There is a letter from a wife on the COLLive.com website regarding her husband, and so many like her husband, that are unemployed, perpetually. The letter is a sad read on so many levels. Particularly sad is the wife's desire to medicate the anxiety that she feels after so many years. The anxiety is naturally increased by the family living above their means, even if they lack the many things mentioned in the article from pricier food to cleaning help (prime example of living above their means: tuition and upcoming weddings mentioned). Probably what is most depressing about the letter is that we all know (good) people who have a terrible job history.
In fact, I spoke to one gentlemen during my dating years who showed the same symptoms, but I ran the other way when I asked about his job history (flame away if you may!). In his 10 years of employment, he had never stayed at a single job for more than a year plus a month or two max! I could see that there was an underlying disease, manifested by the symptom of continually quitting jobs before others in the office would even know he existed. Since he was still single going on 30, the issue was a red flag for me. But at 21, 22, or even 23 years of age, I'm not quit certain how such an issue could be easily noted. The letter writer does not see the disease clearly, but I have highlighted her closest guess, amongst many, as to what the issue is in the excerpt below:
By the time the year [of kollel] was over, we had our beautiful first born. And so with the expenses of a child already and childcare (because I was working), he took whatever dumb job came his way. A job where he did not really learn any skills, did not really make any contacts – the job just paid the bills, and we couldn’t spend on anything beyond the basics. And then he quit that one, got another dumb job, again without skills and contacts. And so our life progressed through the years. B"H more children, other dumb jobs, never being able to spend on anything extra. He never went to school or took courses because he was always so overworked from his job and helping at home with the kids.
[skipping further down] He’s a good man. He is willing to work. But he doesn’t seem to be able to get decent paying jobs. He doesn’t really seem to have the know-how (or the resources) to start a business on his own. I don’t know if it is that he doesn’t present well at job interviews. Or he doesn’t have skills that the decent paying jobs require. Or he doesn’t have the initiative or ambition to really pull off a decent salary. Or he doesn’t look in the right places. Or he doesn’t network with the right people. Bottom line is he doesn’t bring in enough money for even our simple lifestyle. And so now recently, he lost his job again. And we are trying to live from my check and his unemployment check. And with this economy, and his lack of marketable skills, our high expenses, and at this point, his low confidence in himself, he isn’t finding
While many of the commentators mention the need for education and marketable skills (two important components of developing a career), I don't believe that the main issue for those who suffer from perpetual unemployment (mostly caused by QUITTING one job after another, no matter how "dumb" the job is) lies in the lack of education, networking, or marketable skills. I know janitors who have been with the same employer for decades, and I know PhDs who have left their jobs and flounder about aimlessly.
What I see is an underlying dissatisfaction with life in general, perhaps caused by depression. Sometimes I see a streak of entitlement. I see a hint of this above in calling the jobs "dumb". What could possibly be dumb about working and providing a service for an employer and others? The largest issue I see is the inability to cope: The inability to cope with one's own emotions, the inability to cope with other people, and the inability to cope with frustration, disappointment, and adversity.
Where a person has a clear history of quitting one job after another, I'm fairly certain that the solution is NOT education (either vocational or graduate), starting one's own business (doing what I'm not sure), or networking/job assistance (let's not forget that taking on a new employee is an investment that a business makes and that no investor wants a negative ROI). In fact, college itself can be used as a means of avoiding problems. Suggesting education for a person with such a job history may very possibly fall under the category of a "throw money at it solution".
Beyond any possible medical intervention that might be recommended (I'm no doctor, so I won't discuss such), I believe the first step for a person with a such a job history is to find and hold a job for an extended period of time, ideally within the 3-5 years period. It would be nice to find a job where the husband can develop some skills, but skilled or unskilled, I think the real flaw here is that a resume that shows job after job screams, I am unable to adapt to the workplace!
Employers do not "give" away jobs (and the sooner the frum world realizes this, the better off we will be). Employers "invest" in employees. The key to being able to get that next job after a less than stellar job history (whether you have no skills or a hold a PhD in Aeronautics) is to demonstrate commitment, the ability to function in the workplace, and some initiative and ambition. I believe that the solution to changing this problem is to get one's foot in the door and stick it out through thick and thin in an attempt to make the resume tell a better, or at least neutral, story.