Unemployed since October

Was: Office support for five years at Regis Corp.

Looking for: An administrative support position in marketing or finance

Biggest surprise: "How hard it hit me; I really have taken it personally."

Vickie Swanson had worked at hair-care conglomerate Regis Corp. for five years and "really thought I would retire with that company." In fact, her layoff -- part of the first in Regis' 86-year history -- had been something of a fluke. She had liked her administrative support job in the finance department handling employee expense accounts, but she moved to another support job in marketing early last year, just to try something new. Her old position wasn't eliminated in the October cuts; her new one was.

A single mother, Swanson is worried for her children, too, in this economy. A son is in Chicago, working at Bank of America, which has announced 35,000 layoffs over three years. A daughter is trying to make it through the University of Minnesota. Swanson tries to help her with tuition when she can.

Swanson has been calling or e-mailing acquaintances at a couple of dozen companies, with a "please keep me in mind" message. She tried one networking group that wasn't a good fit, so she plans to try another. "One reason people go is that it's lonely looking for work," said Swanson, who's hoping for a job in the $40,000 to $50,000 annual salary range.

She recently decided to work part time as she looks for something more permanent. That will reduce her unemployment checks, but, "I just can't sit at home and look at my computer all day," she said. "I know that some part-time or contract jobs turn into full-time jobs. And I think this will show how much I want to work."