Unemployed and No Skills? I'm Callin' BS.

Somebody (a 52-year-old man) e-mailed me through the site recently. The gentleman said that he had no skills and felt hopeless.

Really? 52 years old and not a single marketable skill? Unemployment can do a number on self-esteem. Not to be a drill sergeant or anything, but I find it nearly impossible to believe that someone with that much experience in the working world has no skills.

Hear me now but listen to me later:

Every human being on the face of this planet has something positive to offer.

Whether you get a job or strike out on your own, that "something positive" is what gets you paid. The trick is to offer it to the right people, the people who want or need it.

Actually, the real trick is figuring out what it is that you have to offer, especially when you're feeling like dog doo on an old bum's shoe which is the way unemployment tends to make people feel after a while.

So I'ma' be a drill sergeant over here and get up in your face a bit: Cut the self-pitying crap! This is about survival. It's about putting food on the table. It's about not having to burn the table for heat. You don't have time to wallow in self-pity!

If you want to figure out what you're good at, think about what you like to do. Make a list of everything you like to do. Start with, "Sit around in my boxers watching football, scratching my you-know-whats and nursing a brewski," and work your way up to "playing golf," "mowing the lawn," "driving," and other activities that are -- if you think about them long enough -- potentially remunerative. Maybe you won't get paid for playing golf, but maybe just maybe your love of golf combined with your enjoyment of mowing the lawn could lead somewhere, you know?

So make that list and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

If you really, truly have no skills, great! Now is your chance to learn how to do all those things you wish you could do. But you have skills. Trust me on this. I've been there.

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You are so full of crap! 52

You are so full of crap!
52 yrs old, no schooling or trade in this economy IS A DEATH SENTENCE!

chuck's picture

Fair enough

But how someone can work that long and not pick up any skills is hard to fathom.

When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.

I'm a 53 year old White

I'm a 53 year old White Female living in California. I can't find a job anywhere. Apparently, Janitorial skills don't account for anything in the job market. That's all I have. I've applied for countless positions, and haven't gotten anything, but a "Thank You for Applying". I'm very hard-working, and willing to learn ANYTHING. I'm in good health, and have a very nice personality (I've been told), but I'm at my wits end. My bank acct. is almost totally depleted, My unemployment ran out, and I've been denied an extension because I didn't have enough earnings within the past 18 mos. I've been living with family, but I've worn out my welcome, since I have very little to contribute now, meaning I only have food stamps. I've gone to the local Workforce Development center, hoping I could get some training, but they just want to tell us how to sell ourselves when looking for jobs. I'm not saying it's not valuable, but I've been doing just what they're telling us to do, and it just isn't helping. Again, I have limited skills. I feel like there is absolutely no hope for me and many others like me. I'm ready to give up, and put an end to all of this misery. What is a person expected to do? I thank GOD that I don't have a family to take care of. I'd be so much more depressed than I already am, which I just can't imagine. So, people, don't think this is a situation that I or anyone else wants to be in.

I am feeling your pain. I am

I am feeling your pain. I am also 53 and no job and living in Georgia. Fortunately I am married but I feel alone, hopeless, and a complete failure. No one will hire me either. I have been unemployed for almost 1 year now. I actually have given my situation to the Lord. That's all I can do at this point. I still look for jobs everyday but I am really fed up with getting told we have decided to do with someone else. It really is discouraging to go look for a job because you know what the end result will be. So I have turned to the Lord for help. Actually ... I pray everyday that he will just let me sleep and have him bring me home. I wish I could give you better hope... but I am in the same situation as you are... so you see you are not alone.

chuck's picture

God tests those He loves

Now, I'm not a Bible literalist, but I do think it has some great stories and metaphors.

The ones God loves most are the ones who are tested. Abraham, Job, Moses... heck, look at what God's own son had to go through! Don't pray for sleep, pray for wakefulness! Pray that God will show you what to do or at least give you some hint, and pray for the strength you will need to pass whatever test you are under and the wisdom to learn whatever it is you're supposed to learn.

Again, I'm not at all religious, but I think there's a lot to learn from all those Biblical tales of woe. One common theme seems to be perseverance of faith, like Abraham waiting 100 years for his first son. So, y'know, don't lose hope, lame as that might sound.

You'll be OK.

When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.


Thanks Chuck. Your thoughts are comforting and I agree. Fertilizer makes the roses grow bigger and more colorful. Happy Easter!! :)

Sorry, but that's total BS!

Sorry, but that's total BS! How does God have time for our idiotic headaches and joblessness when he can't prevent mass murders like happened on 9/11. Seems he's asleep at the wheel, as usual.

chuck's picture

I don't speak for God

In fact, I don't even believe in God as most people perceive of it for the very reasons you cite.

But I do believe that there is some animating force to the multiverse, something that keeps it all spinning around. And I believe that force is available to us in some form. And I believe that force is conscious... is is consciousness itself. I do not believe that it has any interest in our foibles or in preventing mass murder. It is neither good nor evil -- those are human notions and very valid ones -- it just is.

I also believe that we can learn a lot about the world and ourselves from mythology, including Judeo-Christian mythology. I believe that Star Wars is just as true as NASA but on a different level. You dig?

The point I was making above is... well, it's really the whole point of this site: challenges, setbacks, and suffering in this life are not "bad" things if we learn from them and become more compassionate, more passionate, stronger, and smarter for having been through them.

When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.

God Tests Those He Loves

Thank you for this. I am not religious either, though I was required to attend church when I was young. Your simple, humble words have helped me more than you can know. Thank You.

Return to Community College

If I were you, I would look into the local community college and get a degree in a techincal field. It's very modern and you can get through in one year. I am sure you could qualify for a FAFSA loan (federally guaranteed loan, no matter how bad your credit is, but has to be repaid). Just go to FAFSA.com and fill out the application. YOu can use the loan to pay your tuition and rent and have a marketable skill within one year. I did it and attend a local community college and am in the court reporting department. And believe me, no one could possibly be more alone and as poor as I am and have been. You can do it, sister!!

chuck's picture


That's a great idea. Community colleges are such a great resource, and many of them do offer programs in skills that can be brought to market quickly such as nursing, court reporting, auto mechanics, computer certifications.

Nobody should ever give up no matter how bad their situation. Only three things are certain in this life: death, taxes, and change.

When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.

Angela J. Shirley's picture

The Over 50 Crowd!

Hi Anonymous - both of you: (not sure if it is the same person/lol)

I hope you will come back and share some more with us. How are you doing? Is there anything we can do for you? What type of work are you looking for?

I just finished up my 7 week "Ready To Work" program and looking forward to receiving my certificate in the mail. It seems that with the recession, a lot of employers are now demanding some form of "certificate" issued by EACH state that states you are now ready to be employed. Hmmmm, getting really interesting out there. Gone are the days of me being to just walk in and get a job.

Being 52, soon to be 53 has been a challenge - I totally understand...

(1) Look around you to see what is needed.

(2) Evaluate your skills to see if you can fill the need or obtain the necessary skills.

(3) Approach the organization or person you want to work for.

(4) Offer to work for "free" so that they can "evaluate" your skills.

(5) And keep looking - always have a plan just in case you get "laid off" again.

Angela J. Shirley,How I Keep Income In My Life!

janejane's picture

job certificate

Really, this is the new ploy they are using to stiff the "lost job through no fault of their own crowd." Unfreaking believable. As you said there goes the days of just walking in and getting a job. I guess the no fault of your own doesn't matter anymore.

I am part of that over 50 crowd. I was laid off in 2009 and went back to college. I was on unemployment until jan 2011, I then became a 99er. I find it difficult now that I have been looking for a part time job, since I am a full time college student, I have been looking since before Christmas. You think I was asking to borrow money, I will work for it. This is really getting to me, it seems they want young inexperienced people, and us older very experienced people does not seem to matter anymore. It is very depressing, if it wasn't for school I would have gone crazy by now. Now I am questioning why I even bother to go to school??? I will keep, keeping on, what else can we do.


Angela J. Shirley's picture


Hi Jane:

Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us.

Have you heard anything about grants being out there for folks to start their own business?

Like you, I am so over the systems/programs that are SUPPOSE to help us but are not. I am thinking of trying to apply for a grant to start my own busines, not sure in what, but probably helping folks like us find an income.


Angela J. Shirley,How I Keep Income In My Life!

janejane's picture


good for you. I would like to start a business too, however what to do? what to do? I know they will ask.

I am not sure where you found that information, please let me know, it's worth looking into.

feeling better today, it's a day by day thing. will visit again soon.

take care everyone,


Angela J. Shirley's picture

Grant Site

Hi Jane, please see "copy & paste" below. I have not had a chance to check out the website. If you do, please, if convenient - let me know how it goes.


That's a good question - I am not all that familiar with grants.

I do know the U. S. Small Business Administration has grant money available for women business owners. You can go to the SBA.gov website and check out the details. There is probably a local SBA office in a city near you.

Grants are usually very specific about how they may be used. In fact, there is a whole industry that specializes in writing grant applications. Done correctly, there is definitely money available!

Please let us know if you find out any more information.

Thanks for asking that question!

Sharon Michaels, Business Coach Editor
“Empowering and mentoring women entrepreneurs to greater personal and professional success.”

Angela J. Shirley,How I Keep Income In My Life!

Is anyone finding a job?

I'm 53, lost my job 2 years ago and can't find work. I've been an admin asst. for years and have tons of experience but no luck. I've been cleaning houses for a living, just lost my home, went through bankruptcy and a broken relationship so I'm feeling pretty low. I don't want to go to college. For what? To have a huge school debt if I could even get a loan, and still be out of work?

Is it the age?

chuck's picture

So sorry...

... to hear about your situation. When it pains it roars. Believe me, I understand.

I agree with you that college would be a waste of time and money for you. It's a waste of time and money for most people who do it. Not that an education is ever a bad thing, but a lot of people go through the motions and never really get an education.

Are you cleaning houses on a freelance basis or do you have a job doing that?

The reason I ask is that if you are a freelancer, maybe you could think of ways to expand your business. Start by just putting the word out to your existing clients that you're looking for more business. Then maybe print some flyers and see if you get any calls. Before you know it, you'll have a website and a couple of employees.

Try and play the hand you've got the best you can. Best of luck.

When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.

Clarification on SBA grants for women

This is a popular misconception- The SBA does NOT lend or award grants. Their program is to help women get the paperwork together to get a traditional business loan. My ex-wife wanted to start a small business and looked into this. The SBA was helpful letting her know what to expect and what to have, but the bank STILL wanted collateral, etc. No "grants."

chuck's picture


The SBA can help you get a loan, get your business plan together, etc. They do not do grants.

Thanks for clearing that up.

When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.

53 and underemployed

Some of us just never "felt lead" to any paticular career. I struggled all my life. School was hell. Some Teachers, classmates, employers and coworkers have treated me in a negative manor. I thought I did well in college but when I found work in electronics no one was satisfied. I have been fired, laid off and let go and asked never to return. My recent discovery of "full-blown ADHD may be to blame. By that time I had no healthcare and was working part-time so treatment and therapy is out of the question. I may have picked up some skills but with a reputation like that good jobs are hard to find. Currently I work as a meter reader part-time and don't deal with others so they don't see my behaviour and mistakes I make. I've been there for about 5 years. It doesn't require any skills but is a disappearing field thanks to technology. I could drive truck or park cars but I lose focus alot, the dents prove it. It has become more and more difficult for me to find work ever since I went to college.

These comments are depressing.

I was linked to this site hoping to find inspiration but only see a support group. There is nothing that would help anyone to fight unemployment, it's just a bunch of sob stories. I'm willing to be that everyone in here is willing or has thought of offing themselves more than once in their lifetime. So I'm not going to say cheer up, or hope you find a job because your not looking hard enough. You cant be picky if you really want a job. You have to do what it takes. Apply to 8 places a day. If you say you've applied to everything in the area then expand tour search. Print resumes hand them in instead of asking for applications tom save time, they will ask you to fill one out if they need it. Dress nicely and just do it. If you still run out of places then re apply to show tour determination. Don't expect God to "do it for you". If you believe the bible then you believe that God helps those who help themselves, not get help from others, although that is nice. Good luck, no, good hunting.

chuck's picture

Sorry you feel that way

I find it depressing that you're saying "You can't be picky if you want a job."

Let me tell you something, kid, I have wasted years working in crappy jobs that made me want to off myself every single day because I had the exact same attitude as you. I was desperate for a job and ended up with a job that sucked. I'm not doing that anymore. I'm not settling. There is no honor in a "job" per se. The honor is in the work. I don't believe that anyone should settle. Life is way too short. Do what you love. Learn what you need to learn and do what you love. Is that a "depressing" idea to you?

If you believe the bible then you believe that God helps those who help themselves, not get help from others,

I believe that God helps those who help others. Not sure what the Bible says about that and don't care, frankly.

You cant be picky if you really want a job. You have to do what it takes. Apply to 8 places a day. If you say you've applied to everything in the area then expand tour search.

Are you really unemployed? I hear from people every single day who have spent months, even years, applying for every crappy job they could, who have set up tables in commercial areas to hand out resumes, who have done all kinds of zany stuff and come up dry. You sound like someone who has no clue about how hard it is to get a job these days, not someone who is unemployed.

When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.

You've got some balls!

This site obviously wasn't created for people such as yourself to tell others how to deal with their situation. To you, these may be sob stories, but to others, they ARE stories of inspiration. Just knowing how others are coping with their given circumstances is inspiring to me, just having the courage to get up and face the day, every day. I've lost family members to suicide, and when I see people like you post on this site, with no compassion, it makes me so irate! As the saying goes, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." I'm sure others out there would appreciate it if you didn't!

Thank you for saying that! A

Thank you for saying that!

A few weeks ago I posted on this blog as "Hopeless." Look! I've been promoted! Ha, ha.

DMK's picture

These comments are reality

Hello Anonymous:

Yes, there is depression in some of these comments. We all are not here because we just won the lottery or just came home from a long, relaxing vacation. We are here because for a multitude of reasons we have found ourselves in a situation of unemployment that we seem to have no control over.

Many of us have been forced into a transformation of our lives. Some are embracing it and some are struggling. The purpose of this site is not to hand out unsolicited advice or opinions, but to offer support and ideas that are cohesive and meaningful. Advice such as applying to at least eight places a day doesn't hold much weight with those of us who have been at this for quite some time. Randomly throwing out our resumes or applications and hoping they will stick somewhere is not the answer. If you do come up with better suggestions than that, I'm sure we will be all ears (or eyes) to what you have to say.

And it's "Bible" with a capital B

This blog is fittingly called "Survive Unemployment!", which declares the intention of most people posting here. It's not "Thrive in Unemployment" because that is not our situation and I have not yet read here any tips to "off" myself or others.

This blog is a boon to those of us who get up every day, put on a suit and a smile, print out resumes and materials on good stationery, and reapply to companies with even more enthusiasm. Do you really think your post offers anyone hope? None of us needs one more person piling on criticism.

If you are applying to eight places a day, your applications are uninspired, routine and full of errors. One well-thought-out, well-written application free of punctuation and spelling errors is great. Two good applications a day is terrific.

Many of us could use support at this point. Don't knock it.

chuck's picture

You make a great point

If you are applying to eight places a day, your applications are uninspired, routine and full of errors. One well-thought-out, well-written application free of punctuation and spelling errors is great. Two good applications a day is terrific.

So very true! Quality counts so much more than quantity. Not to brag, but I've made about ten applications in the past two months and have had six interviews and two "offers," one that fell through and one that's on hold. (Stay tuned!)

The shotgun approach might work if your only goal is to hit the side of a barn from close range, but if you really want to be effective, you have to have the patience, cunning, and precision of a sniper.

When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.

smjennings's picture

I'm just trying to figure out

I'm just trying to figure out who the shotgun approach works for. I even heard a recruiter the other day say "If I look in the system and see you applied for 80 different positions, I kind of wonder what the deal is, because I know there's no way you can even be remotely qualified for all 80 positions or even did a decent job on those 80 applications."

One caveat--I don't really bother with federal government job applications for that reason unless it's just something I'm really, really interested in and have all the qualifications for. In the time I spend responding to essay questions for a position I might get a call for seven months later, I probably could have done a couple of private sector applications in the same amount of time.


Well, the Bible does not say "God help those who help themselves". I agree with the fact that some of us are not looking hard enough.

You obviously HAVEN"T been there

I'm a 53 year old female and I can tell you have not been there at all just by the tone of what you wrote. I have been a sub contractor for the past 16 years, read self employed. Now I am unemployed and when I list on job applications that I was self employed for 16 years right away you can see the change in someone's response. There is are no job reviews for them to check because I had no supervisor. The company I subcontracted for is went out of business and the owner won't respond to anyone for any reason - so that leaves about ten of us up the creek. (she should be in jail but that's another story) So for the last 16 years of working I have no job reference. I don't speak Spanish. When they see I haven't worked in an office or "on a team" in so long I get the thanks we'll let you know. A lot of offices use programs I never heard of before and want you to be experienced with those programs.
So what I like to do? Will anybody pay me to knit a sweater? Not enough to cover the cost even the cost of cheap yarn.

chuck's picture

You're right

I'm not in my 50s and don't know what it's like to be discriminated against on those grounds, and I'm not a woman so I obviously can't relate to any prejudice you may face in that regard.

I do, however, know a thing or two about re-packaging oneself and placing oneself in a new, more strategically advantageous position on the shelf. Five years ago I was a "loser" who had misspent his youth (and beyond) traveling the world and being independent instead of building a career as a corporate suckup like everybody else. How "employable" do you think I was?

So I do know what it's like to have clueless 20-somethings who add precisely zero value looking down their noses at you.

The thing is -- and this took me a while to figure out -- they don't pay you for your experience; they pay you for your skills. You need to learn new programs? Learn them! You really think you can't get paid to knit sweaters? I am willing to bet that if you can knit a good enough sweater, you can figure out a way to get paid for it. The key is in being able to knit well enough, having the skills.

As I said, though, I do not know exactly what it's like to be in your shoes, but I do know what it's like to be hopeless, scared, and chronically unemployed or underemployed. It sucks for young and old alike.

Best of luck and thanks for sharing.

When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.

Third World

" am willing to bet that if you can knit a good enough sweater, you can figure out a way to get paid for it. "

Yes, in places like Bangladesh where a recent fire at a sweater factory killed 112 people. You cant get a job from skills like this...unless you are working at a sweatshop in the third world.

Look up Danny DeVitos speech in the movie "Other People's Money"

chuck's picture

Oh my...

You can get paid for the cool sweater, not the knitting. So you sell a few, then you start hiring out the actual knitting, maybe even to someone in Bangladesh. It's called business.

For such a seemingly smart person, you sure do think small, kid!

When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.

53, unemployed 3 years

I am 53, unemployed for 3 years and living on student loans. Boy, that, along with the Social Security crisis, makes my retirement years look great. I have tried to get jobs at call centers but cannot pass their idiotic assessment test even though I tried answering honestly, to their needs and a hybrid of both. I am not stupid and have general skills but can't land a job.

Employment over 50

fueling prejudices against prospective workers over 50 is the silent influence behind the scenes that employers insurance companies put on employers. Forget the fact you actually get out of bed and show up for work or you won't stand around yaking on a cell phone or texting the day away your considered a financial health risk to insurance companies who in fact let employers know what keeps their rate down and it's hiring younger workers. They want to increase retirement age for collecting social security but where do they think people over 50 are going to work, how many flunky jobs like door greeter at Wal-Marts are available, get real.

No minimum qualifications = no job

"But you have skills. Trust me on this. I've been there."

Listing ambiguous platitudes as being the same as real, marketable skills is dishonest at best. Have you looked at the job listings? Literally anything above minimum wage lists ridiculous qualifications for applicants. You to have 5 years experience with some very specific software coupled with 10 years experience as a team leader. They want certification in a bunch of different categories and a MS/MBA in one particular subset.

Why do they do this? Wouldn't making the job announcement so specific mean that fewer people would qualify? Well, yes it does, but since there is high unemployment and people jump from job to job, they can (and do) ask for someone who can hit the ground running at day one. We listed a job that paid only $40k and required proficiency in a few software/digitization programs...we got 100 applications for the position, one of which was from Harvard.

So please, saying that self confidence and believing in the power of a positive attitude will do anything is wholly without merit. If you dont have anything tangible, like a science or medical degree, then you better go get one. And DONT be unemployed for long, companies wont hire someone who has been out of work for too long.

chuck's picture

You make a fair case, but your conclusion is erroneous

Sure, nobody wants to hire someone without skills. A lot of people with great skills and sterling credentials apply for crap-paying jobs. Only one gets hired.

And your conclusion, Frank, is this:

So please, saying that self confidence and believing in the power of a positive attitude will do anything is wholly without merit.

This statement throws a fatal error. You don't need a statement at all at this point; you need a query. The question you should be asking is, "In a world where we can have our pick of overqualified candidates, what sets the one that 'wins' apart?"

Of course job seekers must "have something tangible," as you put it. A lot of people have skills. That's obvious. You pointed it out yourself (unless you were saying that the 100 people who applied for the $40k job were all unskilled, including the one from Harvard).

You seem like a pretty confident guy. I bet you're pretty successful. Do you know anyone who is successful who is not confident and always down in the dumps? You could argue that success breeds confidence, but it would be moot because I could argue the converse. The fact, though, is that successful people (at least in my experience) are usually confident and upbeat. To dispute that would be disingenuous.

Amazing how you see the obvious so clearly yet reach such a logically flawed conclusion!

I really don't mean to tear you down. Stay confident and positive, dude, and don't overestimate the value of your "tangible" assets. :)

When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.

I have learning disabilities

I have learning disabilities that I never got help with, I did manage to get a GED and got a job doing fast food.. slaved away doing that for 7 years while trying to support myself. I then got hit by a car while walking to work, ended up in hospital for 3 days they fired me... nice huh? Worked harder than everyone else there, never missed a shift or was late. Covered any shift they needed covered.
I then managed to get a job in metal working for a year, and got in a accident that left me with torn rotators cuffs. So now I can't even lift or carry anything heavy.. or scratch my head very easy.. fun. To sum this crybaby shit up. I am mentally a mush brain did hard labor now can't. Did get SSD... fuck me on that $680 a month to live on lets get real. That includes food stamps. Yeah.. talk about feel like shit about yourself. I loved working, yeah none of the jobs I had were easy and nobody viewed you with any respect but I was working. I would trade this not working and having to room with relatives yes I pay rent and feed myself with food stamps.. I should be happy, I am not homeless and am still alive. I am not though, I haven't hated myself until I couldn't get a job. Every job I apply for has over 300 people who are physically able and have educations. Yes even fast food jobs. Positive thinking and 5 bucks will get you a cup of coffee. I wish .. I so wish I could not be a loser anymore. Sorry to of ranted. I really do wish everyone good luck on their hunts!

chuck's picture

You're not a loser

You've had some incredibly bad luck. That's all. Don't get down on yourself about it.

Honestly, I can't relate because I've been incredibly lucky in my life. I can't imagine what it would be like to be in your shoes. As far as I can tell, you have good reason to be depressed.

One thing that I have to tell you, though, is that you're not a "mush brain." You express yourself clearly. Maybe keeping a journal (or a blog, even -- I'd read it and link to it) would help you.

Best of luck to you.

When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.


The first thing that you must do is quit referring to yourself as a "loser". Stuff happens. I won't go into it, but I have had virtually every bad luck thing that a person could survive happen to me......some of which I brought on myself........But being cruel to yourself creates a "self-fulfilling prophecy". We are more than what we do for a living. Keep your head up!!!!!

chuck's picture

Great advice


When life hands you sh*t, make fertilizer.

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