluated and rejected. Many job seekers might compare it to dating," says Sharone.
The unbalanced social aspect of the job search can be debilitating for those who don't know the right people, or don't have the opportunity to find them. Salomoni, for example, says she isn't entirely confident in "playing the game" right or "schmoozing," and isn't sure if she should be making follow-ups for interviews. Yet when almost all online job ads come with a line that reads "no phone calls or walk-ins, please," there's little room for it in the first place. She keeps an excel sheet with all the places she has applied to over the past year-plus of unemployment, but hasn't gotten any interviews.
Statistically speaking, it takes a long while to become employed again. According to a new study out of Princeton University, 30% of workers who were polled as being long-term unemployed between 2008 and 2012 were still looking for work 15 months later. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average duration for unemployment is 37.1 weeks. So when someone is unemployed for a long while, it's more than just not reflecting on career choices and resume re-designs: being unemployed can become a meditation on whether or not this unemployment status is due to personal shortcomings.