Don’t give too much weight to unemployment horror stories

By Eve Nicholas

Question: In a recent column you wrote, “Don’t get discouraged at any time or for any reason.” Realistically, it’s hard not to get discouraged when it takes 34 weeks for the average 27-year-old to get a job and 56 weeks for the 40-and-older crowd.

I am a 50-year-old, stay-at-home mom competing with 25-year-olds for customer service and project management jobs. I’ve been networking, applying at local companies, attending training sessions and working in volunteer positions. No hits.

How do I present myself in a cover letter? Please, I’m looking for specifics.

K., Snohomish County

Answer: With such a keen eye on job-search statistics reported in the media, it’s no wonder that you feel discouraged. The numbers can be disheartening. How many jobs were lost? How many people filed for unemployment? How long it takes the typical worker to land a new position? Bad news. Almost all the time.

Why do you pay attention to these numbers? These figures are based on vast amounts of data pulled together and knocked around from a variety of sources. They include pretty big assumptions and ignore some highly relevant factors.

For instance, on the list of long-time job seekers, how many of these people took a wrecking ball to their old, boring resumes and crafted brand-new, powerhouse documents from the ground up? Probably not that many. How many of these folks realized that their job-searching tactics were leaving them jobless and exhausted, so they changed their strategies until they found something that worked? Again, not many. Ambitious job hunters don’t stay on the list for very long.

Who cares if the latest media sound bite reports that the average 40-year-old hunts for 56 weeks before landing a job? You aren’t average!

Ignore these off-target statistics and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that emotions are part of the process. It’s scary to return to the job market after spending years as a skilled, hard-working mom. It’s upsetting when you don’t land a position right away. Let’s be honest. The resumes, applications, stuffy interview rooms: the entire thing can be maddening.

Would it help if you give yourself permission to wallow in fear, worry or frustration for a while? Set a deadline (a day, two days or a week) and really dive in. Feel sorry for yourself. But the moment your time is up, get moving. The cure for discouragement is two-fold: First, ignore silly statistics. Second, take bold, persistent action on your own behalf.

Now, let’s tackle your cover letter. Most job hunters send meaningless letters that say: “Dear so-and-so, I am interested in your XYZ position. Please contact me for an interview.” Yawn.

As a mom returning to the workplace, you need a letter that intrigues your readers and sparks their curiosity. Like this: “Because I have spent many years working outside of the typical office setting, I will bring more energy and initiative to your business than any other candidate applying for this position. My skills are sharp, my mind is focused and I am 100 percent committed to delivering results that will make you and your clients do a ‘double take.’ Call me – I’ll be happy to discuss my contributions.”

Contact Eve at