When Harold Brown, 49, was laid off from his job as an interior design drafter in December 2008, he knew that the prospects for reemployment were grim. The economy in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, was one of the worst in the country and he worked in an industry that was entirely dependent on new building projects staying afloat.
Instead of sitting around waiting to hear back from employers who would probably never call, Brown decided in early 2009 that he was going to have to think outside the box.
"I was sitting in my kitchen one day thinking, there's gotta be a better way in life than to work for somebody else," Brown told HuffPost. "And then I just started looking at my clock, thinking, what if I changed the numbers and did it this way or that way? I got my sketchpad out and started drawing stuff and writing notes down, and my business idea developed from there."
A few months later, with a couple thousand dollars Brown had saved up over his years of working, he launched Rev'lution, a line of innovative clocks that he hopes will show people an alternative way to look at time. So far, Brown says he's only sold about five clocks for up to $59.98 apiece, but he's confident that his business will eventually take off.
"The name, Rev'lution, it signifies the change in the clock and the time, of course, but also also a change that's hopefully gonna come in my life," said Brown. "My unemployment benefits run out next month, so I'm hoping I can make a living off of this. You know, I'm hoping I've created a new job for myself."
In this dismal U.S. job market, many of the longterm unemployed who have lost hope in the possibility of finding a new job are learning to be creative and proactive with their free time in order to eke out a living and keep their resumés fresh for potential employers. When Nicole Porter, 30, lost her job and her relationship in the same week, she decided it was time to channel her frustrations into something productive.
"I was unemployed for about ten days, and I thought, there must be some reason why I keep getting hired for projects that are essentially free," said Porter, who previously worked as a production manager in Los Angeles. "Why not work for me instead?"
Porter said she moved to New York, took a part-time job folding clothes at a retail store, and began to compile some of her favorite comfort food recipes into a book she called "The Breakup Cookbook." Now, every Saturday and Sunday, she sits out in Union Square selling copies of her book and handing out promotional recipes at the local Whole Foods. She has already sold about 500 books this month.
"I asked myself a question: are you more prepared to be embarrassed or hungry?" she said. "Embarrassed was it. The break-up cookbook now makes up about 50% of my income, and I'm getting closer to what I was making before the recession."
Even young, fresh-out-of college people are having to tap into their entrepreneurial skills to make themselves competitive in today's job market. Jason Boeckman, 25, had zero job prospects after graduating from college in December 2008 with a degree in public relations and he has struggled for the past two years to find an entry-level opportunity related in any way to his degree. Fearing a gaping hole in his resumé, he decided to put himself to work.
"Since I couldn't find a job, I decided that I was going to have to invent one," he told HuffPost. "To keep my resumé fresh and make new contacts, I have spent the last year and a half volunteering my communications services to a couple non-profit organizations in my hometown of Cincinnati. I wanted to build a portfolio of writing samples so I could continue applying for jobs with fresh material -- it was the most advantageous approach I could take to a bad situation."
The portfolio Boeckman created during his self-made internship recently helped him to land a temporary paid copywriting position in Naples, Florida.
"The position didn't come with a retirement plan or health insurance, and it's very temporary, but I guess nobody has a hold on any job right now," he said. "I live as frugally as possible and save the majority of my earnings should I find myself in a pinch without a job again."
Boeckman may be young, but he feels the stress of the recession as acutely as anyone, despite having done everything right.
"It's extremely distressing to think that the ability to enjoy gainful employment may be a luxury for only the most lucky or well-connected among us," he said. "Too many people will be hanging around wondering what they did wrong. But the majority of them, like me, probably did everything they were advised to do to become successful and functional members of adult society. Could it be that it just doesn't work out for everyone?"
Has your life been significantly affected by the recession? Please send stories and comments to LBassett@huffingtonpost.com.