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Even Monster. And then there are people like Schmier, who was laid off last May as the director of interactive marketing for AOL. Now, like seemingly half the people in this room, he is trying his hand at selling services to the unemployed. Schmier starts by laying out his networking philosophy for Lou. After the meeting,'' Schmier continues, ''I'll send him something, like an extra ticket to a trade show. A couple weeks later I'll send him something else, maybe a book that's relevant to his work -- not a new copy, but one I've spilled some coffee on, dogeared and underlined.

Schmier waits a beat and then looks right at Lou. Leaning in a little closer, he proclaims: ''Be a giver, not a taker. Be a matcher, not a seller. By learning its tribal symbols and presenting yourself as a member of the tribe. He proceeds to illustrate this point by telling the story of how he was hired at AOL, an approach that could probably get someone arrested today.

Schmier started by hanging around outside the company's headquarters eavesdropping on the smokers, then somehow scamming his way into the building in order to get a look at how the people in the department he wanted to work in dressed. Later, he set up shop at a nearby cafe, where he could chat up AOL staffers.

By the time his interview rolled around, he looked and sounded as if he already worked at the company. He was, as he puts it, ''a member of the tribe. Lou enthusiastically accepts. In a sense, he can't afford not to. After two years of unemployment, dozens of career-counseling sessions and networking events, countless hours of research and still no job offers, who is Lou to say that David Schmier might not be the man with the key to the code?

No single word -- not ''position,'' not ''salary,'' not even ''unemployment'' -- so permeates the conversations of today's job hunters. Whether you're a former executive for Tyco Electronics in Harrisburg, Pa. As the recession continues to eat away at jobs, these groups continue to multiply and expand. Tom is the founder and head of the local branch of FENG. In , when the group was in its infancy, it had 53 members. Today FENG has more than 14, members -- or ''colleagues,'' as they refer to one another -- with chapters all over the country. Tom has also created his own board -- a handful of friends, neighbors and former colleagues -- to whom he reports regularly on his job search.

It seems safe to assume that Tom has already hit up his classmates from Harvard Business School, and I ask whether they've been helpful. He explains that because he's looking into several different avenues -- nonprofits, banking, even possibly teaching -- he's concerned about projecting ''a clean image to the marketplace. Seconds later, however, he realizes that this doesn't sound very convincing. Another long pause follows. Tom takes a seat at the head table and before long, 30 people have crowded into the small conference room.

All but three are men. Most are middle-aged, and more than a few are overweight; bellies strain against casual Friday attire. One after another, the FENGers give their ''elevator speeches,'' so called because they need to be short enough to deliver in an elevator. Three-quarters of them are out-of-work C.

Tom listens attentively as he spins his Mont Blanc pen between his fingers, the chairman presiding at his board meeting. When each person finishes his or her speech, Tom skillfully pares it down to a sentence or two and asks if anyone has any thoughts. The idea is that one of their FENG colleagues will have a relevant contact -- or better yet, a job lead. FENG, like many networking groups, expect members to provide three fresh leads -- leads that haven't been plastered all over the Internet -- a month.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, there's a theory behind it. In this economy, the thinking goes, the odds of getting a specific job are so slim that a lead is worth more as a trade good with which you can buy goodwill. It's an interesting, if not entirely persuasive, argument. This becomes abundantly clear after the meeting, when an accountant who has been out of work since December introduces himself to me. He's currently supporting himself -- and his wife -- with what's left of a diminishing k.

You can't get that at home. He enjoys seeing the fellows as he puts it , and like Lou with his spinning classes, presiding over FENG meetings keeps Tom in shape for his re-entry into the corporate world. As the one-year anniversary of his unemployment approaches, however, he seems increasingly aware of the danger of allowing these meetings to become a surrogate job. While it may be more comfortable -- and comforting -- to network regularly with the same group of unemployed men, the practical returns, arguably limited from the beginning, diminish with each passing week.

A few minutes after finishing up his shift at the Gap one evening in late January, Jeff wraps his ectomorphic frame in an enormous tan parka and walks over to a loud, overpriced hotel bar in Midtown to meet me for drinks. Jeff empties the bowl of peanuts in front of us, one manic fistful after the next, tilts his shaved head toward me and begins to trace the arc of his unemployment. After he lost his job, his severance package included several months of outplacement services -- basically a free office he could use, along with a small support staff and a career counselor to help him make the transition to his next job.

It was there, among lead counsels and C. Jeff's outplacement proved to be little more than a halfway house between full-time employment and full-time unemployment. In November , six months after being let go, he filed for personal bankruptcy protection. Making the interest payments had never been a problem, and he figured there would be plenty of time to round up investors later. His job search, admittedly halfhearted as it was, was going nowhere.

The metaphor Jeff uses to describe his situation involves his father, the revered sportswriter Charles Einstein. The only problem was that no ballpark attendant knew what it was. For all practical purposes, the press pass was useless. Jeff tells me that he could see the resentment building in his wife.

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It was a validation of everything: I'd been a good breadwinner, and I had a beautiful wife and daughter. While Lou seems not to have internalized his fall from the ranks of the upper middle class, Jeff has been positively consumed by his downward trajectory. As Lou pedaled away on his stationary bike at the local Y and Tom zoomed off to his various networking meetings, Jeff sat home and ruminated on the difference between guilt and shame.

It's about who or what you are or what you are not,'' he says as our third round of gin and tonics arrives. Jeff was surprised at how intertwined his self-esteem and professional identity were, but the undergirding sensation -- that he was a fraud -- was familiar. He'd never finished college, and the fact that his only professional achievements had come in the illusory world of new media heightened his insecurity.

Mara eventually confronted Jeff in couples' therapy. Then came Mara's ultimatum to throw him out if he didn't get some sort of job. In that instant, everything changed. I had hit rock bottom. It was like I was addicted to an old lifestyle. I had to make a decision to start over as someone new. A week later he was offered the holiday position at the Gap, his first job on the clock since , when he worked at a bookstore. Jeff took the subway to the apartment of a friend, another unemployed new media executive, to call Mara and tell her the news.

As they spoke, she kept apologizing; she couldn't stop crying. Still, learning to live with Jeff's new job has been complicated for Mara. Thrilled as she is that he's out of the house and working again, telling friends has been difficult. What's he doing there? It's clear, when hanging out with Jeff, why he was so much in demand during the Internet boom. He speaks in streams of abstract ideas about management systems and modern living that I can barely keep up with.

So I'm not surprised when he says he's been working on a proposal for the Gap on how it can use the Internet to build and nurture long-term relationships with its customers. The five-page initiative includes a short pitch for why he's the right man for the job: ''False modesty aside, my plus years of senior digital marketing experience will likely surpass the aggregate digital experience of the top three individuals in any given interactive marketing agency or consultancy. Translation: substantially more bang for your interactive marketing buck.

For Jeff, those plus years endure as new-media muscle memory. Starting over as someone new may not be possible. The Gethired. About 20 people in a small rented classroom on the West Side of Manhattan, including several familiar faces from the mixer. Lou is already there when I arrive. He has decided that if he doesn't land a job by the spring, he's going to submit his application for a full-time job teaching high-school science in New Jersey.

It's an idea he considered and rejected a year ago; at the time, it didn't seem possible that he'd be out of work much longer. This winter, however, he took the qualifying test. He aced it. Yet even as Lou makes plans to start a new, less lucrative career, dreams that he had for himself just a few years ago, in the flush of the 90's, remain imprinted on his imagination.

At one point during the seminar, Schmier, who is much more sympathetic in the role of career coach than career-services salesman, instructs everyone to write down where, ideally, he'd like to be in 10 years. When he asks for a volunteer to read his out loud, Lou raises his hand. Wearing a belted tan trench coat over a navy suit, a white shirt with monogrammed gold cuff links and a perfectly knotted silk tie, Tom has come to the old Board of Education building in Brooklyn on a Thursday evening for an informational meeting about the New York City Teaching Fellows Program.

Like Lou, he's toying with the idea of becoming a teacher, one of the few sectors where jobs are still available. Fellows are placed wherever they're needed, which means that the vast majority wind up in the Bronx or Central Brooklyn. An ad on the subway for the program -- ''You remember the name of your first-grade teacher. Who will remember yours? During the session, a first-year fellow who teaches math to eighth graders in Bushwick tells the group that he spends most of his time disciplining his kids. When one student became violent, he says, he had to call the police on his cellphone.

The brilliant Mahalanobis succeeded in expressing the entire Indian economy in a single mathematical formula. And that made Mahalanobis very influential. Across the developing world, socialism, planning, government control, regulation, and ownership -- these became the gospel. All over Africa, people looked to socialism to lead them out of poverty.

Across South America, governments chose state control as the way to modernize. The apparent success of communist countries like the Soviet Union and China seemed to show the way. Chapter Chicago Against The Tide []. Chicago is geographically isolated. This affects Chicago's intellectual influence in many more areas than economics. Eight professors and another 11 economists from Chicago went on to win Nobel Prizes. Gary Becker is one of them. I had been a very good student at Princeton. My first day in Friedman's class he raised a question.

I answered. He said, "That's no answer; that's just rephrasing the question. People were interested in ideas and argument and not in making sure you didn't ruffle anybody's feathers. ARNOLD HARBERGER, Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago: If you're sitting in a seminar room and somebody up there is saying something which if imbibed by your students who are sitting in that same room is going to lead them astray, it's up to you to call that guy right now and not later, and that, I think, is sort of the spirit that prevailed in the Chicago workshop system.

There wasn't that much fighting in the lunches. They were pretty cordial. And one man came to dominate those debates. If you want to try to ignore them, you ignore them at your peril. If you find a way of ordering your life which harnesses these forces to the benefit of society, that's the way to go. Nineteen years after he died, his face was on the cover of Time magazine.

The economic advice that economists gave to policymakers said the only reason you have bad economic outcomes is because the government's not doing enough. It sounds almost like central planning, doesn't it? The Keynesian consensus was summed up when that most Ivy League of presidents, John Kennedy, received an honorary degree from Yale. President, It might be said now that I have the best of both worlds -- a Harvard education and a Yale degree.

The battle of ideas was over. That speech suggested that we had won over Kennedy. We had won the heart and mind of the president. Europe, Japan, and America all saw high economic growth and rising standards of living. People enjoyed a prosperity undreamed of at the end of the war. Chapter The Specter of Stagflation []. The success of mixed economies made his free-market theories, and Hayek himself, seem more irrelevant than ever.

His ideas were not fashionable. Nobody seemed to listen to him. Nobody seemed to agree with him. He was alone. But the outside world was beginning to change. Skimming the newspaper in his usual restaurant, Hayek read how inflation and unemployment were rising at the same time. There was a new word to describe it: "stagflation. You had two things at the same time, which under the Keynesian view would have been impossible.

You had stagnation in the economy, high level of unemployment. You had inflation, with prices rising rapidly. Milton Friedman was a special advisor, and George Shultz was in charge of the budget. He tried to spend his way out of trouble. To add insult to injury, he declared, "Now I am a Keynesian. Indeed, one congressman wrote to him and said, "Mr. President, I'm going to have to burn all of my old speeches. Ben Stein, the quiz-show host, was a junior speechwriter in the White House, and his father was at the meeting. Nixon, and there's George Shultz right behind him.

I'm not sure, but I think it's a fair bet that at any one of these meetings they're complaining about something being wrong, probably talking about prices and stagflation. I'm not sure. So the political debate was whether or not we should impose a freeze on food prices. BEN STEIN: Nixon was a great one for doing something, I think in retrospect we now know that it would have been better to do nothing, but he was in favor of doing something. Wage and price controls, you could see analytically, would get you in a lot of trouble.

President, The time has come for a new economic policy for the United States. Its targets are unemployment, inflation. Nixon was reelected in a landslide. The economy did less well. People couldn't cover their costs. Ranchers stopped sending cattle to market; farmers started drowning their chickens.

Instead of controlling inflation, they were creating shortages. And I said to him, "Oh, no, Mr. President, I don't blame George; I blame you! Chapter A Mixed Economy Flounders []. It, too, was facing the deadly combination of unemployment and inflation.

In theory, the Conservative prime minister Ted Heath and his Cabinet believed in markets. In practice, like Nixon, they made a sharp U-turn and used wage and price controls to combat stagflation. KENNETH BAKER, Conservative Minister, I was a junior minister in Ted Heath's government, and I remember having to attend meetings with three or four other ministers where we would actually decide the level of charges plumbers would charge next week to repair taps and how much taxi drivers could charge for fares and how much hairdressers should get in wages.

It was absolutely unbelievable. It all came to a very sticky end, a complete collapse. Voters blamed Ted Heath and voted the Conservatives out of office. We've got no sets that we can operate at all. And you know, it was so bad that Herman Kahn of the Hudson Institute wrote a book called The Year , and he saw many things, but the one thing he did see was that the lowest standard of living in Europe in the year would be shared between Albania and the United Kingdom.

NARRATOR: A minister in the defeated government, Keith Joseph may have been an unworldly intellectual, but his search for fresh answers would change the way not only Britain but the world thought about economics and society. And he did beat his breast. He was called a Mad Monk. I thought I was a Conservative, but all the time I was in favor of I was in favor of shortcuts to Utopia.

I was in favor of the government doing things, because I was so impatient for good things to be done. In a series of pamphlets, he went on the intellectual offensive, attacking the mixed economy, making the case for capitalism. Mark Garnett is a biographer of Keith Joseph. MARK GARNETT, Biographer of Keith Joseph: From the middle of Joseph undertakes a crusade to convert the country to his way of thinking, and what he wants to do is take the battle to the heart of the enemy camp, and he believed that the universities were infected with socialist thinking.

They'd never heard anybody challenging the consensus. So the result is that we're now more socialist in many ways than any other developed country outside the Communist bloc. He was genuinely hurt that the students had reacted to this penetrating argument by chucking flour bombs at him. In Parliament and politics, Thatcher's closest friends agree that Keith Joseph's influence on her was crucial. There's nothing wrong with intuition. Intuition is reason in a hurry, and Keith just supported and reinforced her intuition.

At the very moment, she needed that support. Her father had been a grocer, and when she was a girl, she had helped him in the shop. Hardworking and studious, she won a place at Oxford University, where she became interested in student politics. While she was at Oxford, she read Hayek's Road to Serfdom. It made a lasting impression on her. Years later, when she became the first woman to lead the Conservative Party, she once slammed Hayek's book down on a table and announced, "This is what we believe. And so she called by, and there was a period of unaccustomed silence from Margaret Thatcher as she sat there, intense, attending to the master's words.

Hayek's Nobel Prize came as a surprise, but the balance was now shifting away from Keynes and towards Hayek. When I was in my middle ages I myself and nobody else believed in it. And now I have the pleasure of having lived long enough to see that the young people again believe in it. And that is a very important change. Chapter Deregulation Takes Off []. Industry slowed. Unemployment rose. The Yom Kippur War was followed by an Arab oil embargo.

Americans waited in gas lines.

The Story of Sam: The Little Philosophical & Practical Guide to Unemployment

And the price of everything kept rising. Chicago School economists had always argued that rigid government regulations were keeping prices high and fueling inflation. Now more people began to wonder if competition could break the inflationary stranglehold. What is the effect of regulating the trucking industry?

And what is the effect of regulating the railroad industry? Very often, it raises prices. Instead of allowing competition, it suppresses competition. It was a classic example of regulated capitalism. But deregulation was in the air. Stephen Breyer, now a Supreme Court justice, then a Harvard professor, was asked by liberal Democratic senator Ted Kennedy to head a Senate investigation of airline regulations. Supreme Court Justice: You discovered that basically the same firms that had been there in were still there. Those were the major carriers and nobody new. But some cut-price charter flight operators wanted to break this club.

Leading the struggle against Pan Am over its profitable trans-Atlantic flights was an exuberant Englishman called Freddie Laker. I own Laker Airways, and I'm dedicated to low-cost air travel. With Laker you can fly round trip to the USA or Canada in one of our wide-bodied DCs for less than half the price of a normal economy ticket. Look, I've got to give you a better deal -- I've got my name on every plane. And Freddy Laker testified and said, "The cause of this whole thing is 'Panamania.

Improbably enough, the bearded poet is played by Fred Kahn, a professor at Cornell University.

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Kahn wanted a leaner, meaner regulatory environment in which the market was free to chase profits without the dead weight of bloated government. Kahn had spent years studying government regulation; now he had a chance to do something about it.

We would discipline them. It was illegal to compete in price. That means it was illegal to compete in the discounts you offer travel agents. So we regulated travel agents' discounts. Internationally, since they couldn't cut rates, they competed by having more and more sumptuous meals. We actually regulated the size of sandwiches. Like her father, Judith Hamill works in the airline industry.

At the age of 59 he found that his skills were no longer desirable or needed. When Braniff came back because of the duty to hire, he came back at half the salary that he had made before. When you live by the rules and then the rules change, it's sad. ALFRED KAHN: And once they were free to compete, you began to get super-saver fares and super-apex fares and potato fares and peanuts fares -- an explosion of discounting and competition.

Well, those were dramatic. Chapter Thatcher Takes the Helm []. It seemed as if everyone was on strike. MAN: I think it stinks, like all the other damn strikes in this country run by the filthy Socialist Communist unions. So were the ambulances. And if you died, the gravediggers were out, too. I am determined that we should succeed. If we do so, your contribution to our ultimate victory will have been immense. Yours sincerely, Margaret Thatcher. The philosophy was nationalization, centralization, control, regulation.

Now this had to end. Thousands of bankruptcies and higher unemployment followed. Many saw her as uncaring. Britain had rarely been so divided. Out, out, out! And those who urge us to relax the squeeze, to spend yet more money indiscriminately in the belief that we'll help the unemployed and the small businessman, are not being kind or compassionate or caring. I have only one thing to say: U-turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning. In America, the fight was already under way. Chapter Reagan Rides In []. President Carter spoke of malaise and loss of confidence in the country.

Revolution in Iran had led to a second oil shock and Americans held hostage in Tehran. Despite the beginning of deregulation, inflation was still at record heights. Carter's attempts to follow Keynes's formula and spend his way out of trouble were going nowhere. And it simply was not working. He understood the problems. And of course what happens then, you get a little bit of inflation, then you need a little more, because it peps up the economy.

People get used to it, and it loses its effectiveness. Like an antibiotic, you need a new one; you need a new one. But traffic on a roadway could be. Those conditions would qualify you for non-physical community service. I have a current sutuation where a Cal trans Supervisor is giving false and inaccurate hours logged in cummunity service in which they are claiming is only 40 hours when I know that I worked the total hours of so far, and I have witnesses who will sign aftdavits, I believe the only reason for them doing this is so that it can look like I violated the order, which will them.

So after One custdoy case that and Two False criminal cases in the same court house, It looks like they are still trying to intentionally and malicously make is seem that i have violated my community service and and using a Cal trans suspervisor to do it? I live in this horrible county in North Carolina where the police are bullying and harassing. I had an unpleasant encounter and was thrown in jail for not acquiescing to their taunts and catcalls while they were booking me. And naturally the store loss prevention manager stood by and quietly let this take place.

Court appointed attorneys do nothing but pander to these cop hooligans, retail managers, D. I had to show up for court dates for 4 months and I never saw one defense attorney even make the tiniest effort. For kicks? Hell no. I am getting older, out of the work force, and at times struggling to make ends meet. Sometimes in drastically unconventional ways. This is basically my first trouble with the law besides traffic tickets.

I was led into this room where this probation intake person explained the basics to me, had me sign a couple of papers, and then hustled me downstairs where I paid a huge chunk of change to one of the clerks. Once I read the fine print when I got home, all this crap about community service, seeking gainful employment, or furthering education as probable requirements had me fuming. I was not told this. I told him I wanted no part of it. My crotchety approach is here to stay and gets worse ever year.

Can someone relate their experience as an offender in the CS system? I am so sorry for your situation! Its that way even here in sunny Calif. I just finished a day at a habitat restore and was treated so poorly that I agree , it is servitude. You will likely find yourself handling lots of time-consuming personal drama; no-shows; inappropriate behavior; baby-sitting.

We found ourselves, already short-handed, having to abandon already stressed core-tasks to handle COCS problems instead. This method did not work well for us. Caveat Emptor. After being released from federal prison for a drug conviction, my period of supervised release included hours of community service. I found an environmental advocacy organization that allowed me to provide administrative support as service. This built the foundation for a great career and a pathway to serve my community. A year later, because of my service experience, I was hired as a grant writer for a social justice organization.

A year after that I was promoted to deputy director of that organization and spent the next four years helping that organization go from an upstart to an enduring institution. I have raised millions of dollars for good work, have led capacity building and leadership development projects, and have led numerous successful social justice advocacy campaigns. I am now run a consulting firm providing advocacy, capacity building and fund development services to premiere nonprofits, with a team of seven bright consultants- most of whom come from similar backgrounds.

I look back ten years, and I remember lying on a federal prison bunk, staring at the ceiling, thinking about my past and future. I had no idea that service to my community, in a sector that has the flexibility to not discriminate against people with criminal records, would be the path to success and the opportunity to help others find their way too. The promise far outweighs the peril. Open your heart, give someone a chance, the world needs more of it.

Reader Interactions

Your story is really inspiring. Thanks for sharing it. This is the sort of thing that motivates me to keep working on my system that connects court-ordered volunteers with opportunities and to allow online tracking of hours. What funny, sunny little world did you come from? Are you perchance on psychotropic medications?? I think there are two threads to this conversation. If not, then they need to be redirected within or outside of my organization no matter why they came to our door.

The second thread has to do with whether C. I say that if anybody for any reason serves my NPO at little or no cost to my budget, they are volunteers! All donors of money contribute for a reason that suits their purposes and needs; that does not make their donations any less heartfelt or honorable. Ditto with those who bring their time and talents to my agency; it is not mine to judge why they give, only that what they have to give fits my agency.

I might be in the minority regarding this scenario. The likelihood of someone in the finance industry regaining employment after an embezzlement conviction are slim-to-none. That person however, due to their history in finance, could be very well suited toward grant writing with a little more education. I would accept the volunteer, spend some money out of pocket to provide grant writing texts and online courses, and get the former finance expert into writing grant applications for my non-profit. The chances of a person performing court ordered community service actually putting significant effort into their work is directly relative to how they are treated by their community service supervisor.

By showing you care, attempting to enrich the person's future and giving them responsibility you might be surprised how much they accomplish in those hours. Also, in regard to grant writing, since a volunteer or even contract grant writer is not the person actually receiving the grant funds this would be the organization's treasurer or board there would be very little temptation to cause a repeat offense.

Simply require that each grant application be reviewed before submission. Ric L. Court ordered community service is a new way punishment. Are you looking for a this kind of service? We are accepted by courts and probation officers. We are not a non-profit organization but we do maintain a database of non-profit organizations who accept court ordered community service workers in different locations. We also provide online time sheets for court ordered community service workers which can be used to record and keep track of their hours. These time sheets for court-ordered service can be printed and submitted to the courts for review as needed.

The service above seems to be a less than scrupulous organization. What a great article!