September 28, 2020

I’m a 50-year-old business development director in Kentucky who’s been out of work since August



a screen shot of a person smiling for the camera: Reuben Harness. Courtesy of Reuben Harness; Shayanne Gal/Business Insider


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Reuben Harness. Courtesy of Reuben Harness; Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

  • The Unemployed States of America takes readers deep inside the decimated American workforce.
  • Reuben Harness is a 50-year-old business development director based in Danville, Kentucky.
  • At first, his job moved to part-time, and he was then let go after the extra $600 in unemployment benefits expired.
  • He was also downsized in 2008.
  • This is his story, as told to Nick Dauk. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

I was the regional director of business development for ConServe. I worked remotely and half of my time was spent traveling to universities and colleges in my seven-state territory, helping them with their collection accounts for tuition or student loans that were past due. 

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When the pandemic hit and traveling came to a halt, I was moved to part-time in April to attempt to perform my duties remotely. Most school officials were no longer on campus, which was a challenge, so I tried to communicate and generate new business via email and over the phone. 

I was laid off from my role two weeks ago.

I wasn’t shocked at all. I was expecting it for quite some time, hoping and praying that it wouldn’t happen, but realistically, I knew it was coming. When you go from full-time to part-time, you start to see red flags. 

I considered leaving before I was let go, but there aren’t a lot of jobs out there that were hiring for the type of work that I do. If something did pop up that I felt comfortable applying for, I would have. 

I loved the work that I did and still believe in that company. I have no hard feelings for being let go. It was a major pay cut, though, moving from my full-time salary to part-time to unemployment. My check of $1,100 every two weeks was an amount I used to make in a few days. I got let go after the government cut the additional $600 benefit, so I don’t even get that benefit. 

I still feel like I’m at work all day, only now I’m working on finding a job instead. 

It’s a struggle, and I find myself either applying for jobs I’m overqualified for or underqualified for. It seems grim right now with the jobs currently available. I haven’t had any callbacks or interviews at this point. 

I have some savings and can tap into my 401(k) if I need to. I’ve already gotten rid of my cable and the landline I used for work, downgraded my internet speed, and cut back on purchases. Plan B would include selling my house, which is a last resort, but I’ve already started making preparations. I have a small photography business on the side that I could home into, but many people are still being cautious — especially around strangers.

I have a mother in a nursing home and a daughter who’s in her senior year of college. I’d been downsized before, in 2008, and it took me six months to find a job.

It’s a struggle to get back to where you were and not feel like a complete loser.

 I feel like I’ll have to take a major pay cut when I find a new job and that I’ll need to change my career path by taking an office job. 

The only thing we’re holding onto right now is “this too shall pass.” We feel like eventually, things will get back to some type of new normal. In the meantime, I try to stay busy with home projects and focus on my four grandchildren. Their smiling faces get me through the day. They don’t care if I have a job; they just want their pappy around.

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