"Being flexible and open is extremely valuable," Leahy said.
How real people are coping
Dixon has thought about trying for jobs in a different field temporarily, but he's worried that prospective employers will pass him over if he tries something else outside his field. And he gets the sense that he's getting rejected in favor of others who already have jobs or more training from overseas.
"The more you're out of work, they think there's something wrong with you," he says. "It's a really nasty cycle that plays on you psychologically. It makes me doubt myself."
Jannet Walsh, 48, of Murdoch, Minnesota, feels the mental strain of unemployment, too. A photojournalist, she's been out of a job since she was laid off from a small publication in August 2011. Since then, she has faced countless rejections from other positions.
She doesn't feel depressed per se, but is looking for different ways to stay upbeat. A few weeks ago, she walked to a field at the edge of her small town and painted a watercolor of the sunset. She's also trying to revamp her website.
"You're focusing so much on this 'gotta find a job, gotta find a job' -- you've got to create something positive out of all the negative you're getting," Walsh said.
And there are dark moments. She cried when a state workforce counselor told her to take her advanced degree and other prestigious experiences off her resume (including participating in CNN iReport) since she's overqualified for local opportunities.
Dixon picks up one-time sources of income when he can by participating in focus group and academic studies.
A friend has let him live in her house for the past six months, but not without tension. They sometimes argue, and Dixon has no family in Seattle to turn to -- he'd probably be homeless if not for his friend.
In the meantime, Dixon cooks and cleans the house to help ease his sense of dependency and continues to look for employment.
"I'm doing the best that I can," Dixon said. He adds: "You can't put this stuff in stuff in context until it happens to you."