bigstock_Road_To_Success_1058994On Thursday, I’ll be part of a panel of communication professionals who will speak to a group of students regarding the “challenges and opportunities of working in corporate communications.”

As I was preparing for the panel discussion, I came across a blog post I wrote three years ago titled, “The Job Market Is Scary…and Scarring.”

Although the market is slowly improving, we haven’t moved very far in three years. So I’m reposting the article because it still rings true to me.

According to Associated Press Economics Writer Jeannine Aversa, the Federal Reserve released a forecast on Wednesday predicting unemployment will stay high over the next two years because recession-scarred Americans are likely to stay cautious.

Coincidently, I had spoken the day before with two separate and distinct groups of job-hunters, which were clearly scared AND scarred by ongoing weak economic conditions and the related highly competitive and frustrating job market.

I’m no stranger to unemployment and a prolonged job search, having been laid off from communications positions in 1991 and 2001. The 2001 layoff was the hardest, coming just three weeks before the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers. That attack caused an already struggling economy to tailspin, and hiring froze across the board. I was sitting that morning in a coffee shop with a group of fellow unemployed professionals who had agreed to form a job/networking group. When one of the group members said, “Hey, someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Tower,” I replied, “That’s a shame, but we’ve got to focus on getting a job.” Of course, what I mistakenly perceived to be an accident caused by a poorly skilled pilot turned out to be one of the most significant events of this decade.

It also marked the beginning of a two-and-one-half-year period of under- and unemployment for me. It was a humbling experience, which continues to make me more empathetic with current people who are “in-transition.”

Like the fellow IABC/Chicago members who shared a drink with me after the lunch seminar at Maggiano’s in Chicago. (I took the afternoon as vacation time, and they had time to spend.)

Like the soon-to-graduate Loyola University students who later that evening asked me and three other professionals for advice about a communications career—and whose stiff expressions and carefully chosen words revealed their unspoken, deepest question: “Do we really have a CHANCE to get a decent job?”

At times like this, job seekers need to be heard. It sucks to finally get an interview after weeks of no nibbles, only to be discarded because someone else matches your work experience, AND has something else that the hiring manager preferred. When you are in mid- or late-career, your spouse doesn’t want to hear it. He or she wants to hear that you got the job, along with the salary and benefits that you’ve struggled without for so long.

When you are about to graduate, your parents and friends don’t want to hear that you don’t have any prospects. They want to hear that you have landed a terrific position that will allow you to move out on your own and pay back your student loans.

No, in this scary job market that scars more than it soothes, people need to have someone who has an open ear.

Someone who has been there…and knows that he might be there again one day.