Have I been looking for a job?  Yes!  And I’ve applied for several jobs in my field (environmental permitting) locally.  As well as several jobs in my field that aren’t local (Hawaii), and several jobs that aren’t even in my field but that are local.  I’ve had two interviews.  One job (in my field) went to an entry level person at an extremely low salary and the other job (out of my field) went to someone with more experience.  Most of the resumes and applications I send out disappear into the Ethernet without any response.

 I get a lot of comments suggesting that I really need to just take any old job that I can, so I wanted to address the financial realities of that.  A low paying job, after taxes and deductions are taken out, will not meet even our lowered barebones expenses.  A job paying $15 an hour – which is actually a higher wage than a lot of the ‘any old jobs’ listed these days (most pay around $10-11 an hour) after taxes and deductions (I’m estimating those combined at around 25%) would net around $1800 a month.  That’s what unemployment pays now.  But since I would have to put all 4 children in an afterschool program (and camps during breaks), that expense would increase by $924 a month over the $308 I pay now (and camps would be much more – summer camp for 4 kids runs around $540 a week/$2160 a month).  So I’d have the same income but almost a thousand dollars more in expense just in childcare during the school year. 

Plus if I took a temporary job paying $15 an hour I would reset the amount of unemployment for which I am eligible (currently I’m eligible for the maximum amount) and if I had to file again would not in any way be able to support my family. 

So why not retool for a new career?  Aside from the fact that the idea of starting over again at my age is daunting, if I want to train for another career I would have to give up our only income (unemployment) while training, which combined with the fees for attending classes and the possible additional childcare expenses, makes it impossible.  Despite all the ads from trade schools proclaiming a plethora of jobs in their fields it’s entirely possible that I could retrain and not find a job as other factors come into play when looking for employment.  As I’ve mentioned before (and as is documented in this economy across the country) things like age and credit score are considered by employers. 

An article about middle-aged job seekers competing with teenagers, interviewed a 57-year old job seeking ex-freighter captain at a job fair in Irvine, reporting that:

Seasoned workers have been especially hard-hit as the economy sheds job because with their experience comes a bigger salary.
“What’s happening is companies have laid off massive numbers of workers; typically what happens is they lay off the most expensive workers first,” said Esmael Adibi, an economist at Chapman University in Orange.
That ends affecting youths as well, because the newly jobless “try to find jobs in other sectors for much less pay,” Adibi said.
That was clear Saturday as Yang waited for an interview as a retail store greeter, a relatively lucrative job fair opening, thanks to its $13-an-hour wage.

The article went on to say, that unlike his youthful competitors Yang at least had savings to fall back on.

Another article sent a dire warning to job seekers- “sweat the small stuff because hiring managers are knocking candidates out of the running for the smallest mistake.”

The irony is that there are so many middle-aged, middle class professionals out of work that they’ve created a little niche market for entrepreneurs.  For instance there are websites that cater to the middle-aged  job seeker – some of which, judging from comments (e.g., “I’ve signed up at retiredbrains.com and all I get are email postings for casinos or the Army”)  appear to be more of a benefit to their creators than to the job seeker who visits them.  And there’s a new movie that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival – “Company Men” directed by John Wells that deals with this subject. 

In the case of “Company Men,” the three main characters played by Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper are laid off from a conglomerate and lose their comfortable boardrooms-and-golf existence.

Opening with a scene of Affleck’s character smugly enjoying a pre-work golf game at the country club just before he finds out he’s fired, the film follows all three as they are forced to re-evaluate their careers and lives, stripped of jobs that provided not only a paycheck but confidence and self worth. 

Add another factor- poor credit score- which affects job seekers who have had to deal with foreclosure into the competitive market and you begin to understand why your applications disappear into the Ethernet without response.

“In today’s job market, the expectation is that employers can afford to be extremely selective about candidates,” says Bob Schoenbaum, principal of KeyStone Search, an executive recruiting firm in Minneapolis. “While credit might not be the most important factor in a hiring decision, bad credit can be a tipping point between one candidate and others competing for the job.”

Obviously remaining on unemployment indefinitely is not an option – it runs out eventually – and it’s clearly not a healthy situation.  It’s hell on one’s self-esteem.  Towards the end of the school year I intend to start searching farther afield for a job – but will try and stay in the warmer climes as we will probably have to maintain our trailer home for some time and frankly because I hate the cold!  But that won’t change my age or credit score.  Over the next few months I’ll continue to explore the idea of moving to China to teach English. Perhaps after a year of that the economy will be better here and there would be more development, and thus more jobs in my field. I do think that would have its own stresses (not the least of which is that the kids are not enthusiastic about it).  And I’ll continue to write.  And in the dark predawn hours I’ll reflect on the truth of Anonymous’ comment that social security survivor benefits are more than unemployment and wonder if the kids would be better off without me. But I won’t be applying for retail or other low paying jobs.

This entry was posted in job search, recession, unemployment and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Employment/Unemployment

  1. Sula Lee says:

    Wow – everyone should read this – you are writing about things that no one wants to talk about or acknowledge.

    I have been a mortgage broker for 12 years and I am seeing most people really struggle. The credit score is becoming a huge factor in hiring now and I don’t think this is fair given our current economy. Those hit hardest, continue to be hit harder.

    Keep your chin up – you have a lot of people rooting for you.

  2. Pingback: Let’s Have a Little MORE Socialism « Prone to Laughter

  3. FrauTech says:

    Please don’t even consider that your kids are better off without you. There is no way. We’ve all had ups and downs but when I go home (wherever home is, where you and your family gather) I am so thankful that we are all there and alive and mostly healthy. Your kids would never trade your life for something so meaningless as money. I don’t mean to imply we don’t need money to live off of, just that your love, support and presence in their lives is so much more important. Ask the families of soldiers whether they would rather have the hazardous duty pay or whether they’d rather their soldier back home. You know the answer. I know it’s doubly hard for you to be on the front lines wishing the stars would align and having to be the emotional support for your family, but trust me that you are important to them for who you are not what you make or what you do. I also agree with your plan not to just take any job. While you are still receiving unemployment, and qualify for the max, that makes the most financial sense. I have made the same deliberations as I try to prepare for the worst as layoffs abound at my husband’s company and came to the same conclusion as you. So ignore all those who suggest you just take any job.

  4. A totally different anonymous says:

    My husband had his first child at 20, with a woman who was 19 (hang in there, this story becomes relevant, I SWEAR). She died at 28, leaving him with a nine year old and her social security benefits. More recently, my husband and I got pregnant with twins just as he was laid off, and he has been unable to find (feasible) employment for nearly three years. We are not in your situation – yet – but are definitely struggling financially. And I absolutely guarantee you that our kids are 1000% better off than his first was. So don’t you EVER even THINK about listening to a**holes like that other anonymous commenter. Your kids need you now more than ever.

  5. Shelly H. says:

    Sorry to hear about all that is happening with you! I can’t believe your bravery! And I feel badly for you. And I am about to embark on a similiar trip. I am in my second month of not paying my mortgage. Don’t know whether to do a short sale or foreclose. I am on a short list to get into a 3 bedroom subsidized apartment. I will have to lose our cats, fortunately for my dog,she got sick and died (sometimes I wish I was her.)I SO want to keep our animals! but I don’t think I’m brave enough to do the motorhome route. Things are a little easier in WA state. we are on medicaid and food stamps. I went back to school for awhile and the state payed for it. However, I was self employed-so no unemployment.

    Your writing is excellent. And your information is useful! Can you try to publish your blog and get some money that way? It is so timely. People need to hear whats happening to many of us. Past that, I have no advice. Personally I have an urge to roll up in a ball and let someone else take over. I am 58 with a degree in Graphic Design. HaHa.great choice.I have been sucked dry by my bank as well. oh I am just rambling and thinking about you alot. Don’t give up your kids! It would devistate all of you! I don’t know if you need to hear MY problems when you definitely are up to your ears in your own.


  6. Anonymous says:

    It is so hard to read your blog. So hard to listen to your suffering and pain. I’m so so sorry. I absolutely agree with you about finding just any job. I was unemployed about five years ago. I couldn’t get unemployment. And people couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t take anything–McDonald’s or something. Like you, I knew we couldn’t live on it. AND I knew that taking a job like that would severely limit my abilities to job hunt and go on interviews. That can be a full-time job in itself. I survived on savings. Eventually as you say, your unemployment will run out. That will be really hard.

    The job market has to get better. It just has to. I’m in a long-distance relationship and want my boyfriend to relocate here. But he’s having trouble finding a job as well. And his credit isn’t the best. And he’s over 40. All stuff that will work against him. But if the economy is in good enough shape, that wouldn’t matter as much.

    I think of you often and pray for all of you. Hang in there!

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