When my husband, Dennis, first began job hunting, I'd hold my breath as I waited for him to appear at the door, eager for a glimpse of his face to tell me if his day had been a success. But now, 15 months after he became a statistic—one of 300 laid off by his employer of six years—I can tell how his day's gone simply by the way his feet hit the steps leading from the garage into the house. Today his footsteps are heavy, as though he's carrying the weight of the world.
All these months I've watched Dennis stuff hundreds of résumés into the mailbox and pound away at the computer keyboard, courageously sending hundreds more electronically. I've waved good-bye to him as he drives off early in the morning to face another day of approaching unapproachable receptionists at companies that "are not hiring." And greeted his slumped shoulders and downcast eyes upon his return after another unproductive afternoon.
I've seen Dennis lower his expectations, then lower them further. An electronics technician with a sterling work record and more than 20 years' experience in his field, he first sought a comparable job. After a few months, Dennis expanded his search to include entry-level positions in his field, expecting that would do the trick. His wink and nod assured me we'd find a way to get by for a while on the lower salary. But after several weeks went by with no interviews, much less job offers, he began to respond to every job posting for which he was qualified—and, more often than not, overqualified.1