7 stages of unemployment desperation help I'm unemployed

7 stages of unemployment desperation: dumb decisions people make when they are unemployed

Steve Kimmens Career, Find a job 6 Comments

Unemployment: you might actively seek it or be thrown into it. It can come in the form of an unexpected redundancy or with you willingly handing in your notice.


Vulnerability sucks.

Although these two scenarios are different, what ties them together is the sense of vulnerability you feel when you are unemployed. More often than not, you can be left feeling exposed and unsure of what you want and of yourself. Even if you are mentally and financially prepared for unemployment, if finding a new job doesn’t go exactly to plan, it can throw you.


I’ve seen different people trying to find a job during unemployment succumb to the same vicious cycle time and time again. It goes something like this.


The 7 stages of unemployment desperation


1. You were employed and now you’re not.

The money you were earning to pay for everything you do is gone. You might have some savings, but it is only going to last you the next month or two – maybe three.

At this point you haven’t really thought about what it is you need to do to find a new job.

If you have been made redundant, you may be lucky and have an out-placement program. It’s a good safety net because you have someone to talk to, who listens and tells you positive things.


2. You start to apply for jobs.

You start trawling online job search sites and LinkedIn for jobs that appeal to you, but you are finding it hard to break through.

Is it your CV? More than likely, you haven’t been regularly working on your CV even when you were employed. It probably doesn’t sell you and isn’t tailored to the role you are applying for.

Who’s the competition? The reality is that companies legally have to advertise roles but there is often an internal candidate who is a front-runner and an easy choice for the role.


3. You catch a break and secure an interview or two.

Your hopes are lifted. Finally, an interview for a job you are interested in, that fits your skillset.

Unfortunately, you haven’t been practicing your interview skills. You stumble through your pitch, you have no clear professional brand and you struggle to relay relevant examples from your previous roles.

You might also find yourself bumping into conscious and unconscious bias: you’re too young or old; you’re a man or a woman; you aren’t the typical fit for the role. The feedback you get is vague and unhelpful.


4. You apply for even more (less appropriate) jobs.

You begin to worry. It’s been over a month now with no viable offers or progress. Thinking about your finances is stressing you out. You reason with yourself that you just need to find any job and then you can figure it out from there.

You start to apply for more and more jobs. Jobs that you would never have applied for a month ago.

You act surprised that you don’t get the jobs that you aren’t suited to and didn’t want in the first place.


5. You seek the help of recruiters.

You feel disheartened. Your self-confidence has taken a hit and you look to professional help. You assure yourself that recruiters know the industry better than you do. Plus, their networks are vast – they may be able to put you on the straight and narrow.

But recruiters get paid to put people in jobs. They don’t give you advice on where you should take your career, or what is missing from your skill-set. Instead, you find yourself inundated with role descriptions that seem further away from what you were doing in the first place.


6. You ask for help from ex-colleagues and friends.

Out of desperation you ask your friends and ex-colleagues for help. You tell yourself ‘you never know’, someone may be able to provide me with some direction, put in a good word for me, or tell me about a great job they have heard about on the grapevine.

The trouble is, you don’t have a clear plan of what it is you want. You’ve lost sight of where you want to end up, what your strengths are, and instead, you are consumed by your fear that you’ll never get a job.


7. You stumble into a job.

Sweet relief! You have found someone to employ you. It might be through a recruiter or a recommendation of a friend.

It isn’t really what you thought you wanted, but it is a job all the same. ‘Beggars can’t be choosers’, you say. Next time, you’ll be more prepared.


Have you been through the 7 stages of unemployment desperation?

I set up my career habit because I saw too many people go through this same, painful process.

But it doesn’t need to be this way. You don’t need to go through the 7 stages of unemployment desperation. By investing in your career, even if you are comfortably employed, it makes moving on up and getting that next job easier. Ensuring that your next job will take you closer to your goal – whatever it might be.


What next:

How to find a new job 7 step process

Need help in your job search? We’ve got a free guide that will take you through our process for how to find a new job.



Career compound interest magic

Looking for tips on how to invest in your career? Read about how compound interest can change the way you think about work.

Comments 6

  1. Pingback: How to find a new job our 7 step process to focus your efforts

  2. Pingback: Is it age or your application stopping you from getting a job interview?

  3. I started my career with a good corporate job through campus placement. Worked for 4 years, quit and started my own enterprise. Now after 25 years of consultancy experience, I want to get back into a corporate job. There are no takers for being too old or for being away from regular job…

    1. Post

      Hi Inder, unfortunately it is often challenging to find a corporate role when you haven’t been in a ‘standard’ corporate role for some time. I’d recommend having a look at our 7 step process for finding a job. In particular, you are going to want to leverage your connections. Hopefully, you’ll have people you consulted to who may be in the corporate world and are able to help you. The trick is, not to ask for a job, but to ask for their opinion on a topic you are interested in and that they would have a perspective on.

  4. Hi Steve – I got disconnected from the labour market in 2007 and for the last 11 years I have chased contract work all over Australia (and overseas). I have had 20+ contracts to support a family (sole income earner). I have lost any sense of a “career”. I have have gone into roles that I have little or no interest in and have had to take anything to keep a family afloat – any suggestions – thanks – Kieran

    1. Post

      Hi Kieran,

      There’s nothing wrong with contracts as a way to pursue your career if it is delivering what you want – in your situation, supporting your family.

      Where it can get difficult is if you’re not feeling fulfilled by these roles. If there’s more you want from career.

      If that’s the case, I’d suggest looking at:

      1. What would you like in a perfect world. Is it managing people? Is it moving up the hierarchy? Is it working in different types of organisations?
      2. Then based on that list, whether there are contract roles that could provide some of those elements? It might mean looking at different industries.
      3. Building a plan to get there. You probably can’t take on step to get there, but it might be possible in 2-3 moves which may take a few years.

      I hope that helps,


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