For the Long-Term Job Seeker Who Really Is Trying Everything


This post is based on a question that came from a job seeker seeking advice. Her name, types of organizations, and fields of interest have all been changed. I hope you find it useful.

Hi Sue,

Finding the right event and outreach role for me has been frustrating. There’s an Internal Communications position that I could do. Will I start to look unfocused if I also consider positions in Communications? I want so badly to work on promoting events and doing outreach, and yet communications was "part" of what I did. Advice needed.

Hi Stephanie,

I can’t imagine how frustrated you must feel. Even I’m frustrated; you’re too good. By rights, you should have landed by now. 

Not replying directly to your question yet, one idea I have is to change your LI headline. It reads that you are a consultant, not a job seeker.  I know you’re in a bind in that you’ve had really strong feedback that saying you’re in transition turns people off. But with this headline, people don’t know you want to work for an organization. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t it seems.  I come down on the side of telling people what you need. I’m sorry it’s so hard.

Do you have any idea who is looking at your profile? Have you received suggestions or requests for freelance work?

What if you said (in your LinkedIn About section), “Currently working as an independent events planning consultant leveraging a background in urban economic development, arts and non-profits to create need-focused events for financial sustainability, over the long term, till the problem is resolved.” That’s too long, but I’d like to read words to that effect. 

Too, make sure that it’s clear that you were an employee in your former work situations so it shows you have been consulting recently, but it is consistent with your experience and preference to be an employee.

Also, when talking with people, it’s important to actually say the words, “I need a full-time job.”  There’s a strong, jealous, idea out there that women whose husbands make a good living can “afford to freelance when it’s convenient.” Might people construe your situation this way?  (It’s not fair or clear thinking, but it happens.)


Now to the question you asked. Internal Communications is between people and departments inside the institution, not promoting events, especially, like you love to do.  There is an events “feel” with a series of programs to [one of the job descriptions you sent me], in that it’s about [a topic you’re interested in] and enhancing the way the whole group operates.

The way to apply and talk about this without seeming “unfocused” may be to talk about the purpose and programs that they engage in, all of which are up your alley. If you start to consider an organisation where there are no programs that you’re interested in, this strategy gets harder.


AdobeStock_298041549.jpeg Woman Pondering.jpeg

Or you may need more inner work.

Another avenue to pursue is your internal game.  Again, you’ve worked on this, but might there be something left?  A pattern many job seekers have is of underearning, by which I mean that they have almost always earned less than their degree or experience should be able to command.  If this is the case, questions to ponder would be

  • Where else in my life and family am I overlooked?

  • Do I give more than I receive?  Do I feel drained, or get resentful of giving when I don’t get back enough?  (This is a boundary issue. When we give more than is reciprocated, we keep getting more requests for help, but not offers to pay. It’s weird how it happens.)

  • Can I feel affection from people, particularly people I see often? (For some reason this is related.)

  • Do I routinely see the other person’s side before my own? Or as more important than my own? Or as a reason to wait for my own?  Waiting is a sure sign of underearning. It means we don’t ACT like we expect something to come to us quickly, or in time. We continue to offer more while we’re waiting; we don’t say no enough. Patience is not a virtue for some of us.

  • Am I really good at “making do?” Do I put my needs last?  (A real trap for mothers) To receive a paycheck, the pattern is we have to make our own needs and desires at least as important as our children’s.

Or, the obstacle can be in the pattern from a person’s family, such as

  • There’s a piece of work that needs to be done – restoring a lost or outcast family member, resolving a major argument, or a secret to be uncovered about a family member, for instance.

  • Or, some sort of reconciliation needs to happen, even if just in your own mind, with a family member(s), or prior generational values.

If there is something for you to do in this case, it will tug at you. You may just be curious about something. Or, it may be a metaphor that keeps occurring to you that seems out of place.. Over and over I’ve been stunned at how powerful this particular pattern is. We’ve even stopped some searches that had dragged on too long to follow strange threads.” In these cases, once the situation was resolved, the job came very fast – less than a month, even just 1 week in one case. The person’s availability was already known in the community so it was easy. They were at peace.

This message is probably not what you were expecting, but it’s the best I know to offer you.  You really have worked hard and well on your search. This indicates that there is another pattern at work.  It may be time to stop your search for a bit and follow your heart and grieving to see what shows up.  It’s a scary proposition, but it’s been consistently effective for long-term (a year or more) unemployed clients.

There is a gift in every transition.  So far I haven’t heard yours.  It’s really hidden. But there will be one.


Take care and please let me know how this works for you,

Sue Nelson

p.s. We have Social Hours from time to time where job seekers gather to discuss what their experience is like in real terms.  Perhaps you would find them encouraging.  I hope you will join us at the next one.

For Job Search Coaches: Thoughts on Handling Requests for Handling Special Needs in Transition

This question was sent in by a fellow job search adviser.

Q: A member of my faith community is a job seeker, diagnosed on the spectrum and bi-polar (he's self-confessed this to me).  With your experience I’m looking for guidance for:

  • Job seeking support, structure and guidance

  • employment

  • temporary financial support (he may be receiving something from our faith community)




 A: Hi Chris,

I can sure understand why you want to help to this gentleman. He’s in a tough place and thank goodness there are places and people like you who want to help.

The first place I’d start in Cleveland is NAMI. There is a national organization as well. They have everything this person needs. If in addition to their guidance you are able to help him write his resume, LI profile, and to make networking introductions in his field that would be lovely. But please read my caveats below before you take this on.

In Cleveland, Vocational Guidance Services, as I understand them, works with more severe disabilities. They may have some insights, ideas or wherewithal to help, depending on his needs. Someone who previously had professional jobs probably would not need their services, but they could check.

One question I have that will make a difference is if he was let go for cause. If you think your faith community is supporting him, he may not have been eligible for unemployment (fired) or have been out of work so long that his unemployment insurance ran out. If he is eligible and has not applied, he should be encouraged to do so. If he started receiving it, and then did not comply and was dropped, then scheduling an appointment with the Unemployment Bureau at Ohio Department of Job and Family Services would be the next step. There’s also a lot of info on their website.

If he is in or getting near to dire circumstances, in Greater Cleveland the thing to do is call 211. They will know the most up to date resources, qualifications and procedures for obtaining them and can steer the person to available resources right away. They can deal with any crisis.

If his disease affects his ability to work or find work he may need a lot of help. Perhaps the meds don’t control his condition well enough.  Or, he may be one of the many, many people who stop taking bi-polar meds because a) they miss the mania and b) they think they’re doing well and don’t like the side effects. The place to start is NAMI.

In a case that medication doesn’t really control the problem, it may be wise to talk with someone at Social Security to see what his options for permanent disability are.  This is not a path to take lightly as it is very difficult to qualify (personally, emotionally and financially - not to mention the extensive paperwork). Once you’re receiving it, it’s complicated to change your mind later, and decide you’d rather work. Also, it’s very difficult to be approved the first time one applies. There is a workbook that can help him get started.

Quality of life often means being able to work and finding some way of keeping engaged in the community is important for well-being, as you well know. So if he does qualify for SSI, employment within the income guidelines or volunteering may be healthy options. You or someone else might be able to help him with those.

Not having any idea what his skills are (office, profession, trades, etc.) I can’t recommend any particular organization, but the usual ones we recommend for finding jobs are all good: OhioMeansJobs and any particular organizations such as Robert Half for accounting or ManPower for lower skilled work, come to mind.  If he’s at an appropriate professional level, he could attend any job seeker group.

The thing is, unless he really needs accommodation, it’s usually best to not bring up his mental health issues to anyone.  Sometimes people with a condition have a victim mentality about it, though, and wanting sympathy, keep talking about how hard they have it, which keeps them stuck. 

There’s a complicator to recommending networking and referring your friend.  If his condition cannot be reliably controlled, or if he is non-compliant with his meds, his future behavior (fit) reflects on the referrer.  This is a touchy subject because most likely, the gentleman does not intend to negatively affect someone else. And if he’s generally ok, it’s none of anyone else’s business. He just wants a job. He may intend for there to be no interruptions in his future work. Yet for all of us, life is not always the way we want it to be.  It has ups and downs that stress us emotionally leading to behaviors from our past that don’t help us. For a person with his conditions, these behaviors can be significant detriments to work relationships.

If he does in fact need accommodation, or wants protection under the ADA (Americans with Disability Act), then he needs to tell an employer about his disability or issue and what accommodation he requires to do the job he is otherwise qualified to do. The timing of that request is an issue best addressed by NAMI or an employment lawyer experienced with these issues.

I have often suggested waiting till an offer is made, but that is not the best plan in all cases.  A few times, I’ve advised candidates to say upfront (especially if the disability is visible) what they need and to bring a document they hand to the interviewer to explain and support it with relevant info the employer needs to make a decision.  It’s possible that type or strategy might be useful. NAMI or an employment lawyer who is knowledgeable about cognitive disabilities and mental health would have more insight.

More and more companies are looking for candidates with various issues who have good skills and can come to work and get the job done. They are willing to overlook a lot otherwise. Again, NAMI likely has a list of employers and knows the best ways to talk with employers to help them see value in the candidate. I believe they also offer some sort of ongoing support to employers as well.

Early in my career, I was working at a rehab center and recognized talent in some of the individuals I was helping. They had closed head injuries (not what your person is dealing with), but they told me they had back injuries and I didn’t see their cognitive disabilities at first.

I treated their career development as I normally would, saying they could do these professional jobs. I gave them hope for training and jobs that they couldn’t actually do because they couldn’t maintain attention long enough to get the job done, or done accurately.  I set them up for a lot of disappointment and I regret that.

Working with a person in this difficult situation can be nourishing for us and them. And it requires - and the person deserves - the best guidance possible.  If it were me, I would decline working with him until there is guidance from an established, accredited person or organization that you can follow only the job search piece of their advice.  Coaching a person in this situation is not an option since they need counseling and specific expertise that we job search coaches are not informed or licensed to provide.

I hope these ideas are useful to you and your person.  Best of luck to you and them.

With great respect for the work you do and the care you extend,

Sue Nelson

Founding Director

The Job Search Center

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