THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! This Year It Is No Longer Humiliating To Be Explaining Your Unemployment Around the Thanksgiving Table!


Losing your job is dreadful, no matter what the reason. In this journalist's mind, it is still better than health issues, divorce, or death -- but that's it.

Sarah Palin's new book, "Going Rogue" (HarperCollins) just like my book "Bulletproof Your Job" (HarperCollins) and her interview on "Oprah" and then with Barbara Walters...Palin was asked if Levi Johnson would be invited to the Thanksgiving dinner table... reminded me of how we can get trapped with family during the holidays. Under normal circumstances, this is tough enough for some people. But can you imagine having to explain that you're unemployed to the people you see only once a year? Well not this year!

The truth is the reason you were fired really doesn't matter to anyone else. They really only think of you as "unemployed," "not working," and "still looking." That's how you're defined. Unless you are Levi Johnson, explaining around the dining room table, that you just posed for "PLAYGIRL". Or you are Jon Gosselin of "Jon & Kate Plus 8", and you claim you can't find work, because you are too famous. Now those are great excuses.

A job is how society had to judge us, in the past. Now we are defined on how long we have been unemployed and what methods, or search engines we are using to find work. We talk about how no one responds to our resumes, and about "networking".

I receive hundreds of emails from people who have been fired, and a year ago, many of them told me that the worst part of being fired is having to tell a loved one. Now its second nature, during the rest of the year, you can avoid your friends and extended family for a little while, but you may be coming home to someone that, a year ago you would have found it impossible to tell. It is no longer considered humiliating of having to explain yourself over and over, or worse, having to listen to a well-meaning friend or relative dispense unwanted advice. This year, almost no one at the table has a job, so you are all on a level playing field. The odd person out it is the only person at the table with a permanent full time job! And, they don't want to talk about it, for fear of hurting everyone else's feelings.

The holidays, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year's... all right around the corner. You may have to see friends or relatives you see only once a year. You can't avoid it, and as always, it will be your job -- second only to health, a recent divorce, or death -- that everyone wants to talk about.

Basically, a year ago you were screwed. Now the odd one out, is the only person at the table who has kept their job.

Holiday dinner talk this year is about how to figure out how to navigate monster.com or The Ladders, ...maybe pay your COBRA, and of course everyone loves talking about how they have the best way to do a resume!

Look, there's no one answer for everyone. And in all fairness, in journalism, I have to admit that I've never been unemployed myself, so I am writing from the perspective of the readers of my book, "Bulletproof Your Job"(HarperCollins) my columns and who watch me on TV. They e-mail me every day.

I know it seems like everyone is getting fired, but guess what? Most people aren't. Even with a 20 percent overall unemployment, that still means 80 percent of Americans are employed. So your time will come back. So why act unnaturally cheerful about something that is a dreadful experience? You're still going to have to go through it, but with everyone else you know sharing in the experience, you may find it easier. It can fun, to be in a small house, around a dining room table with people you've known forever having to explain that your boss was an ass :-)

Listen, you think it is bad for you? Let's face it, it has to be worse for our spouse or partner.... however, this year...be "Thankful" that you have your patient family, loving spouse or partner, girlfriend, boyfriend--and friends. I always close with some unconventional advice today...consider praying.

Copyright 2009
Stephen Viscusi
May be reproduced without permission of author, as long as author gets credit
Stephen Viscusi is the host of the upcoming TV show "The Headhunter From Hell".
Stephen Viscusi is the author of "Bulletproof Your Job" (HarperCollins) and can be reached at Stephen@viscusi.com. Visit his website @http://www.bulletproofyourjob.com, Follow me on Twitter @workplaceguru and add me on Facebook and LinkedIn.