Doubling Down on Unemployment

Cathy Pix CroppedV2
Four aces playing cards and gambling chipsI marked my six-month “can-iversary” in Atlantic City gambling a portion of my last unemployment payment.

My position was eliminated on November 1, 2013 after 14 successful years with the same organization. Since my claim was delayed, I hadn’t even received my first unemployment check from the state of New Jersey when the federal extended unemployment benefits were discontinued on December 28, 2013 which meant that I would only be able to collect for six months.

There’s a certain irony in losing something you never had.

Of course I was hopeful that I would be again employed by then. However, that day I made a pact with myself that if I were still in career transition when my state unemployment expired I’d take a gamble.

My biological clock was no comparison to the ticking down of my unemployment benefits. My 26-week unemployment countdown bonged like Big Ben.

I thought about contacting my district’s Congressman to offer my services as the poster child of the qualified job seeker who is ready and willing to land a new career opportunity.

I decided to take other and more interesting measures to bring attention to the plight of millions of qualified and ambitious unemployed Americans.

Take a gamble and write a blog about it.

Congress was back in session at the six-month mark of my job hunt. As I drove to the casino, I was hopeful there would be action to renew federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation. Legislation was passed in the Senate prior to recess and as I walked into the casino it was pending in the House. I checked CNN prior to laying my money down to make sure there was no news on when or if there would be a House vote.

Truth be told, I’m not a gambler.

I wanted to see what it was like to play games of chance for money. I was up for an adventure and was willing to take risky action in the hope of a desired result. I wanted to experience a version of the phrase “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

I put on my best poker face, executed my strategy, and was willing to let the chips fall where they may.

Gambling a portion of my last unemployment check is a far cry from being a high roller. Truth is, I gambled what amounted to a roundtrip train ticket to New York City and a specialty coffee and lunch at Starbucks. Still, it was a gamble. The train ride, coffee, and lunch would have at least been a sure thing.

Nonetheless I drew a crowd with my cavalier demeanor and my piles of chips. I took others’ hunches with a grain of salt. I trusted my instincts and followed my gut.

I walked away from the table all the richer.

Baby doesn’t need a new pair of shoes. Mommy does.

I will be reinvesting in America’s economy by buying a new interview suit to match my pumps.

I’ve been working and paying taxes since I was a tween. As a papergirl, I’d sling the canvas bag filled with the Courier-News over my shoulder and ride my bike through the neighborhood to hand deliver the newspaper.

I’ve been paying into the unemployment insurance fund far more than I’ve received in benefits. I’d much rather be working. And I’d risk a guess that I’m not alone on the former or the latter.

I have a wealth of experience, a great education, a prestigious certification, transferrable skills, and glowing references. Yet I find myself in career transition and continue to play the hand I’ve been dealt.

As I drove home I sang along to “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers.

“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run.
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done.”

The song’s lyrics offer sage advice for gambling and life.

I may be out of aces, but I’m optimistic that I won’t be for long.

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12 comments on “Doubling Down on Unemployment
  1. Melissa Esposito says:

    I loved your blog! I especially loved the term, “can-iversary”! I too thought it wouldn’t take me long to find another position…after all, who wouldn’t want a conscientious, hard-working, ethical and experienced bookkeeper? Well, more and more companies want an admin assistant who can also take care of the books, all for $14 an hour. Really? You’ll entrust someone who will be responsible for maintaining your books for $12 – $14/hour? And I attend all of these networking events meeting all sorts of wonderful, talented, bright people, many with multiple degrees and no one can find work. It is unbelievable how the world has changed. Best of luck to you. I enjoyed your article very much.

    • Melissa,

      Reading your comment made me think again of what a sad state of affairs we are dealing with today. I seem to know a preponderance of people over the age of 45 who are having great difficulty finding suitable work paying a living wage. I wonder what will become of this segment of the boomer population in the next five to fifteen years? What will the ripple effect be on our society?

      I truly wonder whether more companies could hire people (older people included) for full time jobs — even though they may not post record profits. Or I wonder if they would in fact post even higher profits — because more people will be able to buy their products and services if they are employed full time.

      I am considering developing a series on this topic. Let me know if you would be interested in being interviewed. My e-mail address is:

  2. Cathy,

    I love your way of looking at and dealing with the world. You have a powerful gift! Thanks for helping us to laugh at the absurdities of life in the 21st century. Any company should feel honored to have your intelligence, energy and wit on its team.


  3. Micheline Nader says:

    Cathy; what a great sensitive way of describing your own transition. we can’t help by reading this blog to take a look at the inadequacies of our system. keep gambling as that last penny to purchase your train ticket will take you to your ideal job. You will look back at your transition one day and say: thank you, you were the best thing that happened to me!! I love your writing..

  4. Jen Morris says:

    Great read. As you know, I’m in your shoes also – 18 years, out more than a year and still looking. Getting some interviews recently, but agonizingly long time to be looking. They tell you you’re overqualified, but there aren’t that many higher level positions. They refuse to believe that you just might be happy making less, doing meaningful work and using your skills to help them succeed. Sure, it would be nice to be making what I used to, but I’d really rather be working and contributing and believe me, if you hire me, you’ll have my loyalty and I’ll stick around, not be looking for the next big thing.

  5. Jay says:

    Cathy- I liked your writing style as did many of your readers. Hopefully, you will find gainful employment very soon and get so busy with work that you will look back to that day in A.C to relax and smile.

  6. Don McNeil says:

    Great article, Cathy.

    Keeping in line with your theme. Finding a job today requires luck. Being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right person, and having the exact skills the hiring manager needs. All things need to align at just the right time and place. No different than spinning the wheel at roulette. But if luck is smiling on you, the ball will land on the number where you placed your bet. Then all will be good!

    In your quote of Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler”, you mention, “Know when to Fold ‘em”. Unfortunately many talented people have given up and most likely never to return.

    It takes a very strong person to be able to survive and forge ahead.

    I wish you all the best, Don

  7. Jean Rebele says:

    Cathy, really enjoyed your blog…and I feel your pain!
    Chin up…something great will come. I just know it!

  8. I wholeheartedly agree with your statement about being the poster child of the qualified job seeker. Cathy, you stand out with your initiative, presence and competence. You are taking the right steps and I hope you land something soon! I am in your corner.

  9. doug says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed, dare I say, related to your story. Mine is remarkably similar. I feel better knowing I am not the only one that made the choices I made. I would like to tell you my experience sometime. Certainly, I’m not looking to “one up” you. But desperation is desperation. Survival. Few can understand it in the context that you and I can. But I believe….no, I am sure I was guided by my Creator. I will find you, and if you like, would be willing to relive the lowest period of my life with you. If not, absolutely fine, too. Thank you for sharing yours.

  10. Laurie J. Murphy says:

    Well said. Your eloquence and equanimity under duress may not be ‘paying the bills’ for you, but unlike a job or unemployment checks, they can’t be taken away from you, and they offer ‘real’ evidence of a source of strength that is beneficial in helping you cope with unfortunate circumstances that arise in your life, which is far more valuable than the false sense of security that too many people have or get when they are employed. You (and others)will undoubtedly benefit from an inner source of strength in the future, as the downward trend in the average duration of employment among the U.S. population should be a warning that is not to be ignored. Those who think they are ‘safe’ just because they have a job will be severely shocked when their ‘number comes up’ and they involuntarily join the ranks of ‘displaced’ workers, or ‘POPO’s (pushed out and pissed off!) Sadly for many, it’s just a matter of time as to when that will happen, not if that will happen to them. And, those who have been displaced one or more times already may not be any less likely than others to have it happen to them — again. Just like gambling in a casino, the ‘house’ (not the gambler) has the edge, and nobody should think otherwise, unless they want to set themselves up for even greater adversity.

  11. Joe Paglia says:

    Congratulations. In an era of blubbery blogs, your statement is lean meat. Your situation parallels mine, with three exceptions: I’m older, male and out of work longer. However, to quote a former President who governed our nation under far more prosperous times, “I feel your pain.” I have been contemplating my paperboy days and realize that my hard work, dedication and loyalty, which served me and my employers well, may be going the way of newspapers themselves. Like you, I have a wealth of experience, a solid education, transferable skills, and top-notch references. Another challenge is living in Rochester, a place I call the “Detroit of New York” – rampant taxes, poverty, crime and industrial decline. I plan to persevere; and like you, stay in the game. “It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.” – Rand Pausch

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