HBO's Hard Times, Lost in Long Island. How HR and recruiters can give back.

I just watched the HBO documentary Hard Times Lost on Long Island.  This was a 1-hour documentary profiling a few unemployed individuals living on Long Island and I highly recommend everyone watch it.  It should be required watching for anyone working in HR.  I watch movies to escape.  I want to watch movies so I don’t have to think about the real world, but I felt this topic was too close to home to skip and I am glad I watched it.  It was well done and yes, it was a tear jerker.

Too many people take unemployment for granted.  “It won’t happen to me” or “Not in my neighborhood” are common misconceptions.  This documentary will put perspective on the topic of unemployment and more importantly, this should get employees thinking about managing their own careers.  Hopefully it will introduce the idea that no one should count on any one person, manager, education, or company for their long term financial well being.

I started this blog after learning about a few friends losing their homes and feeling like I could have done something about it. They didn’t lose their homes through any fault of their own.  When I look at their situation, I believe they lost their homes because of the economy coupled with a system that doesn’t prepare candidates or employees for the reality of working in a professional environment.  More importantly, most people don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to winning the game of Corporate America.  I didn’t want to see any more of my friends lose.

  • Schools do not teach the skill of interviewing for a job.  (I only consider a 2 hour session on “how to interview” dangerous and providing false confidence.)
  • The perpetuated myth that companies will take care of their employees.
  • Most companies do not have the bandwidth for manager training which leads a workforce that is naïve when it comes to individual career management.

As someone that works in HR, although I have not seen everything behind the curtain of unemployment, I do feel I have seen my share of the unemployed and the emotional consequences that come with it.  Per the movie, I will not say “I know how it feels to be unemployed long term”.

Even if we try, unless we have gone through it, no one can understand what it is like to become unemployed, stay unemployed for a length of time and then end up losing your home let alone trying to provide basic needs for your family.  This HBO documentary gets us as close as we can be from the safety of our own jobs.  It should be called Scared Straight in Corporate America.

I watched this documentary through a different lens than most, but I hope this film will be a wake up call to folks who believe that they are invincible or that their company will take care of them.  Neither is the case.  This program profiles a number of unemployed people including the perfect “yuppie” couple where both Mr. and Mrs. are highly educated with professional jobs, a 65 year old mortgage broker that had to go back to work, a gentleman in finance making 100K a year.  In every case, all of these unemployed workers were at one point “living their dream”.  They also interviewed young people just getting out of college who had lost faith in education.  Everyone featured “looked” like they would have no problem finding a job, in fact, they looked like they “should be employed”.   Yes, they looked like you and I.

Messages I think everyone should hear from this documentary:

  • Don’t think about being employed with any one company for 20 years, think about being employed for 2-4 years.
  • From one unemployed person: “when I am employed again, I will thank god every day for that job, and be appreciative of it”

Some things I would recommend in this economy:

  • Take control of your career.  Do what it takes to build your resume.  Don’t wait for your manager to tell you what to do or give you opportunity.
  • Embrace social media.  Not just for when you want to look for a job in the future, but leveraged properly will help further your career with your current employer.  Get out there and pound some flesh.
  • Expand your skill set.  Learn new skills at work, via classes or books.  Keep learning so that your skill set does not pigeon hole you so much your skillset is not transferrable to any other department or company.
  • It used to be common advice to stash away 2 months salary in case of an emergency.  Figure out how long it would take to find a new job in your particular discipline and industry and start preparing.   Don’t be surprised if the stats in your industry push 7-9 -12 months depending on seniority.
  • Start getting healthy.  Start eating right and exercising.  People who are fit, feel better about themselves and it shows when they are working and when they interview.  You don’t have to be a muscle bound Mr. America, but looking and feeling healthy goes a long way and helps provide that certain jen ne sai quou.
  • Acquire a “networking/interview” outfit now when you can afford to do it right.  Make sure you have enough of a current wardrobe to put your best foot forward through an interview loop.  If you are unemployed and not able to afford a few outfits, you will be interviewing with an image you are not proud of and it will show.  You don’t have to spend $1000’s or even $100's.  Make sure your look is current, your suit still fits perfectly and your shoes are polished.

If you are HR, if you are an experienced person in your industry and have a strong network, you probably know people who are unemployed or under employed.  You don’t have to help everyone, but helping one person at a time will go a long way.  Offering your network, your advice, your support goes a lot further than you can imagine.  If you are a look at resumes on a regular basis as a hiring manager or a recruiter, then you know what resumes should look like.  You know they should quantify accomplishments, be easy to not only read but look at.  You know what Linkedin profiles should look at and how Social Media can hurt and help the process.  Share your information.  The reputation of recruiting and HR isn't always steller, and here is a chance to polish it up.  There is no greater reward then when someone that is unemployed says they landed a job and you were part of the process.

Watch this documentary, learn, and lend a hand,


nasty:  an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something.  “He has a nasty forkball

Views: 1119

Comment by Amber on July 16, 2012 at 10:36am

I saw part of a documentary that I cannot remember the name of - similar (maybe the same one) to what you're writing about. It is also sad how a lot of people also immediately put the blame on the unemployed person. I am basically pretty conservative, have worked full time since the age of 15, and I have known many different economic levels in my life. On a universal plane I suppose it's always due to choices made, but most people I know try and work hard and live good lives. Sure, there are some who would take advantage of every available "resource" to keep from having to work but a lot more that I know want to work. It is a hard place to be many times, not only the financial hardship but the emotional toll that it can take. I try and do what I can for those who contact me, but wish I could do more so often.

Comment by Russ Recruits on July 16, 2012 at 11:06am

"Don’t think about being employed with any one company for 20 years, think about being employed for 2-4 years"

Fair Point - though a shame the employers want their cake an eat it - hire and fire staff, but want only candidates with steady work history.


"From one unemployed person: “when I am employed again, I will thank god every day for that job, and be appreciative of it”


Having once been made redundant a week before the birth of my first child, I can totally relate to this.


"Having cancer is easier than being unemployed"


I have faced / had both -  can hand on heart say this one just aint true, misguided at best. I'm not going to get arsey about it - I'm not that sad, but maybe you want to rethink that one as I can understand if others are offended.

Comment by HRNasty on July 16, 2012 at 11:27am


thanks for the heads up.  My intention wasn't to be insensitive, and I apologize to anyone that I offended.  That particular line was from one of the profiled candidates who had gone through cancer in the documentary, but you are absolutely correct, without perspective, it is offensive.  Thanks for the heads up. 

Comment by Russ Recruits on July 16, 2012 at 11:44am

No worries at all - good read and worth watching when this is out UK - we get HBO a week or so down the line from the states. Looks like bread n butter Mike Moore - which cant be a bad thing.

Comment by HRNasty on July 16, 2012 at 9:19pm


Thanks for the comments and you are absolutely right.  It is easy to say there are people taking advantage of the situation but if you watch this documentary, it will be painfully obvious there are a LOT more folks that want to work!  


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