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A holiday message to the unemployed

'Tis the season to trim the Christmas tree. However, government agencies and busi-nesses are busy trimming budgets as well, by sloughing off their employees. The national unemployment rate at 8.4 percent is the highest since October 1975 and shows no signs of reversing itself.

While filling in as a temporary receptionist for an educational media firm, I had a firsthand view of unemployment which reflects this season's depressed economy. Dozens of job applicants filed in and out to interview for one sales opening. They were an eclectic group, running the gamut from a Brooks Brothers corporate type to a flashy salesman preparing for his most important sales pitch of all - selling himself.

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Meanwhile phone lines were jammed with callers responding to the company's help-wanted ad at a morning rate of 20 responses per hour. Most were already being screened out over the phone. They were asked to send in their resumes as a courtesy - at most, their curricula vitae listing impressive credentials would be given a cursory glance before being tossed into the wastebasket.

One bright jobless young woman was justifiably late for her interview. My boss, deluged with more job seekers than he could comfortably handle, turned her away with a nasty remark. She looked so dejected that I was tempted to reveal the position was misrepresented anyway and wouldn't have lived up to her expectations. I wanted to say, ''Don't let this devalue your sense of self-worth.''

This time last year and the year before, I too was suddenly terminated from ''permanent'' jobs and had to face the stress of job-hunting and reevaluating my goals. Being fired or laid off rates high among the shocks one gets in life. I've learned that those who join the ranks of the unemployed are not necessarily unemployable but, increasingly, the victims of a sluggish economy. It's also happening not only to blue-collar workers, but more frequently to upwardly mobile professionals.

Termininations are painful, but can be turned into a positive experience. They can be an opportunity to think about lifelong goals and plan ahead. To the suddenly unemployed, the grass looks ''greener'' on the other side, but often it's only the regular paycheck. In a society of choice, it's astonishing that most Americans view their job as an anchor of stability or as a means to an end, rather than fulfilling in itself. The weeks, months, and years slip into oblivion - by that time, so many of the employed are so firmly entrenched in work they dislike to risk change.

Looking back, I'm glad one supervisor had the foresight to see I felt stifled by a job which I was unsuited for. Although I was comfortably ensconced in that job I was increasingly frustrated with it. Being ''let go'' catapulted me into action. Each time I was terminated, I eventually found a better position, recession and all. I profited from my unemployed status by searching into myself as well as into other employment possibilities. Every work experience, no matter what the outcome, also taught me different lessons.

As this year draws to a close, it's best not to look back but to chalk it all up to experience, and look forward. While businesses plan their budgets for '82, it could be a time to plan the new year.

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