The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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December 17, 2013

Be a free agent, not unemployed

You know the way it goes. You’re at a holiday party. Someone starts a conversation with, “What do you do?“ And there goes your holiday spirit.

For the unemployed, December can be fraught with ego blows when unsuspecting strangers, friends or rarely seen relatives venture into work-related questions. Add in the reality of a tight budget that makes it hard to participate in gift exchanges.

Career counselor Landa Williams reminds her clients that they have “100 percent control over how you choose to react to people.“ She suggests answering uncomfortable job questions like this: “I’m a free agent in the open job market, and I’ve learned so much.“

That kind of positive response could lead to questions about you and the job market and maybe even result in connections for interviews.

Williams also counsels the unemployed and underemployed to take charge of their gift giving without embarrassment. Make something by hand. Shop in a thrift store. Be honest about a lower spending limit. Or simply opt out of your traditional exchanges. Only the most selfish and hardhearted will fail to understand your circumstances.

Credit counselors also weigh in during this time of year to urge common sense about using credit cards. Don’t build up debt because you “have to“ buy gifts. No matter your family or friend traditions, you don’t “have to“ splurge when you are pinching pennies. Again, only the worst sort of person will hold it against you.

Many job hunters find that the holiday hoopla contributes to their depression. Many also let their job hunting lapse. One can’t simply snap fingers and say, “Don’t let that happen.“ But it’s important to try to keep spirits up and to continue your search.

But do take time away from the computer. Volunteer somewhere. Connect with others. You are still a person of value, a person who is loved by family and friends.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to Follow her online at and

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