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Michelle Etheridge
Unemployed since: April 2008
Benefits expired: February 2009
Full-time employment: No
Filed in: Virginia
Age: 38
I was laid off from my job as an executive assistant in April 2008, a day before I was scheduled to have major surgery. Everything fell apart. My two kids had to move in with their dad full-time. It was very stressful.

My benefits ran out last February, and I was lucky to get two part-time jobs. But combined they don't pay as much as my unemployment check, and I sometimes commute 100 miles a day. Neither job guarantees my hours per week.

Since July I've still been looking for a full-time job, but the postings are getting thinner. I send about four applications a week, and even that is a real challenge.My boyfriend, Scott, was also laid off. He moved in with me to help pay the bills, and thankfully he got his real estate auctions job back -- with an increase in salary. He's been paying about 75% of the bills. I really don't know what I'd do otherwise.

I did end up getting an extra nine weeks of benefits when Virginia's unemployment rate triggered an extension, but that's about to run out, too.

I've always thought about starting my own business, and I'm finally going for it. I want to launch my own company that will find leads for professional speakers. I'd consult with them and do the legwork to find appropriate venues, audiences, etc. One of my part-time jobs is as an executive assistant for a motivational speaker, so I know I can do it.

I have a potential first client, and I'm really hoping that will help the business take off. I want it to be the biggest lead-finder in America. Through this whole situation, I've stayed pretty optimistic. I have my down days, of course, but I know my day is coming. It will happen ... somehow.

NEXT: Jay Ridinger

Last updated September 18 2009: 6:28 PM ET
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