“It’s just amazing how it changes your perspective on what’s important,” she said.
Mrs. Salinas had been a manager of corporate marketing and media relations at an oil and gas company in Houston, where she lives. She was so focused on her career, she said, that she never noticed her daughter had a lazy eye.
Mrs. Salinas’s mother mentioned something to her, but only after Mrs. Salinas was laid off did she realize that her daughter needed to see an ophthalmologist.
“That’s how much I was on my BlackBerry,” Mrs. Salinas said.
Mrs. Salinas was initially confident that she would land somewhere quickly. She seemed to be doing well, too, scoring interview after interview for senior-level corporate marketing positions.
But each of those prospects dried up, usually because of a hiring freeze or some other obstacle.
So, for the last two months, she has not looked at all.
Partly, she has been busy, selling their old house, moving into a new one they are renting at half the monthly expense, seeing her daughter off to kindergarten.
She is helped by the fact that her husband, a vice president at an advertising agency, still has his job.
After the couple realized that her job search might take time, they decided to cut back on their spending. She has in mind a specific set of companies, but they are all still not hiring.
Unwilling to settle for just any job, she said, she would rather bide her time.
But the process of searching for work and coming up empty has also left her feeling spent.
“I was just discouraged, fed up and angry, feeling like my career had betrayed me,” she said.
Her daughter used to be in day care or preschool from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., but Mrs. Salinas began dropping her off later and picking her up earlier.
Some days, they skip day care completely and while away the day together.
Tatjana Jovanovic-Grove: Moving From Serbia, Scraping By Online
Tatjana Jovanovic-Grove now occupies her days with arts and crafts projects.
She makes a little money selling them online — $10 here, $50 there — but mostly it beats the sense of futility that used to envelop her each day during her quest to find a job.
“I stopped looking because that feeling of being rejected again and again is hard,” she said. “It’s just like somebody punching you in the face.”
Ms.Jovanovic-Grove, 41, has struggled to find work since she immigrated in late 2005 to the United States from her native Serbia, where she was a biology researcher at a prestigious research institute in Belgrade.
She had married an American, Doug Grove, 42, a Wal-Mart mechanic she met over the Internet.
The couple initially lived in Glendale, Ariz., with their three children from previous marriages, but they moved to Winston-Salem, N.C., in late 2007. They were attracted by the weather and the low crime rate.
They also thought Ms. Jovanovic-Grove, who earned a master’s degree in Serbia in environmental protection and zoology, would have an easier time finding a job in an area rich with universities.
“I was really thinking I would have no problem,” she said.
The need for her to find work became more urgent after the couple took on thousands of dollars in additional debt after they turned their Arizona home over to a bank in lieu of a foreclosure settlement.
They had been unable to sell it amid the state’s collapsing real estate market. But aside from a few temporary jobs, Ms. Jovanovic-Grove has come up empty on everything from research assistant positions to retail jobs.
Meanwhile, her husband’s hours at Wal-Mart, where he is paid a little more than $14 an hour, have been cut back.
In May, she stopped looking completely, concluding that the job market was saturated. Winston-Salem’s unemployment rate exceeded 10 percent.
“You figure out it’s just like when you toss a piece of meat at a pack of hungry cats,” she said.
“I just gave up because I could not compete.” Instead, she has turned to making wood handicrafts and selling them on Etsy.com, an online marketplace.
The small payments she gets often mean she earns less than fifty cents an hour for her effort.
But she reasoned it is better than wasting gas driving around applying for jobs she believes she cannot get.