According to the bureau of labor statistics, the unemployment rate in the United States has fallen to 8.3% (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/laus.nr0.htm). In a still weakened economy, this is excellent news. But what about that 8.3% who are unemployed? How does it feel to be one of them? And why should it matter to the rest of the country? As one of the 8.3, I can testify that it is heart breaking. It takes a toll on your pride, your happiness, and your overall satisfaction in life.
Let’s be honest, some of the people on unemployment are there by choice. In some eyes, it is free money. Hey – who wouldn’t like to be paid to not work? But it is my opinion that this is a small minority. Most people, especially those who are accustomed to bringing home a steady pay check, are at a loss as to do when that paycheck disappears. They find themselves scraping by and making do with less. Sometimes they lose their homes or find themselves at the food bank for the first time ever. These people have found themselves locked in a struggle for survival. And this struggle is not one that they enjoy.
I have worked steadily since I was 19 years old. Having married at 18 and becoming a mother at 19, I realized early on that in order to “make it” in life, I would have to make a living. Do not think I took this lightly. I had a young baby and there was nothing I wanted more than to stay with him. But life did not afford me that opportunity. Determined to obtain a home of my own and to pay my bills, I began a career in the business world that would span 15 years. As much as I hated leaving my children, (baby number two came three and a half years later) I did what I had to do. And I do not have regrets about struggling to make a living for my small family.
In my adult life, I have held four full full time time jobs. The first job was with a local computer and computer component manufacturing company. I worked 12 hour and sometimes 14 hour days with a great deal of overtime. On my first day, I worked for 14 hours. Unaccustomed to that much time on my feet and carrying a good deal of baby weight, I seriously believed I would collapse. But I did not collapse; in fact I worked for eight years at that company. Fortunately, I was able to move into an office setting a few years after beginning my working time on the “floor”. The office setting afforded me more steady hours (no more forced overtime). It also allowed me to learn about what an office job was all about.
In the following years, I worked with Medicaid claims, with a financial advisor, and finally in insurance. All of these jobs gave me experience and I learned a great deal from them. However, insurance is a tough business and after a year on the job, I ended up unemployed.
Unemployment can be as stressful as having a job if not more so. There is the constant worry about the future. I have found myself saddened and frustrated by my situation. Like a law abiding citizen, I apply for at least two jobs a week as required by the department of labor. There have been weeks that I have applied for as many as five jobs. In my job searches, I have applied for everything from gas station attendant, to insurance claims adjustor. Many times, I never hear back on these applications. Once in a while, I will get a “thanks but no thanks”. Everyone is looking for someone with experience. And shouldn’t they? Why train new employees when you can get someone with previous experience? The job market is an employer’s market. The job pool is teaming with a wide variety of people with an education and/or experience. Why should employers take the time to train someone like me?
However, I am fortunate. I have a husband who provides a steady income. I have also returned to college in order to get one of those much needed degrees. The decision to return to school was made before I lost my job. College has become a major blessing to me. I have something to focus my energies on and hope for the future. I am thankful for what I have.
My plea to any and all hiring managers and employers who read this is simple. Have an open mind when searching for a new employee. Realize that people can be trained and the best employees are those who are willing to work and those who take pride in their jobs. Give that 8.3% a chance to move forward in their lives. You will not regret it.