I got this email from a reader:

You are lying to us.

No one can get hired.

If there are people working they don't live in the world of MOST people.

Hope you can learn to understand.

I'm a huge fan of honesty, actually. I'll say it how it is--job hunting is a horrible, terrible thing that is more stressful than getting divorced. So you'll never hear me say "I'm so happy I get to look for a new job today!"

So, let's set the record straight. I'm not lying to you. Job hunting is really hard, but people do get hired. All the time.

I admit that most of my friends and family members are currently gainfully employed. But, most of your friends and family should be gainfully employed as well, as the current unemployment rate in the U.S. is 4.9 percent. The unemployment rate, though, isn't a perfect measure of how easy or hard it is to find a job, as it doesn't include the drop out rate. What is that? It's when people are so frustrated by their inability to find a job that they just stop looking. You don't get counted as unemployed unless you're actively looking for a job.

How high is this drop out rate? Very high, and very depressing. Read this and be depressed:

Some 59 percent of those who have been out of work for two years or more say they have stopped looking, the Harris Poll of unemployed Americans showed. Overall, 43 percent of the jobless said they have given up, according to the poll released in conjunction with Express Employment Professionals, a job placement service.

"This is a tale of two economies," Express CEO Bob Funk said in a statement. "It's frightening to see this many people who could work say they have given up."

The results come just a few days after a government report showed that the unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in May, but the drop came primarily because of a sharp decline in the labor force participation rate. The number of people of all ages whom the government considers "not in the labor force" swelled by 664,000 to a record 94.7 million Americans, according to Labor Department data.

So, that's your cheery thought for the day. People have given up in record numbers. So, while the unemployment rate looks great, the reality is completely different.

What if you're in that drop-out group? Should you stay there or should you resume your attempt to find a job? Well, I'm a fan of work, so I'd say try to get back in there, but I totally understand why you might not want to. Job hunting is awful, and if you've been unemployed for a long time, it's even harder.

What can you do to help your job hunt if you've been unemployed for a long time? Here are some ideas.


Find a charity in your area that needs your skills and volunteer. Charities need all of the same type of people every business needs, so whether you're a computer technician or a plumber or a grocery store cashier, there is a charity out there that needs your services. That's real work, volunteering for a charity. It goes on your resume, just the same as a job.

Look at available jobs in your area

If you're not willing to relocate (or your skills are such that a company wouldn't pay for relocating and you can't afford to move), you'll need a job in your area. So, see what is available and then see the next point.

Update your skills

You can do this through volunteering, taking a class (online or in person), or going back to school. The latter can cost a bunch of money that you likely don't have, so if you are going to do that, make sure the path you're pursuing has plenty of employment opportunities. Now is not the time to study philosophy. It may be the time to be a welder.

Try something different

If you've been out of work for two years, it's unlikely that you'll be hired at the same level you left. You'll need to either try a new career or be willing to take a step down. That new career can be something completely different--if you've gained new skills--or something similar. If you used to do marketing, now you should look at social media marketing.

Be extra reliable in your personal life

The way you'll find a job is through networking. If you show up to the church potluck with a bag of potato chips, people will notice. If you're late to a movie with your friends, they'll notice. Since you don't have any current co-workers to recommend you, you'll need your friends and former co-workers to help you. Do not be late for things. Do what you'll say you'll do. Go the extra mile. Take care of your mom. Whatever it takes so that your friends and acquaintances say "Boy, Jim is such a great guy. He'd be fabulous for your job." Being a fabulous person is often more important than being skilled in a particular area.

Yes, job hunting is hard. No, career experts aren't lying when we say you can find a job. You can. And we're here to help. Our jobs depend on it.

Published on: Dec 2, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.