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Dual-Unemployed Spouses


by David Mezzapelle
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In the current economic climate it is not difficult to find a household where both spouses are out of work. When you add that to the fact that a majority of those people have children, mortgages, insurance and taxes, it is quite a stressful situation. Our company, in conjunction with The Wall Street Journal, did a story on this topic featuring a family in New Canaan Connecticut that recently experienced this exact scenario.

The wife worked for GE Capital as a Loan Manager and the husband was a Trust Officer with UBS. She lost her job in Nov (2008) and he was terminated in December. Neither layoff was based on performance – they were both downsized. Her severance was for 6 months and he did not receive any severance.

At First

At first it was tough for them, they felt empty when Mondays rolled around but at least their children were in school instead of hanging around. They started feeling sorry for themselves. Tensions built up quickly and they would snap at each other over the dumbest things. Financial constraints hit home during the holidays and explaining that to their kids was difficult. However, within a few weeks they got a handle on improving the situation.

During the day they would network to find new employment. They actually networked for each other among family, friends, business contacts, etc. When you combine each other’s resource list it is amazing how much further you can dig. One of our GoliathJobs’ Support Reps actually advised them to go this route and it ultimately proved successful.

Evenings & weekends they continued on like before but were much more careful about expenditures (i.e. restaurants, trips, clothes, etc). They still enjoyed wine but had certainly lowered their price point! Taking walks, exercising and spending more time with their children actually added to their job search efficiency. Exercise always makes tough times more tolerable and keeps the head clear. Financially they were ok but unfortunately many of their investments had taken hits. They admit that both sets of parents were very frugal – now they respect and see why.

The bottom line for this couple was to not dwell on the current situation and simply look forward to the future. Positive thinking & optimism had ultimately made them closer.

Effective Tactics

We spoke with many couples that were going through this hardship and came up with a list of the most common effective tactics:

  • No discussion on the job loss topic is permitted at night or on the weekends. One couple actually made a bet that if one slips the other has to cook dinner that night and clean.
  • Critiquing each other’s emails and resumes. Constructive criticism is important.
  • Mock interviews and videos (to see where the other person was weak). “My husband kept telling me that i need to be more relaxed during an interview. Once we started videotaping the sessions he was able to point out my less-relaxed nuances. Keeping that in mind I am careful to avoid those flaws now. Conversely, I kept telling him to talk louder during his interviews. I finally showed a close friend a copy of one of the tapes. As soon as she commented he improved his decibels!”
  • Help each other network and share contacts. In the case of the Connecticut couple, they wife’s old manager at GE was married to a financial advisor at JP Morgan. Using that connection they were able to get the husband an interview there. They made a similar connection for the wife in regards to the husband’s contacts at IBM Global Finance and Mercedes Benz Credit Corp.

The Least Effective Tactic

Being present when the other person is on the phone networking or speaking with a potential employer. It makes it hard for that person to relax and speak well. You need to leave the room so the other person is at ease.

Which Spouse is More Marketable?

In many cases we see a bottleneck in this area. Which spouse brings more to the table and is most likely to win the higher paying job first? This question has led to marital problems and needs to be handled carefully. The couple from Connecticut both agreed that “There is no least marketable spouse.” According to the wife, “We both worked in industries that took a hit. However, the Trust business is getting more complicated and i believe my husband will get a job soon. And as business lending starts to resume I am sure that my experience will open doors for me as well.” Living in Southern Connecticut, with a close proximity to the NY-Metropolitan area, also contributes to more potential opportunities in this case.

The Happy Ending

This story ends well and can serve couples world-wide with valuable advice & optimism. The husband landed the job at JP Morgan after connecting with the wives ex-manager’s spouse who worked there. The wife landed the job at Mercedes Benz Credit Corp after connecting with her husband’s contact at that company. This demonstrates the power of simple networking just within your own circles. The market may be difficult for job seekers especially dual-unemployed spouses. However, it is clearly improving and remaining optimistic can only help. Charge forward and stay confident. Dear Abby once said, “You might feel impatient when things are not as final as you hoped. Let go of the fear… and the world comes to you.”

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