The unemployment rate in the U.S. is expected to jump to 9.5 percent when it's released on Friday. Officially, 14.5 million people are unemployed. Thousands -- perhaps millions -- more have given up and are not counted. They're not numbers; they're individuals with a story to tell.
Jon Joriman, 34, of Little Canada, was asked, perhaps, the hardest question a job-seeker could be asked recently. He'd survived two rounds of interviews at a firm when he was told the company had to choose between him and someone with more experience. "Who would you pick?" he was asked.
Jon recommended the other guy. "I had to be honest," he told me today during a conversation in which I realized the company probably couldn't have made a bad choice.
Joriman, married with two young children and multiple degrees in chemistry and engineering, has been out of work since January when Donaldson Company, a filtration firm based in Bloomington, laid him off. Three of the firm's biggest clients -- Caterpillar, Volvo, and John Deere -- had pulled back business, and the ripple effect washed over Joriman's department.
"They were very humane," he said. Though he had high security clearances, there was no security guard to escort him to the door, he was allowed to come back the next day to tie up loose ends, and he was provided with job counselors to organize the search for a new job.
But there's nothing nice about losing a job. "I called my wife and I said, 'I've got good news and I've got bad news.'" The good news was that he didn't have to go on a business trip he was scheduled to take that day. "'The bad news is I don't have to go to work tomorrow. I've been laid off,'" he told his wife.
Joriman says he's very fiscally conservative and says as far back as last September he realized the economy was turning sour and that the family needed to cut back on expenses.
"Back in college (at the University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology), I had a professor who said, 'You will all be laid off at some point. I don't care how good you are.'" He followed the professor's advice to try to put away 6-12 months of income by buying a HUD foreclosed home years ago, fixing it up and selling it for a profit. "It was my Corvette fund because I always wanted a Corvette. Now it's the kids' college fund and we haven't had to touch it, " he said.
"I got over the initial shock," he said, "and I figured, 'OK, this'll be easy." But he says he hit the low point in March when he didn't have a new position. "It was frustrating, but I realized that the only thing I could control is the amount of energy I put into the job search." He says he enjoys networking, building relationships, and meeting people and when I asked him how he was doing going into the eighth month of unemployment, he said, "great."
"It's one big roller coaster," he said. He met with a business counselor this week who told him that he's talked to more than 2,000 people, "and not one person who got laid off has said it's bad."
"I call it pre-retirement," he said. He's spent more time with his kids (his wife works at Target Corporation), he sees his parents more often (and re-roofed their house last week), he's lost weight since dropping the health club membership, he's coaching his daughter's hockey team, coached T-ball, is volunteering with a firm that designs equipment to help third-world countries, and he's written a children's book, combining his love for hot rods (he's shown above with his '65 Mustang) with teaching kids how to spell.
H is for "hot rod,"
No matter the make, model or year,
All these rigs bring joy,
As well as blood, sweat and tears.
He'd hoped to have a new job by the time his oldest child went to school. That's unlikely to happen and he now is shooting to find something by Thanksgiving.
Joriman is looking for the right job, not just a job.
The right job, he says, "would be a senior scientist, chemist or chemical engineer within a technology driven organization. I love to make new products. I am a very mechanical chemical engineer that likes to take things from ideas to full production by solving all the problems along the way as well as finding and getting the correct experts to help. I like to manufacture items."
He credits his attitude partly on a professor who taught a leadership class at the University of St. Thomas, where he obtained a Master's Degree. "He walked in and said, 'Tell me about yourself without using your job title,'" Joriman said. "He told to constantly challenge yourself to not be your title."
I'm retired now, but for 10 years I worked with Jon at Donaldson Company on many projects. The projects were chemical, chemical engineering, scientific, problem solving and project development. He was much younger than me, but he seriously impressed me with his always positive attitude, attention to detail, people skills and technical aptitiude. The company that grabs him before someone else does is a fortunate company indeed. I wish him the best, always.
May the best happen sooner rather than later for Jon!