Category Archives: Layoffs

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.

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Some links and things to make you think:

www.celiaanderson.com

http://adage.com/gennext/post?article_id=135211

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=25&chapter=12&version=31

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© 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 http://livinglifelaidoff.com, 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 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 (www.flypmedia.com).  Click here to check me out on video in “Unemployment 1 America 0.”

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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 ahiphiwire.org, 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.

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

Sleep

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”

hulu.com, 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 …

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

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© 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 http://livinglifelaidoff.com, 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, Layoffs, Mental & Emotional Health, Recession, Unemployment

From Living Life Laid Off to Working Artist?

by Mariam Williams

I recently learned that a friend of a friend has joined the self-reinvention effort in the face of the national economic freefall. She’s decided to go back to school to study fashion design. With her engineering career taking a hard hit, the friend of a friend figures that if she’s going to have to go back to school and reinvent herself, she might as well study something for which she has a passion.

I understand her logic, encourage her efforts, and even applaud her zeal, but something concerns me about all of us who have decided to use our country’s present catastrophe as an opportunity to pursue our artistic passions: where will we find jobs in our new respective fields?

As a life-long artist, I’ve confronted this conundrum many times, and it has undoubtedly contributed to why I’m not further along as a dancer, writer, painter, playwright, screenwriter, or actress. (Yes, I’ve dreamed about, thrown money at, and at some point received formal instruction in all of those areas.) I want to follow my passion(s), but I want to get paid for it (them) too. I believe I should do what I’ve been designed to do and use the gifts I’ve been blessed with, but I also want to satiate, or at least periodically feed, that side of my personality that craves the material things that only about 1% or so of those whose only full-time job is to do what I like to do, can afford to buy. I would rather get paid to do what I love than to, as another friend and artist put it, “work full-time to support my theater habit.”

“Making it” as an artist is difficult in large part because art is subjective, and not just in terms of whether it is good or bad, pretty or ugly, or liked or disliked. What constitutes an artist as one who has “made it”? Fame? Money? Mainstream acceptance? Staying true to your art even though it will cost you more than you make for the rest of your life and only your close inner circle knows your name?

Art is even subjective in terms of whether or not it’s a necessity, especially in a society whose economy is eroding. When President Obama was still the President Elect, my mother sent me an online petition to support the formation of a new cabinet post: Secretary of the Arts. Legendary music mogul Quincy Jones, quoted as saying he plans to “beg” President Obama to establish the post, is among major supporters who also include the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and arts advocacy group Americans for the Arts. Over 200,000 people have signed the petition so far.

NPR’s story on the possibility of the cabinet position also included the dissenting voice of David Smith, a professor of American history and the author of Money for Art: The Tangled Web of Art and Politics in American Democracy. His concern, and that of at least one blogger, is that art and government beget censorship and jeopardize artistic freedom. Many who commented on the NPR story had another concern: the cabinet position would be a waste of taxpayers’ money because we just don’t need it.

The latter concern is one reason the major supporters would argue the opposite. From what I gather (see links at the end), their focus seems to be three-fold:

  1. Increase cohesiveness. The Secretary of the Arts or Department of Culture would connect the State Department, Department of Education, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities, the Library of Congress, and the Institute of Museums and Library Services.
  2. Increase the U.S.’s visibility on the world arts stage.
  3. Educate the U.S. masses about the value of art and artists in American society.

The focus is on arts organizations and the public, but the educational aspect may be paramount to individual artists. Supporters of a senior-level culture official are looking for someone to tell the public that “nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences generate $166.2 billion in economic activity every year; support 5.7 million jobs; and return nearly $30 billion in local, state, and federal government revenue every year” (Americans for the Arts). They want the public to know that the U.S. had arts ambassadors during the Cold War, and to see, as Quincy Jones does, that “the arts have a spiritual benefit that Americans need,” and that our “emotional defense is just as important” as our military defense.

I want someone who can do number three AND create jobs for artists. If you’re not an artist, you may not know this, but art, in all its forms, is a fiercely competitive field. A 2008 report from the NEA found that about 2 million Americans identify themselves as working artists. The total number of active duty and reserve U.S. military personnel at the time of the NEA’s report was 2.2 million. Because I know that our “emotional defense” will never be seen as important as our military defense, I won’t address the difference in federal funding between the two groups.

I will, however, address federal funding of the arts in the recently-signed stimulus bill, AKA the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Here’s the good news for arts organizations, according to a press release from Americans for the Arts: “The National Endowment for the Arts will distribute $50 million of the stimulus funds to arts projects in all 50 states which specifically preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector that have been most hurt by the economic downturn. … Additionally … the final version removes the Senate ban on state and local governments from using any of the recovery funds to benefit museums, theaters, and art centers.”

Here’s the bad news: I didn’t see anything about art or artists on Congressman John Yarmuth’s (D-KY, 3rd District) link showing highlights of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for Louisville and the state of Kentucky. (I guess that since Louisville’s Fund for the Arts exceeded its 2008 campaign goals by 13.8%, we’re doing okay without federal money. On the other hand, 26,000 of the Fund’s donors gave from their workplace, and unemployment is up to almost 8% now.) Also, typing “art” in the search box on recovery.gov yielded no results. Neither did “national endowment arts,” which means that if any money for the arts is in there, it’s not highlighted among the details most people want to know, and if it’s not highlighted, it’s not that important to American society right now.*

That’s unfortunate because the NEA’s study also found that there are about 300,000 part time or seasonal artists in the U.S., and they didn’t count adults who love their art, but very rarely get paid for it. Artists who don’t work full-time as artists compete for many of the same federal, state, and local grants as full-time artists do. That money – plus the public’s disposable income and wealthy art lovers’ charitable contributions – is how the Louisville Metro Area supports over 30 community theaters while the producers, directors, performers, and crew members go to work at their “real” jobs each day. A grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women is how I paid my own artist fees to adapt a screenplay into a stage play while I worked two part-time jobs in 2007. And keep in mind that the jobs in the non-profit art sector and at museums, theaters, and art centers that will get funding could just as well be administrative staff positions as they could be artists. A well-known, well-endowed theater here in Louisville has 18 people on its artistic staff roster, 58 crew members, and 49 administrative staff members. That doesn’t count interns who do the work for college credit.

We live in a society in which art is undervalued. Even as I write with new fervor, launch a freelance writing service, and hope that the 65,000+ media and advertising jobs that have disappeared since the beginning of the recession return, I think about how so many new artists will support themselves, and I wonder if a Secretary of the Arts could save me from living life laid off.

Links:

http://yarmuth.house.gov/?sectionid=111&parentid=63&sectiontree=3,63,111&itemid=452

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/entertainment/Does-Nation-Need-Secretary-of-the-Arts.html

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/storyComments.php?storyId=99450228

http://blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-healing-arts/200901/secretary-the-arts-q-needs-you

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/13/AR2009011303264_2.html

http://www.florida-arts.org/resources/economicimpactofthearts.htm

http://www.artsusa.org/information_services/recovery/default.asp#stateofarts

http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/27828/study-finds-two-million-artists-in-the-us/

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jun/12/entertainment/et-nea12

*To see provisions for the arts, go to http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:h1enr.pdf and see pages 57-58 of the entire ARRA bill.

© 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 http://livinglifelaidoff.com, 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 Arts and Culture, Economy, Health, Layoffs, Lifestyles, Mental & Emotional Health, money, Recession, stimulus bill, Unemployment

An Economy of Humility

by Mariam Williams

At the time for prayer requests in my Sunday school class this past Sunday, I shared that I’m seeking God’s will and

applying for jobs with hat in hand ...

applying for jobs with hat in hand ...

direction in what to do with my life now that a new idea for self-employment, or sometimes just self-improvement, leases space in my head each day. The request spurred the following dialogue:

A mother of the church (church-speak for elderly, long-time, well-respected, female member who tends to speak her mind rather unabashedly) said, “You know the Census Bureau’s hiring.”

I shook my head as I replied, “I know. I don’t want it.”

“Oh. You don’t believe in taking something just to have something until what you really want comes along?”

Cringing and bracing myself for a harangue about my spoiled generation I said, “No ma’am, actually I don’t.”

Instead of the harangue, she said, “Well good thing you don’t have babies to feed.”

She’s right: it is good, and I said as much and recognized the same privileged status in a previous post. There’s a chance I won’t have full-time work before April.  Even if I get an extension in my unemployment benefits, I know the compensation will eventually run out, and that it may do so long before writers, copywriters, research directors, other media personnel, and creative types with unusable bachelor’s degrees come back into demand. As the church mother said to me after class, “It may be that you have to get some new training, go into a different field all together.” Others suggest an employment tactic along those same lines but even more extreme: humility.

In Good Morning America’s “Unemployment Rescue” segment last week, workplace contributor Tory Johnson suggested five part-time jobs to get back in the workforce or supplement underemployment: 1) substitute teacher or college prep course instructor; 2) staff member at major league baseball or indoor rodeo stadiums; 3) valet parking attendant or guest services worker for major healthcare facilities; 4) senior care companion; and 5) pet-sitter.  Hmm.

In the comments section of the story, a great debate rages between pride and survival. To some, going from a government “hand-out” to several jobs that pay between minimum wage and twenty dollars an hour is a joke. Others believe beggars can’t be choosers.

Also taking a stake in the game are the requirements for unemployment benefits. You can’t exactly supplement your income. In Kentucky, when you report income from any source – temp assignments, odd jobs, self-employment, tips, bonuses, reserve pay, holiday pay, etc. – 80 percent of the gross of that income is subtracted from your unemployment benefit check. So if you earn $100 house sitting one week, instead of getting your usual $415 – the weekly, pre-tax maximum in Kentucky – you get $415 minus $80, or $335. Your house sitting money makes your total for the week $435, raising your usual income by twenty dollars instead of one hundred. Temp assignments that bring in more than your weekly benefit check but that don’t last for very long have been known to make the automated system believe you’re now being selective and refusing full-time work, thereby at best delaying your benefit checks when the assignments stop. At worst, you could be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits all together, and if you make more than the benefit check at any time, you don’t get any benefit money that week at all. Hence, cash under-the-table is highly encouraged and honesty highly debatable.

I get it: unemployment benefits are to help discourage you from staying unemployed and living off the government. But that’s easier when the nation’s unemployment rate looks like this:

us-unemployment-rate-dec-2000-avg-map

Jobless rate: 4.0%

instead of like this:

us-unemployment-rate-dec-2008-map2

Jobless rate: 7.2%

These are different and difficult times. The savings account is depleting faster than you thought it would. You’re ignoring that weird sound the car makes every time you make a right turn. A health emergency will either bankrupt or kill you because your health insurance is gone. The past due notices are arriving in an assortment of colors. You know a foreclosure notice is next.  Even CEOs of The Big Three went to Washington with hats in hands, and they’ve made severe changes to their structure just to maintain their existence.  Why should you or I be any different?

Although I plow through my days without much regard for my own needs and zero regard for those of anyone else, I know the above argument rages in homes throughout the U.S. daily. At least one person who made comments on the Good Morning America segment has done the math and figured that to earn less than your unemployment benefit check just to say you’re employed seems silly. However, a certain amount of pride and dignity comes with having a job. A certain amount of pride and dignity also comes with having a job that’s sufficient to support your needs and the needs of those for whom you are responsible; with finally getting a job that required the degree that engulfed your life for several years; with being rewarded for staying out of jail, not using drugs, not having children before graduating from high school, being a straight arrow, and generally avoiding the trappings that tend to lead to government hand-outs or to working several jobs that pay minimum wage only so that you can make ends not even meet, but wave to each other from across the Grand Canyon from time to time. And a certain amount of pride and dignity is lost when you stand in line at the unemployment office next to former classmates who fell into said trappings. Once that happens, a little bit of pride is all you have left.

Well, I also have my beliefs. I believe that busying myself with things I am not designed to do distracts me from finding opportunities that lead down the right path. I believe I’ve wasted enough time that way and that before I reach the breaking point, I’ll find the right opportunity. It may turn out that the opportunity comes from a temp assignment or from meeting the friend of a friend of an owner whose dog I’m walking. It may even come from one of the good, full-time, self esteem edifying jobs to which I apply each week. Each person will make a decision according to his or her own situation and need. Just as much as I need food, I need to hold my intellect and talents in high esteem and not settle. I don’t think I’m regarding myself more highly than I ought; it’s just that I remember vividly the sense of sadness, defeat, disillusionment, and even hopelessness that settling caused me in the past, and I never want to be in that state again.

So I continue to look. And wait. Even if my strategy prolongs my time for living life laid off.

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Hat in hand?  Nah.  I think hats are meant to be worn.

© 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 http://livinglifelaidoff.com, 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, Health, Layoffs, Lifestyles, Mental & Emotional Health, money, Recession, Unemployment

A Monday Moment: A Few Complaints About Living Life Laid Off

by Mariam Williams

In honor of Monday, the day that most full-timers and nine-to-fivers loathe and mark as the end of their merriment in their blissful ignorance of their blessed situation, I briefly digress from my usual positive tone to create this list of things, people, events, organizations, etc. that have puzzled, dismayed, disheartened, or annoyed me, or otherwise pissed me off since I began living life laid off.

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. The question, “So what do you do all day?”
  2. The question from total strangers attempting to make small talk with the traditional line of questions, “So what do you do?”
  3. Reminders from those same people that it’s a terrible time to be looking for work.
  4. The question from total strangers attempting to make small talk with the traditional line of questions (and indirectly and unknowingly complimenting me on my skin care regimen and healthy diet), “Are you in school?”
  5. The question from people who have known me for several years now, “Are you still in school?”
  6. The payment to Sallie Mae automatically deducted from my checking account each month to pay for a 7-yr-old degree that a financial aid counselor once told me would ensure placement in a good job that would allow me to pay back my loans.
  7. The framed diploma on my mother’s wall telling the world I have an education level higher than about 66% of my state (at last official count).
  8. Solicitations from my alma mater begging me to donate to the annual fund, as the endowment depletes with the bear market.
  9. Bernie Madoff
  10. People at a party I went to several months ago comparing notes on how much bigger their third house is than their first two and how young they were when they bought each.
  11. People who said they would help me with references and referrals … but didn’t.
  12. Getting laid off on a Monday. I mean seriously, what was the reason for not doing this on Friday? I took work home with me that weekend! And I caught the bus on Monday morning! And everyone in the building knew I normally caught the bus to work! Could they not have considered that in deciding when to tell me?
  13. Getting laid off four days after the company hosted a big outdoor event to showcase how great we all were at our jobs and what a great time it would be to do business with us.
  14. Friends in the healthcare industry. Especially those who have recently been on several job interviews or who have been hired.
  15. All those job openings for nurses and counselors at various hospitals.
  16. Applying for individual health insurance.
  17. The comment from someone I know that seemed to imply that my blog is a glorified pity party. (Until this post, I don’t think that was justified.)
  18. The Kentucky Office of Employment and Training for:
    1. Deciding that everyone laid off with me and under the same terms as I was received severance and didn’t have to report that as income, but that I received wages in lieu of notice and did have to report it.
    2. Having an inefficient system, thereby leading hundreds of unemployed workers to wait in lines around the building, in the cold, for several days in January, just to file for their weekly benefit check. (I should note, this is a complaint on behalf of those hundreds; I happened to time my online filing right and never had to wait in the cold.)
    3. Being incredibly efficient on Friday, the day they close early, but not moving with the same haste any other day of the week.
    4. Telling me I needed to come in to the office due to an error when I didn’t need to do that at all. I was there for almost four hours.
  19. That generic response letter from Actors Theatre of Louisville telling me that they selected someone else for the position, and suggesting that I volunteer for the theatre in ways that I have been for the past three years and in ways that were clearly listed on my resume and highlighted in my cover letter.
  20. Generic rejection letters that appear months after I’ve applied for jobs.
  21. No response at all.
  22. Companies who don’t allow the security guard or other front desk area manager to tell the human resources office that an assertive and qualified candidate not only applied for the job online but also made a trip to the office just to show her sincere interest in the job and stand out among the other candidates.
  23. Job fairs advertised as being for everyone looking for a job right now, but that are really just recruiting for nurses, truck drivers, and adults thinking about going back to school online.
  24. Being busier now than when I was working yet having time for some things I can’t afford, like dance classes and frequent hair appointments.
  25. Not being able to afford tickets to Wicked while it was in town.
  26. My place now looking lived in.
  27. Those conspicuous little pieces of lint from the carpet that show up on the white tile when I walk around my apartment in socks.
  28. E.On and Louisville Gas & Electric’s rate hike.
  29. The bad weather that takes out electricity after I stock the refrigerator.
  30. Bank of America, for not lending money to small business owners who need to make payroll.
  31. Those children in the House and Senate.
  32. Optimistic people.

In the same boat and feel like complaining? Have a Monday moment and sound off in comments!

© 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 http://livinglifelaidoff.com, 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, Layoffs, Lifestyles, money, Recession, Unemployment