Inspiration: 9 People Who Thrived after Unemployment

It goes without saying that being unemployed is difficult. Scrimping and saving to pay bills is only one challenge facing the jobless. The social implications of unemployment also can be hard. According to a 2009 study by Karsten I. Paul and Klaus Moser from the University of Erlangen-Nuernberg, unemployed workers are twice as likely to experience psychological problems such as depression, poor self-esteem and anxiety compared to employed individuals.

If you find yourself in this boat, it’s important to keep in mind that the experience of being unemployed is not unusual. Some of the world’s most successful people were once unemployed. Here are 9 people who survived and thrived after unemployment:


1. Larry King

You know him as the non-confrontational and longtime host of the “Larry King Live” talk show on CNN, which featured King interviewing politicians and celebrities. King began his career in radio in the 1950s. In the 1970s he was the host of his own radio show in Miami called Miami “Undercover” and also wrote for a Miami newspaper. As the result of a money scandal, King was fired from both his column and radio show. He struggled with debt and filed for bankruptcy. He later went on to start the call-in interview program “Larry King Live” in 1985, and the rest is history.

Susan_Boyle (1)

2. Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle is the stuff of rags-to-riches legends. After graduating high school Boyle took part in government training programs and briefly worked as a trainee cook before quitting that job to care for her ailing mother. In 2009 the unemployed 48-year-old Boyle stepped awkwardly on the stage on “Britain’s Got Talent” and into the hearts of millions when she sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical “Les Miserables.” Despite all of the struggles of unemployment, Boyle never gave up on her dream to become a professional singer, and today her net worth is estimated above $20 million.

256px-Larry_David_at_the_2009_Tribeca_Film_Festival_2 (1)

3. Larry David

Before teaming with Jerry Seinfeld to create the pop culture phenomenon Seinfeld, Larry David consistently was unemployed. David worked odd jobs until he would quit or got fired while he concentrated on stand-up comedy. While performing in the New York comedy circuit, David met Jerry Seinfeld, who approached him about working for a new show on NBC. Yada, yada, yada … he’s been working steady ever since.


 4. Harland Sanders

Don’t know who Harland Sanders is? You probably know him as Colonel Sanders, the friendly face behind the fast-food fried chicken restaurant KFC. Colonel Sanders hopped from job to job. He was a fireman, insurance salesman and ran filling stations before creating his first roadside restaurant in Corbin, Ky., and opening his franchise in 1952. He eventually sold his company to a group of investors for $2 million in 1964.


 5. Jack Dorsey

Before Jack Dorsey became the suave Silicon Valley royal responsible for co-founding Twitter and founding Square, he was a 29-year-old New York University dropout living in a tiny San Francisco apartment. Dorsey did freelance code writing for local San Francisco companies before becoming unemployed. He was even turned down for a job at the shoe store Camper. A chance sighting of Blogger cofounder Evan Williams at a coffee shop led Dorsey to reach out, and a tech partnership for the ages began soon after.


 6. Jack Monroe

Single mother and food blogger Jack Monroe gained a following for her blog A Girl Called Jack, which chronicled her struggles to feed herself and her son while unemployed and on welfare. After leaving her job at a fire brigade switchboard because her shifts left her unable to take care of her son, Monroe had to turn to food banks and selling her furniture and her son’s toys to eat and make ends meet. Today, in addition to maintaining her popular blog, Monroe has a column with The Guardian and a publishing deal with Penguin Group.


7. Harrison Ford

In 1964 a young Harrison Ford moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams. After a string of unsatisfactory film roles that left Ford disillusioned and unhappy, Ford went through a time of unemployment during which he taught himself carpentry. As a carpenter Ford became a stagehand for the rock band The Doors and eventually was hired to build cabinets at the home of director George Lucas, who later hired Ford to become Han Solo.


8. Walt Disney

Before he created Mickey Mouse and princesses who danced along Main Street in Disneyland, Disney was just a man who loved cartoons. Disney grew up in Kansas City, Mo., and began his career there. His cartoons became so popular in the Kansas City area that he acquired his own studio called Laugh-O-Gram Studio. However, Disney’s early attempts at owning a studio failed because of his lack of ability managing money, and the studio went bankrupt. After Laugh-O-Gram, Disney moved and set up a studio in Hollywood, Calif.


9. J.K. Rowling

Probably the most famous modern-day rags to riches story is that of Joanne “J.K.” Rowling, the author of the wildly successful Harry Potter series. Before her books sold more than 400 million copies, became the best-selling book series in history, and before she was knighted in France, Rowling was a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International. After being fired, Rowling divorced her first husband and was left in relative poverty, living on state benefits while penning Harry Potter from coffee shops. In 2008 it was estimated that her personal fortune amounted to above $700 million.

Unemployment can feel stressful and lonely at times, but know that you’re not alone. Some of the greatest talents and minds have struggled through being jobless and came out better for it, and you can too.