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Patrick Erwin
Unemployed since: December 2008
Benefits expired: July 2009
Full-time employment: Yes
Filed in: Illinois
Age: 40

I'd been a primary writer for a jobs Web site when I was laid off in December 2008 with 300 other people. I didn't see it coming at all. I'd been a freelance writer a long time, but I also had experience in banking and insurance -- basically, three of the hardest-hit areas. By January, I was getting scared.

By the time my benefits ran out in July 2009, I was working 6 hours a day to find jobs. They just weren't there. Even Target said I was too overqualified. I'd moved in with my partner three weeks before I was laid off, and he was saddled with paying our full rent. It took a toll on our relationship. I was miserable.

Since July I've kept refocusing my job search, and suddenly, by the beginning of August I saw more listings. I got more enthusiastic about my chances. In the last two months, I've had three interviews -- the first I'd had since my layoff.

I found an online a posting about an administrative processing position in the financial services industry. On a hunch, I looked through the directory of an industry group I'm a part of and reached out to a former supervisor to see if she knew anyone at the company. She happened to know someone through the group, and I know that was a help.

I'll miss writing as a career, but I launched a blog called "Elegy and Irony" a few weeks ago. So I'll keep writing on my own, and I hope to do some freelance and consulting work.

This was a very challenging time in my life, but I've learned a lot: You can't take your career for granted. And if you wait to network until after you lose your job, you're too late. In that sense, the job market is like exercise. You need to keep active and agile -- otherwise, you'll let yourself go.

NEXT: Michelle Etheridge

Last updated September 18 2009: 6:28 PM ET
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