Thursday, August 03, 2006
Looking for a job in the Bush economy
Is it? I'd argue that it's not, not for the average person. In the past, let's say three years, I've sent out hundreds of job applications to jobs all across the country. A certain percentage of those I wasn't expecting anything from, due to distance (it's not all that likely that a company in say, Alaska, is going to be willing to fly in people from all across the country to interview when they could find someone much closer to home. I get that.) or necessary level of experience. (Some jobs you apply for because they're just so good, you can't not apply.) Still, the vast majority of them, I was what the company said it was looking for and within reasonable distance.
I am not an uneducated person, nor do I lack job experience. I've got a Master's degree and ten years work experience. I have good references. I spent a great deal of time crafting my resume and cover letter. I'm serious about finding a new job, I'm serious about moving whereever that job is located. I'm not looking for something that pays me exhorbantly, nor do I want to live in some highrise somewhere. Economically, I'm a fairly simple girl. I need a decent place to live, enough money to pay my bills and some to sock back for retirement and a little extra to have some fun with. I don't expect nor want to be rich. I just want to be comfortable. I need a job with health insurance, due to my Lupus, but otherwise, I'm willing to negotiate points.
And yet, it's nearly impossible for me to get an interview, much less a new job. I've been to job coaches, to make sure there wasn't something I was unintentionally doing to turn off potential employers. This is a serious undertaking for me.
And still...nothing so far. Why is that? If I wanted to work at McDonalds or Taco Bell, I could do that. If I wanted to work an underpaid retail job, I could do that too. Those jobs are, yes, increasing. However, I don't want to do that. I'd be making less money than I am now and money is the main motivating factor for this job hunt. (I'm not even making $30k after working at my office for six years. This is insane.) So, while it may be true that jobs are being created, they are not living wage jobs, they are not jobs that can support a family, they are not jobs that allow workers to pay their bills. They are jobs that keep people in poverty.
I'm 31 years old and I have nothing saved for retirement. I cannot afford it. All my money goes to housing, food and medical bills. I don't need much more money, say another $400 a month, and I'd be okay. I could keep my head above water. But why, after all my education and work experience, should I only be keeping my head above water? Why can't I be comfortable? Why do I still have to worry, month to month, if I'm going to be able to pay all my bills? (And I never can. I've got medical bills from last year that I'm not able to pay anymore.) I worked for years to get my credit score fixed, I ditched all my credit cards and now, because of my recent spate of medical problems, I'm looking at my credit being destroyed again. I can't declare bankruptcy, not after the new laws that have been passed, so I'm basically screwed.
I'm not the only one I know in this situation. I realize, you can't generalize about the entire population from a few studies, but I've seen enough to recongize a trend. I have one friend who went to law school who couldn't find a job, so she's working at a Michael's craft store for just above minimum wage, just so she'll have a job. I have another friend who just finished her Ph.D, who's teaching at a very presitgious school who is making less than I am! She can't pay her bills and is constantly stressed out. I have friends who are working jobs that require them to have roommates to make ends meet. (This is very uncommon where I live, due to the low cost of living. I have a huge one-bedroom (plus utilities) for $425 a month. You can rent a decent house for probably $650 a month. And they're still having to split that cost with someone else.)
It's enough to make you want to give up, but you can't, because if you give up, you'll never find anything new. This is the robust economy the Merry Monkies are always talking about. But it's not robust for real people.
I'm hopeful, even though I know I shouldn't be, that one of the jobs I applied for is starting to pan out. I've gotten calls from some of my references that they've gotten called about me. So, maybe I won't be underemployed for much longer. It's only taken me four years, of course. And yet, I'm still worried that it's not going to happen. This economy destroys more than people's ability to take care of themselves, it destroys their ability to believe in themselves. If you're beaten down, you can't rebel. And if you can't rebel, you're easily controlled.