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A career counselor takes his own advice

Greg Dillon, 49, Marietta, Ga.

Last Updated: February 3, 2009: 7:43 AM ET

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Dillon, with his wife, Kathryn, says the worst thing about being unemployed is the sense of powerlessness.

(Fortune Magazine) -- Even before times turned bad, Greg Dillon volunteered at career centers and his church to help people write resumes and strategize about jobs. It was a satisfying way to share his skills as a training and development specialist. So today he doesn't need to read the papers to see the impact of the recession on his Cobb County neighbors.

"It's the worst I've ever seen," he says, noting that the last Cobb Job Seekers meeting he attended had 40 people instead of the usual 15 to 20; a local career group sponsored by the Society of Human Resources Management has also doubled in size.

Dillon is now in the odd position of having to take his own advice. Last Nov. 10, the day before his 49th birthday, he was laid off from Forum Co., the second time he'd lost a position in the previous 18 months. "Unfortunately for me, I know what to do in terms of being unemployed," he says. "It's kind of like the Hair Club for Men. Now I'm a user too."

For a long time Dillon's career had been all about stability. After working at the Randstad staffing agency as a national learning manager for seven years, he had decided to try something different, so he took a position in August 2006 at an Atlanta-based diversity-training company. In retrospect, it wasn't the best time to make a move. Eleven months later, in July 2007, he was let go because of slowing business.

"I had wanted to broaden myself a little more," he says. "But it wasn't anything like it is now." He soon found the job at Forum, where he worked for just over a year.

Dillon is anxious, but hopeful he will find something soon, ideally in academia. There is a promising job at a local university, but he can't be hired until the job has been posted - and it took several frustrating weeks for the listing to appear. He has had other good interviews, but everything seems to be on the slow track. "I'm in a strange kind of limbo state," he says. "I feel like I have stuff out there, but I'm not yet solidified enough to feel at peace."

The worst thing for Dillon is the sense of powerlessness, even as he knows that others are in the same situation. "It's a double-edged sword," he says. "You don't take it as personal because it's affecting everyone, but at the same time those other people are also competing against you for jobs."

Ultimately he relies on his family and his church, the North River Church of Christ, for support. "I'm supposed to be learning something here about perseverance," he says.

Forum gave Dillon four weeks of severance. But it doesn't go very far with three daughters, one of whom just started college and would have had to move out of the dorms if it weren't for the generosity of relatives. His wife, Kathryn, has a drapery business, but customers are being more cautious about spending. And the transmission on the family's '93 Nissan Maxima just died. "I donated it to charity," he says. At least someone will benefit.

Next: Looking for life after Lehman Brothers  To top of page


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