Monthly Archives: March 2009

Get up to speed with “Living Life Laid Off” Q&A on Velocity and Georgia Mae

My friend Javacia Harris, a staff writer at Velocity Weekly, well-mannered feminist in pink, and colleague in the blogosphere, honors “The Pink Slip Blog–Living Life Laid Off” in her latest posts on Georgia Mae and her Velocity blog.  Enjoy!


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Filed under Me in other media, Unemployment

Go Michigan State! (That hurt a little bit)

by Mariam Williams

As I turned off my TV yesterday to end the assault on my eyes before the Louisville-Michigan game in the NCAA Tournament actually ended, I thought, “I was really hoping Louisville would win.  This city could use a lift.”  But then I remembered that we were losing to Michigan State, and I suddenly didn’t feel as disappointed.

When I read this morning that GM Chairman and CEO Rick Waggoner had resigned at the request of the Obama Administration, I felt like rearranging my bracket again, with Michigan State taking the Tar Heels down.

Sorry North Carolina, but I remember how the Rams winning Super Bowl XXXIV brightened the city.  I was a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis at the time, and although the university is a bubble somewhat set apart from the city, residents of the city worked on our campus, and many students interacted with the city through their own jobs or volunteer work.  I honestly don’t remember a difference in attitude among my professors, but the blue-collar workers among us–those to whom I usually spoke in passing while hurriedly paying for the lunch they had just fixed for me–were happier in the days leading up to the Super Bowl than I could ever remember seeing them before, and they remained in their lifted state for several days thereafter.  They sported caps and jerseys over or under their uniforms, created Super Bowl Soup and Sandwich Specials out of the usual menu, served with increased pep, and got smiles and laughter out of the snobbiest of students in the longest of lines.  The children in the kindergarten class I tutored were (more) well-behaved, probably because every teacher in the school was more relaxed.  And the night of the big game, we the dorm residents, enclosed in our little bubble, stepped away from our books, gathered around big-screen TVs in lounges on the dorms’ main floors, and cheered with our city.

MSU is a college basketball team from the same state as the city where the Final Four and national championship will be played and not a pro team directly representing the city, but so what?  In these times, I say you should take whatever good, legal, healthy “stimulus package” you can get.  And with an unemployment rate of 13% (higher than the state unemployment rate of 12%), I hope Detroit residents can cheer their state’s university and gain a win for their city.

And while a double win would’ve been better, I think the Louisville Women can still do it for my city.


© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Economy, Mental & Emotional Health, Unemployment

Before you make higher education your sanctuary from living life laid off, consider this

by Mariam Williams

It’s the secret all those colleges and universities who flood job expos will never tell you: The well-educated are among those living life laid off, and they might be doing it longer than those with less education.

I had to address this after hearing Wednesday’s Talk of the Nation.  Gustavo Arellano elaborated on his recent op-ed for the LA Times in which he stated that his parents’ generation of Mexican immigrants who “came to this country with nothing” and remained in the unskilled labor force all their lives is, “in many ways better positioned to weather this recession than the sons and daughters they encouraged to educate themselves and aspire to better lives.”

I heard a similar opinion four days before hearing this one.  The first opinion came from Pietra Rivoli, an economics professor at Georgetown University.  She was on NPR’s This American Life addressing economic and business correspondent Adam Gibson’s concern about DJ, his 25-year-old cousin who decided to drop out of college.  Angered over his cousin’s decision, Gibson said, “There is one thing I have learned with absolute certainty, and that’s that the competitive advantage of the United States and our citizens, the way we will succeed in this global economy going forward is through skills, education, knowledge.  In other words, stay in school, get a college degree and you’ll be in a much better position … in the global economy.  And if you drop out of college, then you have basically consciously decided not to participate in the economic growth and possibilities in the coming decades.”

Gibson expected Rivoli to agree with him.  She didn’t.

She described the jobs in DJ’s work history as “non-tradable.”  Unlike the positions of people who went straight from high school to factories, then were laid off after 20+ years on the job when their work was shipped to China or Mexico, DJ’s jobs – laying telecom lines, carpentry, truck driving, etc. – aren’t going anywhere.  DJ was primed for a life of body aches, but for a good life nonetheless.  The segment concluded with the experts noting that the educated classes are more stressed about the recession and about their lives in general.

I was as surprised as Gibson when I heard Rivoli say this, but hearing it again has left me feeling taken aback, in disbelief, disturbed, concerned, and maybe even a little alarmed.  Actually, the best word might be unhinged.  Although I noticed years ago that a college degree didn’t guarantee success, riches, or even a job, I’ve always thought it better than the alternative.  A college degree would shield me from having to be a domestic, work in a fast food restaurant the rest of my life, drive a bus, work temp jobs, and whatever else women whose highest education level is a high school diploma do.

A degree goes beyond the concrete circumstances I wanted to avoid.  To roam the halls of academia and imbibe the wisdom of some of the great scholars and thinkers of our time; to dialogue with and live among students from different cultures and countries, to etch your way into adulthood away from the comforts of home and to be entrusted to establish your independence are privileges not extended to the majority of the world.  And as a descendant of people who were whipped or whose eyes were gouged or burned out for learning to read; a member of the gender still denied education in many parts of the world; and a self-described nerd, to stop my education at high school never occurred to me.

It also never occurred to me that I – or my country – might one day be unable to use my education.

The 44th President of the United States is a Harvard Law School graduate.  Those of us baffled by the two elections of a blubbering imbecile and the vice presidential candidacy of another have delighted in the return of oratory excellence and critical thought to the nation’s highest office.  President Obama fought throughout his campaign to appeal to the “Average Joes” and “Joe Six-packs” of the heartland.  And yet, the people who should be most excited about the immediate effects that his stimulus plan will have in their respective states are highly specialized engineers, construction workers, or ditch diggers.  That’s DJ’s current job.

As I’ve said before, I have accepted that it could be a while before people like me come back into demand.  I also know that there’s a positive correlation between adult enrollment in higher education courses and unemployment, and when my state made the top 15 in unemployment numbers, graduate study began to look more attractive.  But to hear Arellano admit that he has a master’s degree but can’t afford a house and knows that his journalism prospects will continue to remain in jeopardy, it hurts.

It hurts because I want to be an advocate for higher education.  I’ve been helping with a college fair for the past several weeks that focuses on getting more minority students to graduate from high school and enroll in college by showing them that success is possible for them and equipping them with the tools they need to succeed.  Now, I don’t believe college is for everyone.  I’m thankful for the DJs of the world; they do respectable, honest work that’s possibly more essential than anything I’m capable of, and I know they can make a good living doing it.  I also know that Bill Gates’s degree is honorary.  I know Steve Jobs dropped out of college.  I know that in Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki advises people who want to be rich to learn a little about a lot and not get more and more specialized in higher education.  He saw his very well-educated father teach for pennies and eventually have to leave his home because he couldn’t afford the property taxes.  I know that some people who want to play basketball or sing or dance or rap or act or write or direct professionally actually get to do it without giving college much thought, and that a few of them can make about a tenth of what Bernie Madoff stole.  But I feel that to advise minority students to go after that instead of higher education is to raise a collective middle finger to history and stain our own hands with our ancestors’ blood, even in this economy.  Yet these conversations have me wondering, what is the goal of college?  To get a job?  If so, am I helping to lead these students down the right path?  Are they better off without the “privilege” of a good education?

DJ and Arellano’s parents have an advantage because they aren’t “unskilled”; they’re adaptable.  They’re good at working with their hands, they learn how to do the work quickly, and they’re not too spoiled to do it.

It wasn’t having classes outside on the perfectly manicured quad, the imported tulips that lined the sidewalks every spring, the Starbucks coffee in every eatery, or even Angie, the kind housekeeper who mopped and vacuumed the floors in my suite twice a week my sophomore year, that spoiled me.  It was the diligence I put into studying, the faithfulness in anticipation of a reward that did it.  To not only not receive the reward, but to also still be paying off the loan I took out to do the hard work to gain the reward as I face the fact that I might have to – again – do something that has nothing to do with the hard work, is a cruel joke.

I’m trying to be humble and flexible, but I have some quirks that make some of the most obvious options unrealistic.  I vowed several years ago that I would never go back to retail, not clothes, not cars, not furniture.  I can work with teenagers in certain settings, but Starbucks isn’t one of them.  Teaching or tutoring children of other ages-or trying to-convinced me not to do it again.  I was great at math and science ten years ago, but I just don’t like them that much, and I don’t remember enough of those crucial subjects to become an engineer who can come up with green energy solutions.  My germaphobic tendencies, lack of natural caregiver instincts, and disdain for blood and human smells nix nursing.  I guess I could go for non-retail sales, but what exactly are people buying right now?  And even though manual labor jobs aren’t traditionally filled by women anyway, I’m just not cut out for them.

So what happens when business owners who have more letters after their name than I do lose their shirts and can’t even draw unemployment because they were business owners?  What do I do if my own hard work turns out to be useless for finding a job, and so for all present intents and purposes, meaningless?  At that point, I will rationalize my disappointment by remembering the words of another writer who discovered that everything really is meaningless, and I focus on all the important parts of life outside of whatever job consumes most of my days.  Until then, I’ll keep doing what I have been: praying for guidance, exploring options, applying for jobs I want, networking, and reinventing myself while honing in on the gifts and talents that are blossoming.  I also give myself one good “that’s not fair” tantrum and then remember that while some are better equipped than others to weather the economic storm, all storms eventually pass.


Some links and things to make you think:


© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.


Filed under education, Layoffs, Recession, stimulus bill, Unemployment

Unemployment 1 America 0

My story, and the stories of others affected by the dismal labor numbers, are featured in the latest issue of FLYP Magazine (  Click here to check me out on video in “Unemployment 1 America 0.”


Filed under Economy, Layoffs, Me in other media, Unemployment

In a state of unhappiness

by Mariam Williams

At least now I have an excuse for the funk I’ve been in lately.

My whole state is unhappy!  Kentucky ranked 49th on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index TM, which measures the overall health – the physical, mental, and social well-being – of each state and each Congressional district within each state.

When I took a closer look at the map provided on, I saw that Kentucky’s 5th district is ranked last of all the districts in overall well-being, while the district I live in is ranked somewhere in between the lowest 20% and the middle 20% of all districts within the United States.  Quite frankly, that still sucks.

Because I’m a trained researcher and a nerd, the whole study fascinates me, but for the purpose of this blog, I want to highlight one quote in the AP story on the findings:

“‘It’s not just about physical health,’ said Eric Nielsen, a spokesman for Gallup. ‘It’s about their ability to contribute at work and be more productive, and it’s about feeling engaged in a community and wanting to improve that community.'”

In this economy, I have to argue that it’s also about a person’s ability to find work.  I said it in a previous post: a certain amount of pride and dignity comes with having a job.  If the job pays enough, you can take care of all your needs.  If it doesn’t, and you have to work several jobs to provide for yourself, at least you can say you’re a productive member of society.

My current job is to find full-time work.  When my employment hiatus began in October, I remarked that I had forgotten that finding a full-time job is a full-time job.  I think the dead ends – the lack of responses, the generic “we found someone else who better fits our qualifications” letters, the daily reminders from the news and from strangers’ comments of just how difficult it is to find a job right now – have contributed to a slowdown in my productivity.  I haven’t reached the point where I see a job I’m interested in but think to myself, “Why bother?  I won’t get it anyway,” or, “Why even look?  There’s nothing out there.”  But I am to the point where I might wait several days before applying for one of the good full-time positions I’ve been holding out for.  (And the job market is to the point where I don’t see those jobs very often at all.)  There are days when email, Facebook, whatever random, useless information I can find online, the dishes, the laundry, a little spot on the floor, a good workout, or even this blog seem more important than sending in an application.

On Tuesday’s Tom Joyner Morning Show, commentator Jeff Johnson talked about the “depression created from the recession … A level of depression that comes when working class people – who don’t mind working to pay the bills … can’t find work.”  To get out of the depression, Johnson recommended, first and foremost, thinking positive.  He also recommended trying something you’ve never done before, learning a new profession, going back to school for something completely different, or in his words, “taking a risk.”

I don’t find many job postings I’m excited about anymore because I know that what I really want to do isn’t listed.  I want to pursue – and perhaps am called to pursue – a profession that forces me to open myself up to rejection, to not depend on an employer for health care and retirement benefits, to not depend on cubicle mates for companionship, to not always be on someone else’s clock, but rather to have the kind of freedom that also takes great responsibility.  To pursue this career takes great risk, and I believe the fear of failure, or maybe of all the responsibility and pressure that success would bring, is manifesting itself in distractions and lethargy.  Lately it takes more effort for me to put a coherent sentence together than it does to clean the house.  And I HATE cleaning.

Hmm.  I guess I don’t have an excuse for the funk I’ve been in lately.  The funk is the excuse, and I have to get out of it if I want to stop living life laid off.


Filed under Economy, Health, Layoffs, Mental & Emotional Health, Recession, Unemployment

So that’s how you get a job these days!

by Mariam Williams

I was browsing last week when the following headline caught my eye:

“Hired!  A grad gets a job”

I find it highly disturbing that someone finding a job is considered news and equally disturbing that I clicked on the link.  I learned that recent graduate Roy Ma followed a very traditional job search strategy:  He focused his search on companies he was interested in and jobs for which he was particularly qualified; he wrote a new cover letter and résumé specifically tailored to each job each time; and he performed several mock interviews before the real meeting. He was hired at the interview.

I’m impressed that Ma got to the interview stage at all.  I’ve met with a few leads for potential freelance assignments, but I haven’t been on a job interview for a full-time position since shortly after I was laid off. That potential employer could tell that I wanted, and was capable of, more than the job could offer me and that if the opportunity for something better came along, I would take it.

So I began to look for jobs that were more directly in line with what I wanted, without regard to salary.  I revamped my résumé to highlight only jobs and activities that showed how I have effectively used my strong oral and written communications skills.  I rewrote my objective to show that I could bring in money through creative and professional writing and research.  I did the same in cover letters.  Any time I found out I knew someone, or knew someone who knew someone, at a company of interest, I informed the connection of a pending application and sent that person a copy of my résumé.  If a job fit me particularly well, I walked into the business establishment dressed for an interview and asked if it would be possible to speak with someone about the job that day.  Walk-ins were never accepted, and only once was the front desk official permitted to tell the hiring manager that an applicant had inquired in person.  I wanted to stand out to the Louisville Water Company so badly that I used a connection to get a hard copy of my résumé to HR; showed up interview-ready just to show interest; and after the security guard at the front desk informed me that she couldn’t tell HR that I had shown up in person, I folded my résumé into one of the company’s own water bottles and resent it to the HR department and to the department in which I wanted to work.  When I called to follow up on the status of my application, they recognized my name.  They remembered my message in a bottle, and while my work experience was in line with the position, my undergraduate major wasn’t, and hence, I would be called for an interview only if everyone else who had the major they were looking for wasn’t hired.

(Sidebar: I have a special complaint. I often find the same stumbling block in jobs requiring strong written communications skills or other verbiage indicating the need to hire a gifted writer who has mastered the grammatical intricacies of the English language: a degree in English, writing, communications, or journalism.  I have none of the above.  While the rationale is obvious, I catch many of the mistakes people with those degrees routinely make in various publications.  It’s as if employers believe that no one with a degree outside of those four particular areas would ever be able to write or edit any type of paper or publication.  And even if they could, why would anyone without a degree in writing want to write?  Can you imagine someone holding expertise in a different subject area AND being able to write about that subject effectively, or being able to compile research on an unfamiliar topic and summarize it in a way that the public can understand?  How ridiculous!)

My undergraduate degree is in psychology.  I’m not going to bemoan its futility now; as a freshman, I envisioned myself with a PsyD.  After several internships and a practicum … not so much.  Unfortunately, I made this discovery well into my senior year, and I had no money, energy, or desire to remain at an expensive private university as a fifth-year senior.  The degree hasn’t been a waste: I’ve been told that characters in my plays and screenplays tend to have a  depth that makes my major evident, and I was taught that the best commercial writers appeal to their listeners’ or viewers’ emotions in order to trick them into buying things they don’t need.  I’m thankful for the ability to spot the trick and to play it, but convincing potential employers that I could write – well, something like this blog – wasn’t so easy before the blog.  Now that I can use posts from The Pink Slip Blog as writing samples, I no longer see jobs from employers that would be interested in them.

So maybe it’s time to make another change.  I feel like I’ve been less picky lately, applying for positions that I would likely find boring or unfulfilling, but that have one key benefit: tuition reimbursement.  Yet, as appealing as cutting the cost of graduate study is – and no, school is not the official plan yet – I haven’t been tailoring my résumé to fit the less exciting positions.  Perhaps it’s laziness, or stubbornness.  I still believe the perfect job for me is out there, or that I will soon have all I need to create it myself.

I saw a couple of links from the graduate’s story that made me think that my perfect job is inside a perfect company.  Knowing that I’m unlikely to have my relocation expenses paid, I had been keeping my job search local.  When I clicked on links to the headlines, “No layoffs — ever!” and then, “They’re Hiring!” I experimented with a major change to my search parameters.  I disregarded location completely, went to the websites of 20 of Fortune Magazine’s top companies that have at least 350 job openings, and entered marketing, communications, public affairs, or public relations under the search criteria, or searched within those specific departments.

Out of at least 7,000 openings in top companies, 245 fit the search criteria in some way.  One hundred fifty-seven (give or take about 90 at Google – I was too tired to look through all of them by then) were positions for which I believe I am qualified.  One position matched the kind of job that would allow me to take Roy Ma’s focused strategy.  I’m going to apply for it and see how much longer I will be living life laid off (in Kentucky).

For a closer look at the number of jobs I found in my areas of interest at each company, continue reading.

Publix Supermarkets

Marketing – 0

Public Affairs – 0


Marketing – 14, but all senior marketing (minimum 5 years experience) or web positions


Marketing and communications – 0

Research – 0

Bright Horizons

Marketing – 0

Baptist Health South Florida

Marketing – 0

Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minnesota

Marketing – 1

Publications – 1

Scripps Health

Marketing & Communications – 0

Price Waterhouse Coopers

Public Relations – 3, all requiring at least 8 years of experience.  Students and recent grads had more options.


Communications or Marketing – 5.  Two required at least 10 years of experience, and the rest were more directly related to IT or to business integrity.

Booz Allen Hamilton

Communications/Marketing/Media – 27.  Maybe I could get used to San Antonio, TX.

Ernst & Young

Communications, marketing, public relations – 1

Burns & McDonnell

Communications/Marketing – 4


Customer Research, Government & Community Affairs, Marketing, Marketing/Communications – 64.  Two were non-management positions requiring less than 8 years of experience.

Whole Foods

Marketing, communications, public relations – 0.  However, I admit that I got bored with doing the job search state by state, since searching all U.S. locations at once was not an option.

Methodist Hospital Systems

Marketing, communications, public relations – 0.  Those categories aren’t even found under “areas of interest.”


Communications – 1 managerial position that related to what I was actually looking for

Cisco Systems

Marketing or corporate communications – 4, all technical writing

Wegmans Food Markets

Marketing, communications, public relations – 0


Marketing – 90

Communications – 31

Public Relations – 0

I found it odd that a search under U.S. jobs in the greatest search engine’s job site yielded results in the Czech Republic, Nigeria, Singapore, and other locations.  Also, these were just search results, not necessarily the categories under which these jobs would normally fall.

Edward Jones

Marketing department of two corporate headquarters locations – 0

“written communications” as search term – 0


© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Unemployment

Where did the silver lining to living life laid off go?

by Mariam Williams

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

This is my favorite verse from “My Favorite Things,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic that helps to seal Maria’s bond with the captain’s children in The Sound of Music.  Girls and snowflakes don’t do much for me; I don’t like children (although I could see how a white dress with a blue satin sash could make a girl happy), and I hate snow.  The “silver white winters that melt into springs” make this verse my favorite.  The winters are melting, meaning there’s a process, and it could take all season, but there’s something happening, and the bitter cold will turn into a season I enjoy.

When the dog bites

Between the headache that made me feel as though a power tool was drilling through the back of my head and into my eyes, and all the depressing economic news I read this weekend, it’s becoming more difficult to remember that a new season is coming.   The front page of Sunday’s Couier-Journal pictured a sheriff’s deputy and members of his eviction crew emptying the contents of a home.  The story encouraged readers with news of an increase in evictions – from two a month to two a day – a struggling charity that serves the homeless debating whether or not to close on weekends; an appraiser willing to travel up to 150 miles to appraise homes for bankruptcy instead of for refinancing; a man forced to seek help from a food bank for the first time; and a couple of the kinds of lesser-known stories that make newspapers so great, like one about a couple living in their barn due to the delay in the building of their houseboat and one about plastic surgeons seeing a decline in elective surgeries.  That last one is a pretty big deal for one of America’s vainest cities.

When the bee stings

When I turned to the features section of the C-J, I read about an Atlanta man who had moved to Louisville for work; got laid off from each job he found here; couldn’t draw unemployment because he hadn’t worked long enough; and is currently three months behind on his rent and passing out hand-made business cards to seek out construction work.

When I’m feeling sad

Monday morning, I read an op-ed piece in the New York Times that noted that not only is this recession worse in shear numbers than the one that hit in 1981-82, but it’s worse for me, one of the 2.2 million people ages 16 to 29 who have lost their jobs in this recession.  And “this follows an already steep decline in employment opportunities for young workers over the past several years.”  Guess I should be more excited to have only one more year in my 20s.

Then I read in Ad Age that ad spending in traditional media will continue to decline into 2013.  So much for trying to stay in my field.

I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

A stockpile of soup and cereal purchased on sale and with coupons


Rent paid consistently and on time

The fact that I still have more than I need and more than most of the world

My mom taking care of my gym membership

Benefits of exercise

A supportive boyfriend who truly believes that I have enough gifts to seriously change my life

The escapism of “24” and “Heroes”, which allows me to watch both of those shows, despite their competing time slots

Cathartic writing sessions

Random and interesting things my friends have posted on Facebook, like this video snagged from youtube:

My CeCe Winans cd (yes, a cd!)

The song “Praise Is What I Do” by Shekinah Glory Ministry

Ecclesiastes 3:1.  The translation I currently like best reads, “There is an appointed time for everything.”

Silver white winters that melt into springs …


Go ahead: make a comment.  What are few of your favorite things, or anything that’s making you not feel so bad?


© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.


Filed under Economy, Layoffs, Mental & Emotional Health, Recession, Unemployment