'I pay on the loan monthly, but I still owe pretty much the same principal amount I did when I graduated'
I was able to get through undergrad without having to get loans. But the summer before I entered graduate school, my parents got divorced and were no longer going to be able to help pay for my Master’s degree.
I ended up taking out loans to cover my three years of school, while also working full time. I decided to go into the Social Work field and without a Master’s Degree I would not be making the salary I currently make. That is the positive of taking out the loans. The difficult thing has been paying them back. I pay on the loan monthly, but I still owe pretty much the same principal amount I did when I graduated. It is frustrating to not see that balance decrease but have so much less money each month for other things.
I think if I had to do it all over again (and knew then, what I know now) I might have gone into a different field. Possibly obtaining a MBA, where the possiblity to make more money and pay off the loans faster would have been much higher.
In the end, I am happy that I have my Master’s degree and while I live pay check to pay check, without the Master’s it is highly possible I would not have a job today.
'North Korea and student loan debt have this in common: both are difficult to get out of.'
North Korea and student loan debt have this in common: both are difficult to get out of.
At the time of writing, my student loan debt sits over $40,000, divided up into three different loans, which are owned by three different companies. During the five years of owning this debt, those three different loans have changed more hands than I can remember.
When a loan changed hands, which happened frequently and suddenly, all I received was a simple email – no call or letter – just one email that told me who bought it and how I could now access it. If that email ended up in a spam folder, which happened on more than one occasion, all knowledge of the loan disappeared. This left me wondering where my loan debt went and why it had so suddenly disappeared, only to realize later that I was now late paying it off with the new owner.
My monthly minimal student loan payment sits around $450. But if I followed this recommended amount, I’d be in debt for another 30+ years. Since I actually want to enjoy my life and do something other than remain financially enslaved, I pay $800 per month, which shortens my payment period to 5+ years. Still a large chunk of time, but that’s the price of a mistake, I suppose.
I say my student loan debt is a mistake because I now know there are more financially viable options for attending college. For example, I would not have attended a private college for a liberal arts degree. Instead, I would recommend everyone to take advantage of the community college system, at least for the first two years. Get the general education requirements out of the way, use that time to burn through your energetic youth, and then get ready for an expensive two years at a university.
Also – and I say this from experience - do not be afraid to drop out of college. This may sound anti-intellectual, but I am in no way advocating for individuals to not attend college. Furthering your knowledge of a subject is a great, great thing – the best, in fact – but you must understand that learning a subject from a college or university comes with a hefty price tag. And that price tag must eventually be paid back. If you feel the financial strain is too much, do not drown yourself within the murky red ink of debt, especially if your degree is not financially viable. Drop out, give yourself time to financially recoup, and then head back for more intellectual advancements. It worked for me.
The continual demand of my student loan debt may seem like a terrible thing – I mean, I called it financial enslavement earlier – but I have come to accept it as a generally positive part of my life. The need to meet those financial constraints has pushed me, both mentally and physically, to be a more productive citizen. Yes, I am a college dropout, one with loads of student loan debt, but the lack of a degree has not stopped me from being a successful individual; the lack of a degree and the looming mountain of student debt force me to stand out from the mainstream crowd. My skills much be sharper and more marketable than the competition, for the lack of a college degree is becoming a rarity.
Regardless, I anticipate the day when I can enjoy the financial byproduct of my work efforts, instead of promising them to some large corporation. What an absolute bliss it must be to look at a paycheck and say, “This is mine, and I’ve earned this for myself.”
'Maybe one day I’ll go back to school ... but I think I’ll be vacationing on Mars before that comes about'
My name is Kyle, I’m 27 and I graduated from ITT Tech in 2008 with a drafting/design degree. At a cost of $40,000. $20k a year, now that’s a lot, but figured it was the first step in the right direction. Before I took up drafting, I use to work as a “housekeeper” for a local medical clinic. That’s really just a fancy way of saying I emptied the trash and cleaned the toilets. It was a dirty job, but it paid the bills. In fact, I may have been at that same job today, if it had not been for an auto accident in 2004. Unfortunately, due to the injuries I sustained, I was forced to look for work elsewhere. That’s when I made the decision to go back to school and hopefully get a job that didn’t require me to be on my feet all day long.
So in summer 2006, I enrolled at ITT in Seattle, WA. At first things seemed great, classes were going well, I was learning a lot and even made some new friends. But all that changed when I found out about some of the shady/unethical and even illegal practices that were going on at the school. For example, a student was going to school part time, but the school administration would tell the federal government that this student is going full time. There for, they are eligible for federal assistance. The school would then receive the money from the government, and would hold onto it, until that money was spend for future classes. The government has been made aware of this, but to my knowledge they have yet to do anything about it. “Lack of oversight” I believe is what I was told. There was no one to enforce the laws.
When I found out about some of this stuff, I was about half way through my course. So I made the decision to stick with it, and just finish the degree. Which I’m glad I did. Because not long after the beginning of my second year, I was offered a job at a local structural engineering firm. It worked out great for me, I hadn’t even graduated yet and I already have a job in my field. The drafting job paid several dollars more than my housekeeping job and I finally got benefits. I worked during the day and finished my classes at night. And in June of 2008, I graduated from ITT Tech and I was on my way to pay off my loans. $600 a month was my payment. It was a lot, but I was able to afford it with my new job. It would have been smaller, if I was able to consolidate my loans, but as of right now I have 8 loans each with their own interest rate and monthly payment. Add them all up, and it’s a lot.
Then came the recession. And the economy took a drop. I lost my job and couldn’t get another right way, so I had to go on unemployment. And anyone who’s been on unemployment, knows that you don’t get very much money. My $600 a month student loan payment ate up most of my money each month. I thought my biggest concern was to keep up with my payments on my loans. And to this day, I have yet to miss a payment. I had to live in the garage of my brother house for 9 months while I was on unemployment. With most of my UE checks going to keep my student loans current, there was little else I could afford. I owe my brother a big thank you (and a few dozen six-packs) for being there when I needed help.
Today, I have a great job, working for a civil engineer. Working on fiber optic projects throughout Washington State. While I have a good job now, my student loan payment is still a heavy burden. And if the interest rate rises back to 6.8%, it’s going to get even tougher. I still can’t afford some of the things I wish I could. But I manage to survive. Looking back I am glad I made the decision to go back to school and earn a degree. It helped me get a better paying job (even with this payment each month) and I do feel like it was one of my highest accomplishments in my life thus far. The only regret I do have, is going to ITT Tech. I wish I had chosen a different school. Even a community college would have been better, looking back. But that’s the past, and I have hope for the future. Maybe one day I’ll go back to school and study more, but I think I’ll be vacationing on Mars before that comes about.
'It was only recently that I have been able to start paying my loans down'
The decision of taking out student loans was never really a question. Growing up in the mid-90s, the pervasive mentality was that successful people went to college. College people were smart. In an era where everybody was a winner, I was smart, so I was going to college to be successful, regardless of cost.
The initial thought was that scholarships would be prevalent, but they were not, so financial aid including government subsidized loans seemed to be the most viable option. Fast forward to the end of my college career. During that time, I had changed majors three times, adding superfluous summer sessions and private loans. The cost of my college education had ballooned nearly four times my initial expectations. Everything was going to be okay, because those with a college education find jobs. They find success.
My first post-college work was at a local movie theater in a southern capital. I moved northward to find work in DC, but only managed to muster up the lucrative career of bagel making. A brief pit stop in Iowa found me a meat counter position, putting me past minimum wage for the first time since my college career. Moving to the steel city, I finally found a job making double digit figures with the promise of future benefits, only to be let go six weeks into landing that position.
It was only recently that I have been able to start paying my loans down. After years of struggling, I am finally in a position that, while menial and vastly underutilizes my skills, talents, and abilities, I am able to be semi-independent, paying down debt, investing … being a real adult. Meanwhile, my friends who skipped out on college and worked their way up in their respective ladders for four years and not undertaking any financial encumbrances are getting married, finishing up car payments, and buying houses.
When all is said and done, I do not regret any of my past decisions. I have a cadre of friends, memories, and experiences that would have not been available to me otherwise. The choices I made were entirely my own and I will work diligently until every last penny has been paid in full.
Things could always be a lot better. At the same time, things could be a lot worse.
'I wish I knew then what I know now, I would not have gone to college'
I had to go to work right out of high school. Yet ever since I knew what one was I wanted to be a teacher. So with no savings I decided to take out loans. I went to the University of Phoenix online (I still had to work full time) in 2003 and received my Associates Degree in General Studies in 2005. I then found an online accredited teachers college called Western Governors University and started working toward my secondary teachers credential in Social Science in 2005. I was able to graduate in 2007. Ever since I graduated I have been applying for teaching positions and haven’t even been called in for an interview (may I remind you it’s 2012!?). My speculation is that there are so many seasoned teachers who need work that they may not want a teacher who has no experience.
I owe a stomach wrenching $22,125 from Sallie Mae and $11,470 from Nelnet. I was able to consolidate some of my FAFSA loans. And I have had to ask Sallie Mae to make my payments lower because I am unable to find work. But that is only going to prolong the process of paying it off. I wish I knew then what I know now, I would not have gone to college. Loans were my only option. I didn’t realize how overwhelming the debt would be once I was done. I was not only married when I graduated, but 6 months pregnant with our first child. He is now 4 and we have another son who is 2. We rely on my husband’s income and it is extremely tight to say the least. I wish I didn’t have to send in the $355 a month in student loan payments. I am sure that is not the message you want to give your readers, this is my truth.
'I don't necessarily think that someone else should have to pay for my loans, but I don't think that I should either.'
Down But Not Out started as a project to gather the stories of those dealing with long-term unemployment in the summer of 2011. We continue to gather stories of how Americans are coping with a rocky economy. In May, we asked Yahoo News readers about their experiences with student loan debt. We’ll be sharing some of their stories this week.
I like to say I’m a victim of the poor economy, although I don’t like placing blame on others.
When I started college in 2000 at the University of Minnesota, I was a starry eyed freshman with high hopes and aspirations, of what, I was never quite sure, but I was looking forward to finding out. I spent my undergraduate years taking classes that interested me, hoping that by the next semester I would decided what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. At this time, the economy was good, and the advice most commonly heard was, it doesn’t matter what you’re degree is in, it just matters that you have one … which is how I ended up with an Art Degree after 6 years of taking classes that interested me.
My parents were generous enough to pay for my first 4 years of college, so I left the university with only 12,000 in student loans. During college, (and still) I made my income working at various restaurants and bars, which pays far more than the average entry level position, so I continued to work there while I searched for jobs … The University of Minnesota did not prepare me for looking for jobs. I didn’t even know how to write a resume. Needless to say, my poorly written resume did not land me any jobs, or even any interviews for that matter. I was frustrated, depressed and needing a change in my life so I decided to go back to school. I then attended the Minnesota School of Business and obtained a degree in interactive media and graphic design. Things were looking up, as I knew that I would have a leg up on the other graduates with my second degree. I was wrong.
After I graduated I spent pretty much all day every day filling out tedious online applications, some which took over 2 hours. I never heard back from most of them. Because companies are spending less money on marketing in the poor economy, jobs in my field are sparse. For every 1 open position companies are receiving about 250 applicants. I have had a few interviews, they went well, but someone with more experience beat me into the position. How does one get experience when no one will give you any? Do it for free. Which is when I started my unpaid internship helping out in marketing for a local website.
I did this for four months, and decided it was time to start looking again. I joined clubs, volunteered, and went to networking events. Still no luck. It’s been 2 years now since I graduated for the second time. My student loan payments are over 1,000 dollars a month, which leaves me 30 years old and living in my parents basement. I haven’t given up however, and I did just get a part time marketing job that pays 12 dollars an hour, but as you can imagine, this is not paying my bills. Again, I left am frustrated.
I don’t necessarily think that someone else should have to pay for my loans, but I don’t think that I should either. I feel that I have done all the right things, I graduated with honors from both schools, I’m talented, hard working, and eager to be a part of something. My student loan debt has left me in a hole I can not see way out of.
'Sort of like being the only sober person at a party of drunks'
My husband is officially laid off today, after 26 years with the company and roughly 2 weeks before Christmas. We have scaled back tremendously—no gift baskets to relatives, only cards. No big presents to my two adult kids—just some cash and a few stocking stuffers. No trips to see family. My adult son has only been able to get part time work and lives at home with us.
To cheer the holiday up we decided to have a Mexican food fiesta for our family- it’s inexpensive, well-loved by all, and will break the tradtion of the usual ham or turkey. We’ll watch a movie at home or maybe catch a matinee.
Not being a part of the consumerism, it is sickening to watch. Sort of like being the only sober person at a part of drunks. That part feels good!
'I do not have a new years resolution. Well maybe never to be where I am again.'
I am a mother of three living in Reno, NV. The holidays this year are rough.
I am still without work and my husband is just starting his job on Monday and we do not know if it will even pay the bills. We have gone from making $72,000.00 a year to food stamps and $100.00 to my name.
To add to our struggles the home I live in is being auctioned off on Thursday and my oh so wonderful landlords are turning off the lights and water on Thursday as well. With help from family we will be able to move into an apartment. But it will not be ready in time. So we will be homeless for the first days of Hanukkah. I won’t even be able to light our menorah.
My children are handling it well. We have always instilled the point of being together as a family first rather then gifts. But this will be the first year they will probably receive none. It is breaking my heart because I thought at least we will be able to light the menorah but we will not even be doing that.
So as this holiday season comes in its weight is heavy. I do not have a new years resolution. Well maybe never to be where I am again.
'Holidays literally around the corner with with not a dollar to spend for my loved ones is quite depressing and stressful'
I have been jobless for about a month or so now. My previous job was in Fremont barely making enough to get there and back due to my car that ate my gas and of the prices being outrageously high. But like everyone else, I needed a job to get me around. Let alone every pay check went into bills which now is piling up due to no income. And giving money to my parents who unfortunately are unemployed as well and are seniors.
The previous job out of the blue let me go due to their lack of resources and ever since I’ve been looking for another job. Yet, no luck. Holidays literally around the corner with with not a dollar to spend for my loved ones is quite depressing and stressful. Every year I would get everyone something even if it was something small but this time I can’t even do that. Giving during the holidays is the best feeling and not being able to do that makes me not want to be around my family and friends. I would feel selfish and wrong receiving and not giving anything in return.
Yesterday, I went to the mall and it hit me. Seeing everyone shopping with numerous bags in their hands and not even one in mine made me emotional. I got into deep thoughts, ” What am I going to do? I have no money to spend to buy anything. ” So I left the mall, but the thoughts remained. Hopefully, I get a job soon. Even if the gifts might be late, its always better to be late than never. That became my conclusion. That way I’m not over stressing knowing my family and friends won’t even mind. Just to spend quality time would be more than enough.
I’ve always been big on loved ones. Luckily for me my family and friends are near by. Though no one should go through the holidays with heavy shoulders, I learned a valuable lesson. Save money. I spent money here and there throughout the year. And when the most important time of the year comes, I have none. I had no suspicions a meeting on a Monday would end up to me losing my job. Now I am in the ratio of jobless for the holidays.
'My presents from my family members will be things to help me in any way get a new job'
This Christmas will be worse for my family than it was last year. My parents and I are unable to buy presents for any family members. If we’re lucky, maybe we could at least buy them some of those chocolate-covered cherry candies. My presents from my extended family members will be things to help me in any way get a new job, such as how two of my aunts are buying me a new pair of glasses. I don’t have any children because I’m single, and for that I’m glad. I severely doubt I could look into my children’s faces and tell them that their Christmas will be a small one because of how poor I am.
The holidays have become just another day trying to survive with as little as possible. There’s no point in celebrating. Days blur together into weeks, weeks into months, months into years. I don’t expect any major changes from my hometown. It is a dying small town, one that reeks of incompetence and an unexplained hatred of new technology. It is living too far in the past, and it’s sunk too far down for anyone to throw it a rope to save it.
Of course I’ve had to focus less on consumerism. I have no unemployment checks, and my only source of money is from food stamps. I’m forced to buy only what my parents and me need the most. If that means living a week on tuna sandwiches, then so be it. While putting off those big purchases come with the territory, it obviously wears down on your soul. You feel as if you’re lagging behind everyone else, even when you’re all in the same position.
My resolutions for 2012 are the same they were for 2011. To find a new job as soon as possible. To find a new job that I actually enjoy working. To find a new job where I’m not mentally and physically beaten down for pointing out what is wrong within the company. To find a new job where my bosses aren’t kissing each other’s butts and ignoring any major problems I point out to them. To find a new job which lets me escape the trap of “I need experience for jobs but how do they expect me to gain it when I can’t get a job?” To find a new job so I can finally escape my hometown’s void of nothingness, and possibly even move to a new state where it is not afraid of change or the future.
America needs jobs and it needs jobs now. However, I do not expect any politicians to take the American public seriously anymore. Their careers come first to them, and if it means declining a city’s effort to bring in new jobs then that’s what they will do. The divide between the rich and the middle class along with the poor will only grow further apart. The old American motto is sticking together to help your fellow American through tough times is long dead. Now it’s become fend for yourself because very few people will be considerate enough to help you. Wake me up when this nightmare ends.
'This past Friday, on the afternoon of our annual evening company Christmas party, I was told I was being laid off'
I thought I would add my two cents to the tale of the down but not out stories. I have been employed for the past eleven years in a small Civil Engineering and Surveying office. Times have been tough and we all have been taking unpaid furlough days to help keep the office overhead in check.
This past Friday, on the afternoon of our annual evening company Christmas party, I was told I was being laid off. I unfortunately “earn too much money” and my position of office manager/executive assistant is being done away with. This, needless to say, was a bit of a shock especially by happening on the day of the holiday party that I have planned and executed for the past decade. Sort of unthoughtful in my opinion, but such apparently is life in big and small companies around the country. Employees feelings are often not taken into consideration, rather the bottom line is.
But fortunately I’m done shopping for the the kids (luckily all of their gifts were paid for with cash), our home is decorated with love and joy, and I am expecting to have one of my very best Christmas holidays ever. Because you see, I have my family and friends around me and we all are healthy, happy and thankful we have each other. These seemingly small things really have no price tag because they ARE priceless. The joy of seeing the kids open their presents Christmas morning, the big dinner with family and friends, and the celebration of the holiday can only boost my spirits.
I will rejoice in having the rest of December off to spend with the family and in the New Year I will begin my job search. My resume is being fine tuned, my cover letter will knock their socks off, and I will land the job of my dreams in 2012!
Plus, I am treating myself to several weeks in New York City the first part of January. I have air miles to burn and friends to visit. So, as you can see, life really is great after being laid off and that is how I chose to see it. I’m definitely not wearing rose colored glasses, I know the reality of landing a great job in this economic climate will be difficult. But what I have that so many other people don’t is the support and love of those around me!
'I'm grateful that I don't have a family of my own right now'
This is my second Christmas in a row unemployed. In fact, my 99 weeks of unemployment are ending in January, and I’m not sure what I’m going to do. My usual work is as an entertainment executive in Los Angeles, but my holidays this year will be spent looking for any job I can get and deciding if I’m going to have to declare bankruptcy. Merry Christmas to me!
I’m 36 now and I’ve been looking for work since I was 34 when got laid of with a third of my company. I’m pretty sure after this long, I’m never going to be able to get a similar job to the one I had. I have a big gap in my resume. Other jobs in my industry require other years experience I don’t have.
I have 3 roommates to be able to pay rent, and they’ve all been having their own employment problems too. I’m grateful that I don’t have a family of my own right now. I could never consider starting one at this point in my life. I have dealt with a lot of depression since being laid off that I never used to have. I’ve become more distant from my family and friends, and I’m afraid that my personality has changed somewhat. I hope that I can find something where I don’t have to worry all the time and I can feel like myself again.
The holidays come at a pretty bad time for me this year. Since my unemployment is about to end, I will only buy a few small presents for a few close friends and family. I haven’t been home to see my parents who live across the country in years. And with the economy the way it is, they can’t afford to help me much either. Another phone-call Christmas.
I can’t afford to decorate for Christmas this year, but I do try to get out and enjoy the season and decorations that are around public areas. I look forward to being able to fully partake in gift-giving and decorating for another Christmas someday.
Upsides? Well, I don’t have to go into an office every day, but that’s the only one I can think of. Actually, I’m not sure that’s an upside. Staying at home all day every day is not as fun as it sounds. Not after almost two years, anyway. I want to work. I want to find a job. Hollywood pretty much shuts down for two weeks during the holidays, so it makes finding one right now that much harder. I’m not holding my breath. My resolution for 2012 is the same as it’s been since 2010: Find a job.
'We will have a special dinner if the meat goes on sale'
I am a 56 year old female who has been out of work since early Feb. 2009. I worked with an educational travel organization located here in Spokane, WA. I live 25 miles west of downtown. My significant other is a 60 year old male on disability retirement from the federal government (not SSI).
Having run out of unemployment in Jan, 2011, I’ve been supporting myself by taking cash out of a Roth IRA. I will soon deplete it. We have been economizing as much as possible by not traveling, but even to go into town to get groceries is a 60 mile round trip.
We will not be celebrating the holiday. We haven’t given each other gifts for Christmas or birthdays since I was laid off. We will have a special dinner if the meat goes on sale.
Luckily, we don’t have children, so we don’t have to explain why there is no tree, decorations or gifts.
The holidays are stressful, especially if it snows as that means shoveling and clearing. As it is, we keep the thermostat very low and light a fire during the daytime as the temps have been in the 20s, and the heater is set at 62. At night we keep it set to 55. We are luckier than Spokanites, as we live so far out in the country that we can cut our own firewood, and our electricity provider is a co-op and not Avista (who requests rate hikes at least once a year). Propane to heat the house is our biggest expense, but our provider tries hard to deliver only if the price per gallon has dropped a little.
Gasoline is running currently at $3.48/gallon locally, which has gone down since Thanksgiving. This is another reason we try hard to make only one trip into town per week.
Since I’ve been out of work, I’ve volunteered at the Humane Society, went back to school to try to upgrade my skills, and have been helping a friend with breast cancer get to her doctor appointments since she doesn’t drive. (Her husband drives a school bus, and his pay is deducted if he takes time off).
The unemployment rate here in Spokane is still close to 9%, and even with the extra schooling, I still have not been able to find a job. There have been weeks where there are no jobs for which I can apply. I try to stay positive, but as money gets tighter, I get more worried about the future. The holidays just make it that much harder.
'I've found that so many of the people who I thought were my friends are only friends for those who are not in need'
I quit my job with a Project Management company in early 2010 to come back to my hometown and take care of my elderly parents who both have major health issues. As one of 5 children and the only single one, I felt it was my responsibility to care for them. Like most people who have not been hit very hard by the economy, I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be trying to find work. I worked a few temporary jobs when I finally landed a permanent position with another construction company. After 8 months they had to cutback on “overhead expenses” which meant cutting people and of course, as the newest employee I was let go in June of 2011. I didn’t have anything savings left but was able to pay off all my debt so my unemployment has been barely enough to get me by while searching for work.
I am a 53 year old female who has spent her career working in accounting/bookkeeping/office administration for most of my career. I no longer go out for my once a month dinner with my friends, I no longer go to Starbucks, I no longer spend anything unless it is for a necessity. I cannot afford health insurance so I have not seen a doctor since 2009. Thank God I have not needed any medical attention. I was given an opportunity for a 3 month temporary assignment about 2 weeks ago but was told after 7 days that they were going to use a “friend of a current employee to do the work” so I just found out yesterday that my services would no longer be needed. With Christmas quickly approaching and no funds to provide for my daughter, it was simply the worst news I could get. So, this Christmas will be spent baking our favorite cookies, preparing a Christmas day meal and just trying to be thankful for each other.
I have to admit it has been very hard emotionally for me because I’ve found that so many of the people who I thought were my friends are only friends for those who are not in need. Of all my “friends” there has been only one who even bothered to ask if we needed food or money for gas to get to interviews or help with the electric bill. Everyone else has spent time talking about their vacation home or their shopping trips or going to their favorite artists concert or how busy they are wrapping their Christmas gifts. It has certainly made me painfully aware that most people are so wrapped up in themselves that they are oblivious to the suffering of others around them.
No, I don’t have money for gifts this year and I don’t do any of the things I used to enjoy doing and there is no job waiting for me in the forseable future. But I have had a wake up call and I am very aware of how very hard it is for others out there. I realize that there are some things much more important than going through ones day as though a kind word to someone who may be hurting or holding the door for an elderly person just doesn’t matter … because it does. And for those people who are “living the life and loving it” as I’ve seen from so many I know say, someone you know could use your help. If you are doing well, how could it hurt you to pay it forward to someone who could desperately use your help?
'I got my parents to help me get baking products to make everyone sweet treats'
I am 19 years old and live in Northern Virginia. I have been out of work for a year now, I was working at Spirit Halloween/Toyzam for the holidays last year and was laid-off right before Christmas. I have been searching for a job since then and I can’t find one that I meet qualifications for. This year for gifts I got my parents to help me get baking products to make everyone sweet treats nothing special, just the usual chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies.
I love the holidays and the spirit within the holidays but sometimes (like this year) I get stressed because I can’t get anyone anything really nice that would mean a lot to me because I don’t have money. I love getting my loved ones at least 1 pricey gift because to me they are priceless and I get them something I know would mean a lot. The last 2 holiday seasons I took a loved one to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert and I so wanted to keep up the tradition but unfortunately it was postponed until next year because I have no source of income.
In 2012 I hope to find something stable and steady and be able to save up and make up next year for what I am unable to do this year. No matter what I will still enjoy being with my family and boyfriend and celebrating the reason for the season, The Birth of Christ! Merry Christmas!!
'I will be home, alone, in a city without my family because I have absolutely no money'
I graduated in May with a Masters degree and moved from Los Angeles to Sacramento, CA to be closer to my boyfriend who moved here for a job. I thought being fresh out of graduate school from a renowned university would make me a top candidate for jobs. Well six months later, I realize now I do not have enough work experience for jobs compatible to my degree or I have too much education for random lower wage jobs.
Either way, I have applied for everything under the sun and still no success.
I recently applied for a holiday job at a department store, I figured it would be an easy hire and I would have some cash for the holidays. However, I was candidly told they would later call me in for a second interview as positions need to be filled. Wow, I am only 28 years old. Sad to say, for Christmas, my boyfriend will be traveling to the east coast where he is from originally. I will be home, alone, in a city without my family because I have absolutely no money. This holiday will be the worst ever for me.
I have been unemployed for almost 15 months. My last position was as an assistant manager for the US Census. Before that position, I was unemployed for almost 11 months. In total, I have been unemployed for 26 of the last 46 months.
Even with putting in thousands of applications, I have only received three interviews. I am not one of those people who, “sleeps later” and is comfortable with being out of work. I am embarrassed by having to live off of others and would do any type of work if it meant providing for my family. I wish that Christmas would not come this year. Even with cutting everything back to the bare minimums, we still have barely enough for food and utilities.
In addition, my mortgage company informed me that they were not going to extend my unemployment modification (I guess they expect everyone to have gainful employment within a six month period). This took up an additional one-third of our monthly funds but it was the only way we could keep the house. My Christmas is going to be filled with worry about whether or not we will be homeless in the next couple of months.
I watch the commercials of happy families sitting around, reveling in their presents and think, “A few years ago, that was us.” Now we have been reduced to shreds of hope and waiting for the knock at the door that will tell us how much longer we will have shelter. Everyday, I job search and volunteer at a museum and put on a brave face so the little ones will not feel the pain and stress that I am feeling.
Growing up, I always watched the Christmas shows that say how Christmas is the season for miracles—the reality is that it is not. I know that this will probably not get printed in lieu of other, more positive responses but this is my reality, and my Christmas. My 2012 resolution is simple: survival.
' The worst part of this holiday for me is that I cannot afford to see my daughter and my beautiful grandchildren'
I have been unemployed for a long time now. I am 54 years old. I live alone with my dog and every day I am one step away from homelessness.
I have cleared out my storage and sold its contents for money. I have sold anything I have of value for money so that I could pay my bills.
I have been lucky in that I qualified for financial aid and loans for school. I take any odd job I can find. I do focus groups, tutoring, babysitting, dog sitting anything I can do to to feed myself.
The worst part of this holiday for me is that I cannot afford to see my daughter and my beautiful grandchildren. They are all I have. I will spend the holidays alone, without family. They live in Florida.Trying to gather gifts for my grand children is difficult. I feel my financial situation has forced me to look at my life with more gratitude for the little things. I am healthy and grateful that I am still able to think of ways to come out of this. I am grateful that I can go to school and learn. But poverty is lonely. Very lonely. You cannot afford to go far because you don’t have gas.
I suffer with depression and each day is a battle of keeping my spirit up and to be honest with you I just want Christmas to pass because it is another financial burden that I cannot bear. I can deal with the hope of a New Year. I somehow know that it will be a better one. I pray a lot.
'I find myself on the Internet looking at craigslist ads for things people are giving away for free so that my kids can have some sense of Christmas'
I have currently been out of work for two months but was living paycheck to paycheck before i was fired. I was fired after being in the hospital for 4 days from my job as a head housekeeper. I have 4 kids all under the age of 6 and am finding it extremely hard to get into the holiday spirit. We cant pay the basic bills fully and as far as rent goes its not getting paid at all, and we are in the process of being evicted with no hope of where we are going to go from here.
I can’t just go out and buy my kids things for Christmas like I would like so I find myself on the Internet looking at craigslist ads for things people are giving away for free so that my kids can have some sense of Christmas. I wake up everyday not knowing of what’s going to happen that day, and just hoping for the best. I do believe that you have to be in this kind of position to truly understand how it feels to be at the bottom level of the economy.
We stopping going to see friends and family as much as we used to because gas isn’t cheap, and had to resort to leaving the house only when we feel like the walls are caving in on us. I like to think that my kids are too young to fully understand what we are going through, but have to hold back tears when my 6 year old comes home from school with a paper for a field trip or for a book fair saying, “I know we don’t have the money for this but i really want …” So I scrimp and save so that she can at least appear normal in front of her peers who I wonder if they are struggling just like us.
I cant really say that I’ve focused much on a resolution for the next year. And other than to start working and be able to support my family and give them everything they deserve, I cant imagine hoping and working for more.
'With every potential fun outing there is hidden stress'
I am married with two children, a 12 year old daughter and a 4 year old son. I have been out of work for nearly four years. Before I was unemployed I was a counselor, involved with teens and children in a residential treatment setting for almost 10 years.
My wife and I found ourselves living off of a part time job in southern Oregon, with our bills quickly closing in on us. We moved to Northern Alabama at the end of the summer. We had family living in the area. They had told us that the job market was more stable, and the public school system was providing a solid, quality education. We moved in with my wife’s cousin and her family of four. The eight of us have been sharing a four bedroom house. We feel very blessed that they have put a roof over our heads for the last three and a half months. My wife was able to quickly land a low paying full time job and things were looking better. I, however, have not been as lucky.
Our daughter is very aware of our financial struggles and, fortunately, is helpful with both her little brother and with keeping a positive attitude about the situation. She is aware that this will be a much more subtle Christmas than she has been used to. She will probably have one gift under the tree this year as opposed to the seven to 10 she is used to. I’m sure she will miss the Christmas Eve celebration at Nana and Papa’s house. And sharing Christmas morning with Grammy and Grandpa. Our little boy is just a happy kid and I try everyday to keep him that way. Luckily, he still enjoys the cardboard box as much as the gift within. We were able to buy some discounted costumes after Halloween and put them aside for him, he’ll love them. Our family has already found holiday fun in driving around looking at Christmas lights and free local holiday celebrations. Although, we still have to be careful about the amount of gas we use. With every potential fun outing there is hidden stress.
We applied to the State food stamp program, and are able to put some food in the house. We have a large binder filled with coupons that we haul to the grocery store every couple of weeks. Coupon clipping is one of our biggest financial saviors. We have three to four different stores that we circuit to help us find the best deals. We are hoping to focus on holiday meals. Sitting together as a household of eight is the best way for all of us to feel like a family.
I resolve not to focus on the overwhelming negative. Not to focus on what hasn’t worked out. Instead I will see the blessings in front of me. I will take the opportunity to tell the people around me how much I appreciate them. I will continue to search, everyday, for work; staying positive that I will find the right job to help my family.
Let’s hope that resolutions are enough.
I know we are not the most unfortunate family out there. We may not be the most unfortunate family in our neighborhood. I just hope we all can get just one break now and again.
'I have found myself wondering if it is the right thing to do, to tell them the truth about Santa'
I am a 30 year old husband and father of 3. I have two daughters ages 2 and 6, and a son that turned 4 today. I have been out of work for almost a year straight now, and have only had infrequent work for the past few years, since the markets crashed. I am licensed Financial Advisor and have struggled to work in this down economy. I live on Cape Cod, MA. As a primarily tourist economy, it is hard to find stable year round full time work. I do odd jobs and recycling to get by.
When I was a child growing up, I remember the holiday time of year to be the best and greatest time. But now it has come to embody the worst time of year for me. We can only afford 1 gift per child for Christmas. And my poor son has a birthday on 12/12 and we can’t afford to do much for him. My now 4 year old son asked me the other day “Why we only get one toy for Christmas, when all the kids on T.V. and in the family get lots of toys?” and before I could answer he then asked… “is it because we don’t have money?” I didn’t know what to say to him.
My family of 5 has lived in a one room apartment for over two years now. We can’t afford heat, so the house is kept at 50 degrees. We don’t have a working kitchen either. So, we must do our dishes in the bathroom and cook in the microwave. This is not the life I pictured growing up. It is hard looking myself in the mirror, or my kids in the eye. Everyone keeps saying it’s the economy and not my fault. That there are millions of other Americans struggling too. But that doesn’t make me feel any better. The kids are starting to feel cramped. For Christmas they keep asking if we can just get a house. And I have to explain that, Santa cannot give us a house. They don’t understand that.
I have found myself wondering if it is the right thing to do, to tell them the truth about Santa. I don’t want to ruin their joy and break their hearts, but is it better then them feeling that they are bad or not worthy? I asked my wife this and she said that I shouldn’t tell them. But I just don’t know. What is the lesser of two evils? I have great children. Happy, beautiful, well behaved, and a joy to be with. I don’t want to take away their innocence and the happiness of the holidays from them. But I also don’t want them to grow up not feeling special. I have never been more sad in my entire life. I just wish my kids could have a Christmas like I had when I was young.
'You make me laugh when you ask me to now juxtapose being out of work with the materialism of the Christmas hour'
The black hole of unemployment hit me almost two years ago. Each step, every passing day, of collapsing into that dead-beat vortex is like a kind of double-triple slide further down into a black pit of emptiness. Yea, you travel through every stinkin’ layer of Dante’s hell. Not pretty. You make me laugh when you ask me to now juxtapose being out of work with the materialism of the Christmas hour, of the Christmas spirit. Maybe next we can wonder how the vagabond might look if he had only worn his Gucci and Giorgio Armani attire. Right. Ain’t happening, folks.
The thing is, the inscrutable trip of no-more-income gets more weird than scary. First you ride the emotive roller-coaster; tears, anger, frustration, embarrassment and sorrow all say hello. You meet those cold feelings every day for the first several months like that icy chill on the car windshield in the endless winter. Next comes the worry and the tension; you start to realize that the bills ain’t gonna stop, that the mortgage or rent is still due, that the ‘lectric and the insurance and the car payments all have a 30 day deadline-and that it itself has an iron fist. And please don’t insult me by telling me I should have prepped for a rainy day.
This ain’t rain, ladies. Not even close. There aren’t any TARP funds coming, and you better fast start dealing with it.
Soon you stop eating. Or, perversely, you start eating everything. There’s a physical and a psychic trauma that is part of the ugly unemployment baggage. You take on strange habits. You even become a stranger to yourself. Best not to look in the mirror. My own refuge was in diet ice tea and peanut butter cups. The latter gave me a lift and the former enabled the lifting. I’d sit for quiet, lonely tedious hours some days wondering what happened, where it all went wrong, and when it might get better. Then I’d be back for another bag of peanut butter cups.
You damn sure don’t think about Christmas. If you do, it’s only in the sentimental, wayward sense that you have some distant memory as a kid or of when you were with your kids and times were good. I can somehow see white flakes and reindeer and time off from school to go sledding and to have snowball fights. I’d hit my buddy Jeff, who rode the same bus as me, every time when it snowed. But Jeff, like Christmas for me, died two years ago. Back then, there was always a tree and candles and some music in some near-distant ambiance. I can recall the night before Christmas like it was the night before PARADISE. Those were the days, as they say.
Now twenty bucks for a tree is twenty bucks I ain’t got. Twenty bucks is three dinners if I work at it. Keep the tree and let me eat. My kids, no longer kids, have part-time jobs, my wife plugs along at her blue collar gig for the post office. We manage and no one is crying-not in plain sight anyway. Nor is anyone hungry. There’s still a marvel to the USA wherein even the poor and the unemployed figure out a way to eat-or maybe to get by and to manage the struggle. I never could fathom, until recently, what it must have been like for all those depression era folks; you know the ones. The ones they touch upon in history classes and on those PBS TV shows where you see them in Hooverville huts and shanties. The ones that Steinbeck wrote about and made come alive. The ones that changed the scope of our capitalism. The only thing I fear, is were we more kind back then than we are today?
But I’m not bitter, not really. I’m more bored than pissed. Besides, others got it worse. There are those in the ghettos; those in the backwoods of West Virgina; those in the swamps and bayous of Mississippi; those who weep in the silence of what-was-rural-USA, like new-age Hoovervilles. They all make me seem like a Wall Street banker. They’re the ones who need Santa’s outreach, his handshake. Perhaps Obama and congress can quit playing DC scrooge and send those poor bastards some help. I mean, if they get a minute between the political fraud.
So Merry Christmas, America. Enjoy the show. I’m coming back someday, maybe tomorrow, and it’s only because I know you’ll still have me. The backbone of the country is and will always be the hope and the chance. Besides, the way I figure, my dead buddy Jeff still owes me a few hits with a snowball, anyway. I got him more than he got me. And it ain’t right if I didn’t give him another shot, metaphorically, even if it’s while I’m on the downside while he’s laughing in the UPSIDE, where the spirit of the season never disappoints.
'I am writing my 11-year-old daughter a nice poem this year for Christmas'
I am 31 years old and I have been out of work since June of this year. A few staffing agencies have contacted me regarding temporary positions but I never seem to get picked. I lack a college degree and am now drowning within a reality where even a horrible gas station cashier position seems to be a market full of too much competition.
I am writing my 11-year-old daughter a nice poem this year for Christmas and that is all she is getting from me. Every year prior I always made sure she had an expensive Wii or a Nintendo DSI. I have thought about seeking welfare or unemployment at some point but things like that go against my most cherished beliefs. I would literally starve to death before taking from the coffers. My daughter is well off with her mother and stepfather fortunately. I however eat very small amounts of food in 72 hour intervals and I have an eating disorder now as a result.
When I eventually do find work money will be forcefully deducted from my check and sent to the “poor” and the “miscellaneous” and to Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel and Egypt and Pakistan and on and on and endlessly on. That really kind of stinks if you think about it long and hard. I hope there are millions more suffering right now like myself. If it is just I alone then I must urgently speak with someone’s supervisor about this incident called my life.
'So I guess what I am feeling is that from this too shall come a story of triumph and perhaps even a new tradition'
I lost my job at the end of November. I had only thought about being jobless in terms of paying bills, and not really related it to Christmas coming up. Not only does it mean that there will be less money for presents, but traditional holiday meals are going to have to be tweaked. We will also not be able to afford traveling to visit our family as we would have in the past.
It takes me back to our (my husband and my) first Christmas together. We were getting ready for candle light service when it struck me that I didn’t have any food in the house for our meal. So I went about digging through the freezer and pantry to see what I would be able to throw together. As it was, I found a frozen chicken neck and back that I had saved to make soup. In the pantry there was little. I found a can of tomatoes, and a bag of wagon wheel pasta. I figured this would just have to do.
So the next morning I prepared a soup, adding carrots and green pepper I found in the refrigerator. I sprinkled in some basil, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper from the cabinet and called my family to the table for our Christmas Feast.
The next year, my youngest son asked if we were going to have “Christmas Soup” again this year. My oldest son echoed his enthusiasm for the soup, (both sons from a previous marriage) so soup is what we had. It is now our Family tradition and is served on Christmas Eve after services. My sister and her husband and five children eagerly look forward to Christmas soup, as does our cousins who share Christmas with us.
So I guess what I am feeling is that from this too shall come a story of triumph and perhaps even a new tradition.
'We will spend the few dollars in gas to drive around the city and see all the Christmas lights'
I am a 38 year old single mom. I have been looking for permanent, full-time work since March.
We still put up the tree this year, decorated it together as we always do. As I unpacked the ornaments that came from my mom’s tree, I talked to him about his grandma. He doesn’t remember her, she died when he was only 4, but I like to remind him of her. I am not sure he even understands, but I like to remember her each year. This year I felt closer to her then I ever have. She struggled to raise 6 girls and I wonder how she did it. I think I respect her even more now. This is not easy. On Christmas morning there will be 2 gifts under the tree. I purchased them on sale in September. At least he will have something to open.
I am baking gifts for my oldest son this year. I can not afford to send him any store bought gifts, and he can not come home on leave. He is This will be my first Christmas without him. He has asked me to not spend any money on him. It is more important to him that his little brother have something for Christmas. I am amazed at what a wonderful young man he has become. More then once he has told me ‘I know you love me Mom. That is what matters.’ If I could bottle that and give it as gifts … would anyone ever need anything else?
We won’t be traveling anywhere this year. I can not afford the gas. I will be bundling my son up on Christmas Eve though. We will spend the few dollars in gas to drive around the city and see all the Christmas lights. The heat in my truck no longer works, so it’s gloves and hot chocolate to stay warm. But that’s ok. If there is one thing my son loves, it is Christmas lights.
I suppose if there is an upside to all of this, it is that I appreciate what I do have even more. I have great friends who come over more often for coffee and a laugh then they ever did before. Maybe it is because I have more time to see them now, but I suspect it is probably more because they want to make sure we are ok. And we are.
We watch Christmas specials on television instead of going out shopping. We play Christmas music while we eat a home cooked meal instead of ordering out for pizza. Things could certainly be worse.
I am hoping 2012 brings better luck in the job hunting department. I’d like to put away a little money to go see my oldest son in Texas next Christmas. You know, it’s funny, sitting here thinking about it now … when I get back on my feet, I am not looking forward to buying the latest phone, or ipad, or a bigger tv. I just want to be able to pay my bills, and maybe have the extra gas to take my son to the park once in a while. He loves to swing. I think he misses that. So my resolution for 2012 … that would have to be … I will do what I need to to make sure there is a roof over my head and food on the table … and to make sure my kids are happy. In the end, that is what matters.
'I told them that this year there wouldn't be many presents, because it had been a hard year for Dad, Mom, and Santa Claus'
My husband’s 2-year military contract ended on August 4th. He finally found a new job, working in the oil field, this past week, but will not receive his first paycheck until after Christmas. We’ve made arrangements to not exchange presents with most of our friends and family.
The exception is our two children. Our boys are 7 and 4 years old, and of course, they expect presents under the tree. I managed to find some good sales, and combined them with coupons I found online, to buy the boys a few presents.
This past weekend, though, I sat them both down to explain some things. I told them that this year there wouldn’t be many presents, because it had been a hard year for Dad, Mom, and Santa Claus. But when I explained to them that there are some children who probably wouldn’t receive any presents this year, they both volunteered to donate one of their presents to Toys for Tots. They were both smiling when they dropped their toys off in the donation box.
This has been a very difficult year for us, but it’s good to remember that there are always those even less fortunate.
We are staying home this holiday; we have homemade gifts instead of buying gifts this year and the past years since I was laid off three years ago. There is no budget for extras for the holidays as we are doing our best to pay off our debt. I guess that is more of our gifts to each other, getting out of debt.
We have a 14 year old still at home and we are doing our best to help our teen enjoy the holidays without gifts, which is NOT easy when everybody around our teen at school are already talking about all the presents under their tree. Our teen understands our financial situation as our teen has a part in our budgeting and bill paying. Our teen knows how much money is coming in and going out. Reaction is better this year than in the years past as I feel expectations have been lowered now.
I find the holidays more relaxing now that there is not a lot of importance on buying all kinds of wasteful things like I use to do in the past.
We have started writing letters to one another. These letters are highlighting times during the past year that was really important and memorable, things that somebody did to enlighten and make another feel important, listing personal values that are growing in one another. Mainly the letters are sharing how the other person is important in our lives and what little things they have done to strengthen that relationship.
Family and friends are so much easier to be around now. There is not the worry of ‘will they like what I got’ or ‘did I spend as much on them as they did on me’ and so on … Total upside!!! Who knew that spending less would open up the chance to really feel and experience tons more?!?!
My resolutions for 2012? Get out of debt! Stay out of debt! Pray that this year I will get hired on to a decent paying job and get the chance to give back to all that have freely given to me and my family to help make ends meet.
'At this point, I have gotten used to sleeping in in the mornings, so I'm looking more for part-time work'
I am a legal word processor. I was laid off by a multinational law firm in early April, 2009 due to a reduction in force. The firm laid off 93 people in the United States, including 16 in Los Angeles. I received a six-month severance package and then went on unemployment.
It hasn’t been hard so far. I turned 66 last November and have started collecting Social Security. The Unemployment Office told me I could continue receiving unemployment benefits once I started receiving Social Security. But my unemployment benefits are coming to an end and I need to find a job.
I don’t think potential employers are wary of hiring me because I’ve been out of work so long. They usually have other good reasons.
I’m still looking for work. At this point, I have gotten used to sleeping in in the mornings, so I’m looking more for part-time work. A friend and his wife, who are blind, have hired me to read their mail to them, go shopping, etc. But I will need more.
Reluctant slackers: economy leads young Americans to put adulthood on hold
The slackers of the 1990s are remembered as listless MTV watchers and basement dwellers who opted out of America’s striving, mercenary ethos. Many young adults today look similar at first glance. They’re in their 20s or early 30s, they don’t have jobs or spouses, and many live with mom and dad. But that’s not by choice.
This generation of reluctant slackers is eager to get started building careers, owning homes, getting married and having kids. They have put their lives on hold, though, thanks to the bleak economic climate.
"I feel like a failure at times," Shemaiya Smith, 26, told The Lookout.
Since graduating from college in 2007, Smith has been living with her parents in Royal Palm Beach, Fla. In early 2008, she was laid off from her job with the local school district thanks to budget cuts, and since then has been looking unsuccessfully for full-time work—while getting an MBA that has been of little use.
Smith said her job woes have affected other aspects of her life. “All my friends I went to school with, they’re getting married, they’re having kids,” she said. “I’ve had several guys want to go out with me … but I don’t feel like don’t feel like I’m good dating material … I don’t wanna feel like I’m getting into this relationship and I’m mooching off them.”
It’s not just her personal life that’s stuck in neutral. Florida was hit hard by the housing bust, and Smith said there are plenty of foreclosed properties in her area that are for sale at low prices. “I would love to buy a home or a condo,” she said, “but I can’t.”
'When the government encourages people to work until they are 70, they forget that working is sometimes out of the individual's control'
I have been out of work for two and a half years.
After working for AT&T and former AT&T companies for about 17 years in Yellow Page Sales, I was terminated. I was 59 years, 11 months old. I was told that I was terminated because I had a hearing loss. My termination happened to come the same week as downsizing was announced. I was one of the top sales reps in the company, having won President’s Club three out of the previous four years. The company offered me the equivalent of three months severance if I signed a release, saying I would not sue them for anything including age discrimination.
I had no choice. My husband had lost his corporate job a couple of years before and was working in real estate, although he wasn’t selling anything. I was our sole support. I signed the release. I used all the money in my 401K to pay off debt.
Here I was a 60 year old woman, who made about $120,000 a year. I was a loyal, long term employee of a major corporation, and for the first time in my life I was unemployed. I had a fine liberal arts education (Harvard Extension School), but was unable to find a job.
Since we were renting in Florida, my husband and I had no choice but to move from Florida to Park City Utah, where we owned a condo. My husband, who was 61, and I applied for job after job. After a year, my husband (who had been a corporate vice-president before his company reorganized in 1995 … a few months before his options became due) found a $10.00 an hour part-time job at a ski resort, as a ski valet.
I applied for many, many jobs. I was interviewed and labeled as overqualified. Perhaps that is another term for too old and hard of hearing.
For the first time, we had to rely on the government for help. Fortunately, it was there. I was thankful that Obama’s COBRA assistance allowed us to keep the AT&T medical insurance. My husband has heart risk, and his medications run over $1,500 a month. Without the insurance, we would not have been able to purchase his medication. In addition, I collected unemployment. My husband never collected unemployment when he was terminated from his corporate job because I had enough income to support us. I received $250 a week from Florida (the maximum) until it ran out. My husband was forced to take early Social Security when he turned 62. After looking, every day, for employment I filed for disability benefits. I had no choice. The benefits were denied twice. During that time, I continued to look for work. In March, 2011, the government approved the Social Security Disability benefits.
We never expected to be in this situation. We had savings in our 401K’s. We invested in real estate. We never thought our life’s savings would be wiped out by two and a half years of unemployment. We never expected to retire at such a young age.
I lost my job in December 2008. Two and half years later, my husband still works his seasonal ski valet job. I still fill out many applications for employment each week, hoping I will find the right opportunity. My husband collects Social Security and I collect Social Security Disability. We don’t tell anyone we do this, but it is the only way we can survive. We are penniless. We own the condo we live in, but we have a $10,300 special assessment pending. We will have to take a reverse mortgage to pay it.
When the government encourages people to work until they are 70, they forget that working is sometimes out of the individual’s control. We expected to work at least another 10 years. We feel lucky that we feel young, strong and healthy. We hope that when the economy turns around we will again be able to find employment, Until then, we have no choice but to take the government benefits. Sib M., via email
'How is it that you have had so many jobs but you never been hired?'
I started out as an accountant at a law firm that started downsizing in early 2008. I was fortunate enough to find another job but it was a temp-to-hire. Since the economy got worries I never got hired and the department I was working in was outsourced. This was the start of my three year journey of being unemployed.
The hardest thing about being out of work so long was never having a consistent check. Each temp assignment was different by pay and length of assignment. The most I made was $26/hr the least $8/hr. Some lasted 6 months others only a day or just a few hours.
There was a number things that kept me from getting jobs besides not having one:
1. The amount of jobs I had in such a short period of time would make companies ask, “How is it that you have had so many jobs but you never been hired?”
2. They never wanted to pay the finders fee from the temp agency, so a lot of times I would be on jobs while they did interviews and trained new people for the job I was already doing.
3. When I would apply for jobs that were well below what I used to make, employers would see my degree and work history and tell me I was over qualified for the position. I had one experience where I did a phone interview and when I was invited to come down to talk to the manager, as soon as I walked through the door he began apologizing to me. Saying, “I’m sorry to have you come down here but you are way to over qualified for this position.” Pretty much was shown the way out before the elevator I was on closed its doors.
The jobless benefits were very helpful in filling in the gaps of when I would go long periods of time with no work. I never did get a chance to exhaust them. But I did take full advantage of all the government programs that were available that I would qualify for such as WIC and many other programs provided by utility companies for low income families.
Yes competition is tough, its to the point companies become really picky and start dismissing good workers for the silliest things. I remember temping for one company where the hiring manager didn’t like the car the person was driving, or the shoes they were wearing.
In the end, after three long years, I was able to find a job.
I pretty much signed up with every temp agency in my area and I took any job they gave me. Temp agencies have a list of who are good workers and who are not. To get on the top of the good worker list you need take any job they give you, no matter how much you hate it, and just do your best. Overtime they will keep calling you for more and more work. This is what helped me to support my family and it extended my unemployment benefits for over three years without filling for an extension.
The easiest way to find work is to not lock yourself in to only being able to do one thing.
My work history shows accounting, but the three years I was out of work I did electrical, car detailing, small business consultant, auto mechanics, baking, and construction. Never think you are too big for any job, also look at certain hobbies you have, you never know you maybe able to make money off of it.
Most of the things I did I knew nothing about—like electrical work I knew someone who did it and I was his helper. Car detailing—a major car wax company has free classes on the weekends that teach you how to detail a car, and auto mechanics I used YouTube to learn how to do basic auto repairs.
Think outside the box and never be afraid to ask for help or use any government assistance program. You have to remember when you were working you paid taxes into those programs so you have every right to use them.
'You are scared all the time about where your money is going to come from'
I was working as a customer service rep at Time Warner Cable for three years when they began downsizing and restructuring. They moved the call center that I worked at to another city in Wisconsin, so I lost my Job I haven’t been able to find any job since then.
I lost that job back in June 2010 so it’s been exactly a year that I’ve been out of work. The hardest thing about being out of work so long is that you are scared all the time about where your money is going to come from, about being homeless or possibly having to live with relatives, and overall its depressing, you feel hopeless and worthless.
I am getting unemployment which is below what I could make if I was working, but that has some difficulties as well, they are always holding your benefits back for some frivolous reason or another, and that’s really hard to depend on. I need security and I don’t want to rely on unemployment benefits anymore, I know won’t get the benefits forever and that’s what worries me.
Recently I’ve been applying to jobs that I’m over-qualified for like at a grocery store or a coffee shop, I’m at the end of my rope here. Still I’ve been getting responses like, “We found a better match for this job,” so I wonder if I’m ever going to work again?
It’s even hard to get temp jobs now. This is the longest I have ever been out of work, I am still looking for work right now, I have been on a few interviews recently but I haven’t heard anything so far, so we’ll see.
I’m not very sure what can be done to help the thousands of unemployed people, but I know what shouldn’t be done: they are trying to cut unemployment extensions in Wisconsin, and if that happens 100s of people will be homeless, so they should definitely stop that action from taking place.
I’m 38. Have a 3 year-old-son. I have a Masters and Bachelors in social science (my first mistake) and I wonder why I ever got an education.
I was working as a project specialist in Jacksonville, Florida as a full-time employee for about a year when I bought a house (my second mistake) Suddenly I was laid off. They (the same bank) brought me back on as a contractor, long enough for me to save some money, and I was laid off again.
From April of 2009 until October of 2009, I applied for unemployment and in the state of Florida, at the time it was $275/week. Obama passed a bill and gave us an extra $25 dollars a week. Thanks for that. It was money, but I was slowly losing the battle.
I left Jacksonville, Florida moved back to St. Louis, Missouri, in hopes of finding a job and rented out the house in Jacksonville for less/a month than what I owed. Because I didn’t and still don’t want to foreclose. However at this point I’m not sure I have a choice. Taxes went up in Florida and I don’t get the home exemption anymore since I don’t live there. (You can Google the home exemption)
I have a job now, but I’m a contractor, and was told it was ending Aug. 5. Then I was shifted to a project I’m on now, but it runs out (supposedly) at end of year. Who knows. I’m sure they ran “out of funding.” I’ve been told that before too.
My employer is notorious for letting go contractors though, so I’ve been sending out resumes left and right.
So far I’ve been lucky bouncing from one temp job to the next—but I hope my luck doesn’t run out. It’s just frustrating. It shouldn’t be this hard to find full-time work!
I’m looking at admin jobs, coordinator, anything. I leave off my Masters as well most times, because I don’t want the employer to think they have to pay for a person with a Masters. You never know.
I have played by the rules, I did everything right. I went to school, I made great grades, I did it all. And now I’m wondering what was it all for??
I’m not down and out but it’s close. I can see the wave coming and I’m trying to steer clear, and it’s really hard. I wish I could move to another country and make money, but as an American, I can’t really immigrate anywhere else. I see all these people wanting to come here to better their lives for the supposed American dream? And I think, “for what?” There is no dream. It’s just a nightmare covered in sugar.
'I've been told I'm not a good candidate because they feel someone with my experience will bolt at the first opportunity'
I’m sure like many respondents, I’m probably not being counted as unemployed any longer because my unemployment benefits ended long ago. I lost my job in November of 2007. I was working for Citifiancial Auto as a dealer development rep when the cuts came along. At first I wasn’t too worried, as I’ve never had trouble getting a job, and have a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a major in finance. After a few months it became apparent to me that jobs were disappearing at an alarming rate.
In my case, having been working in financial services, and having my career tied to the credit markets was especially impactful. The bank I was working for, as well as other financial institutions which contributed heavily to the bursting bubble and deep recession we are (in my opinion) still experiencing, regardless of what the economic data says, have held it against me that I’ve had such a long job gap. Which is something you don’t read about, and nobody is talking about.
You have people working in sectors that really haven’t been affected, and are pretty clueless about what has really been going on. Understandable, but it’s like hearing about an event in another country … “Oh man, that’s too bad.”
I’m still unemployed, and seeing new college grads get most of those few new jobs popping up, as opposed to experienced workers. I think primarily because a lot of the jobs starting to come back are lower level and entry level jobs. And believe me, I’ve tried to get a job in other industries, but there I’ve been told I’m not a good candidate because they feel someone with my experience will bolt at the first opportunity. And all the times I’ve been told “you’re over qualified.” So sick of hearing that. This is the first story I’ve seen that even comes close to discussing the deeper issues of unemployment I’ve mentioned.
I went bankrupt, lost my home, and had to move in with my parents like I’m a kid again. Really demoralizing, and difficult to keep that fighting attitude that things will get better. NEVER EVER thought I’d be in this position.
I even tried returning to my alma mater to earn a second major in information systems. But that’s a no go, because the university has a policy that someone can’t earn a second major under the same degree (in this case BS in Business Admin) consecutively. I could return and take classes as a non degree seeking, but not being in a degree program means I don’t qualify for financial aid (not even a student loan). Really a catch-22.
The university screams because they had $50 million cut from their budget, but have a silly policy, which won’t allow an alumni to come back and learn a new skill, in order to re-enter the job market. Interestingly, if I had earned my BS in Business Admin from a different university, they would allow me to pursue a different major under the same degree program. So, in reality they punish their alumni.
Where I’m at now. Well, basically I’ve lost everything, and I’m unattractive to potential employers in my field because of my extended gap in employment created by the recession, which has a compounding effect month after month. I’m hoping to get a job driving trucks after I get my commercial drivers license.
You can bet there’s plenty of people like me out there, viewed like stale bread nobody wants, who have fallen though the cracks, and aren’t even being counted anymore. I used to think the United States was the greatest country in the world, but no longer. I hope to drive trucks for a few years, put a lot of money in the bank, and be able to get out of the U.S. Patrick C., via email
'I interned for free just so I can put something on my resume'
In 2008 I graduated with my MBA and was extremely excited about getting back into the workforce. However God had different plans for me. God wanted me to struggle. For the past 3 years I have looked into the mirror and see disappointment. I am down and out. I cannot get a job that I desire.
The only job that I was offered paid $10/hr. The job was way below my qualifications, but I had to take it so I can pay the bills. I guess I am lucky. In addition to this job, I interned for free just so I can put something on my resume. I guess I am lucky. I have been officially unemployed for 6 months, and I think it will continue. I do not see any hope. I do not see how I can improve my work experience in order to get the job that I so desire.
So what do I do? Go back to school? Take another job in retail, hotels, etc. … I cannot do this for the third time. (2001-dot-com bust—work in retail) (2008-financial crises—work in hotels). Work for free? The one and only thing I learned from being unemployed is to stay positive. My problems are my problems, and no one cares.
'I am a firm believer keeping health insurance if at all possible, and paid the extremely high premium per month as long as I could just for my own piece of mind'
I worked in a car dealership for 12 plus years and in 2008 decided to make a career change to selling indemnity insurance with a great company who has a great product and great opportunity for financial growth.
At the same time I met the love of my life that lived in another state and I ended up relocating not thinking it would be so difficult to find another job (I could have stayed in the insurance business when moving but at that time realized the economy was not allowing people to purchase any extra health insurance so the timing in my career change was off). I realize now I should have done some homework before moving however, I was in love and never had a problem with finding work in the past and felt I was marketable in many other fields.
Trying to stay motivated and reminding myself that I am smart, hard working and have tons of potential was the hardest part of being out of work. Each week it became harder and harder to stay motivated. I would go on an interview thinking I would finally have a job, only to be let down by no call back or no real understanding why I wasn’t hired. I applied for jobs that fit my work history and even jobs that I was willing to start at the bottom in hopes to work my way up.
In all the applications and interviews I went on know one actually said it out loud but I did notice over time that when filling out applications the questions being asked became geared towards them trying to find out how long I was unemployed.
I did have COBRA health insurance with its astronomical pricing and did exhaust the time frame allowed to carry it. I am a firm believer keeping health insurance if at all possible, and paid the extremely high premium per month as long as I could just for my own piece of mind. I was trying to obtain individual health insurance before my COBRA ran out but the insurance company I was applying with, repeatedly kept asking for more information (letters, blood test, ect.) and I eventually gave up because more blood tests were asked for after the my COBRA expired and couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket for more tests to obtain it.
When you are looking for employment it’s really is hard to tell what the problem is when applying for a position. If I had to guess it would be a couple of factors. More competition and employers being overwhelmed with the amount of applicants. There is no standard way to apply for job it depends on the company. Some employers will say “You need to submit an application online from our website and it will go through HR” and when looking online some employers will say “Please see the store manager in your location for open positions.” If you are lucky you will actually get a human being to see who you are and possibly have a conversation with them.
On several occasions I had 2 or 3 interviews with 2 or 3 different people at the same company only to find out that they decided to go in another candidate. That is very frustrating especially when you haven’t got a clue as to what happened. How do you go on 2 or 3 interviews and not get the job? No explanation given!
My other favorite is the company that tells you are overqualified. Can someone please explain what this term means when you are looking for employment? Especially, with this economy and job market. Sure I may be overqualified, but wouldn’t that be my call? These employers don’t have a clue what my financial status is so how could they judge that way?
After search for almost a year I did finally find employment. But after being in my new position for over a year now, I am on the search once again. I have found that employers are using the current employment crisis to there advantage. I unfortunately found a company who is lining there pockets with no care for who works for them.
Initially when I started looking I was looking in the newspaper, looking online, or just walking into businesses and asking. After the first several months of doing this, I found out that most businesses in my area like to use employment agencies. This came from looking on careerbuilders.com by accident. I have been very fortunate over the years with my employment so this was weird to me and didn’t quite get it at first.
I found a company and position that I was interested in and applied. The employment agency called me. I come to find out that when applying for quite a few positions online the employment agency offering the position is the one posting the job(s). So here is what happens. You are browsing around online at administrative/clerical jobs; you find something you are interested in. You click to read more about the job and get excited because it fits what you are looking for. The name of the company is XYZ and you apply. The next thing you know you get an email or call for an employment agency about a position you applied for. At that time you are little perplexed and explain that you didn’t apply with an agency you applied to XYZ. Who ever you are on the phone with explains that this position was posted by them and they would like to set up an interview with you.
So you go to XYZ Employment Agency were you are interviewed about the position(s) you are looking for and tested before you are even considered for a position this company or any company that goes through them. At first this seems like a great thing. Someone else helping you look. The problem with this is the people working at the employment agencies are just as overwhelmed with people looking for work that it’s impossible to expect them to actually be any help or have your best interest at heart.
So, the agency calls you and says we have a position that came in for EFG Company and gives you the job description and asks if you would be interested. You say yes, so the agency submits your resume to EFG Company. Now you sit at wait just like you would if you applied yourself the difference is, if EFG Company is interested they call the agency who in turn calls you to set up the interview. You go on the interview and give your best and now you wait for the agency to call you to see if you have been hired. Plus, once you do get a position with a company using the employment agency you have to work a certain amount of hours under the agency (equivalent to about 90 days or 3 months) before you can actually be considered to be hired full time/part time permanently with the company you are actually working for.
Then if you are actually hired by the company you have been working for, for the past 3 months you have to wait another 90 days before any benefits are available (the catch—the company you are actually working for doesn’t actually have to hire you if they don’t like you or feel you are qualified). My tip is this; don’t give up, if you are a hard working, dedicated person you will succeed if you just keep trying. Use everyone you can to help you find a job no matter how weird it may be. Times have changed so we have to try and change with it.
'All I can do is think about how great it would be if I could become permanent ... and not a temp'
I lost my job in 2009 due to cutbacks in the company, shorty after that I lost my car (couldn’t keep up the payments) and lost my apartment (living in a room for $600.00 a month now in someone’s basement with very small windows).
The hardest thing was trying to stay on top of my work skills and make sure that I get the latest training for my fields of work i.e., Deltek CostPoint, Soloman, Access and Microsoft programs etc. The other things that was hard was loosing my apartment a place of my own, not being able to afford medication for my high blood pressure and asthma. I went to the state for assistance but they said that I was 3.59 over the limit for assistance but that they could cover my daughter who at the time was 16 years old. I felt like I was losing control of my life and couldn’t do anything about it no matter what I tried.
Yes, it is difficult to get hired when you’ve been out of work so long specially when you are 50 years old. Interviews had a way of making me feel like I should be retiring now that I was too old for a company to invest time in training me, that I would more so be an expense than an investment. I don’t know I guess my years of experience and loyalty as an offer just wasn’t enough. I am technologically inclined and electronically trained and I really look 30 years old not 50, I speak well and I am very professional. I have 3 different resumes and I have even altered my resume to fit the job descriptions, I’ve gone to unemployment workshops, resume workshops, Microsoft workshops etc. but so far I have not been able to land a permanent job.
The unemployment benefits were help for somewhat I was able to keep my apartment a little longer than if I didn’t have my benefits, I did not exhaust them but I don’t like depending on them either, I am currently temping at a company until Sept. 1, 2011 and I am registered with a temp company now but that can be a positive or a negative because some so far the companies I’ve been assigned to don’t want to pay the fee to buy me out of the temp agency. There is so much competition now that I know I don’t stand a chance of getting a permanent decent paying job without a college degree.
I just want to give up, if it was not for my daughter and me proving to her that all is not lost I probably would of crawled under and rock and died by now. I am so depressed I feel like I’m going to loose my mind sometimes but gotta keep up the smiling face at my work and the cordial hello’s to everyone as though nothing is wrong. I just want to work I have worked since I was 16 years old, it’s all I really know, sitting around doing nothing but housework and reading can be bad for your health let alone your work skills deteriorating.
I have not given up yet the temp work helps a lot but I fear if I get sick and miss days I will loose pay or worse my temp position to another temp. I haven’t given up on searching totally but I feel like I have no where else to send my resume to.
All I can do is think about how great it would be if I could become permanent with this company so I can get medical benefits and exhale because I know I am someones staff member and not a temp. I’ll just keeping praying that all will work out for me and my daughter who now live with her father because the room I have will only accommodate a full size bed and the space is too small for the two of us, but I know that I will be able to afford a place with at least enough space for her and I to live together. I miss having a normal working routine.
'Although I found work ... the salary is only a quarter of what I last earned'
I was laid off December 2007. The hardest thing is that the brain stopped working. I had two interviews via employment agency but being an older worker, probably age was the factor in not getting hired.
Jobless benefits really help and fortunately I found work just as it was exhausted. Although I found work, it is through a senior employment program funded by grants from the federal government. The salary is only a quarter of what I last earned.
About six months ago, I had a second interview with a very large insurance company headquartered in Japan. My experience was really one hundred percent suited to the position and yet I was not hired after meeting the president of the U.S. company operation. Further more, I was an ex-collegue with one of the VP who had interviewed me with another Japanese executive. I suspected the cause was because of my appearance and they would prefer a younger person. Therefore, it will be grim for job seekers who are more than 50 years old.
The jobless should do some upgrade, whether in education or skill.
'I miss working; I WANT to work, but no one is willing to give me the opportunity to prove myself'
I got laid off from a Toyota dealership. Sales at the store started to fall drastically and my department was one of the first to get cut back (Customer Relations Dept). I got laid off in November of 2009.
Constantly worrying about how I’m going to pay my bills is definitely the hardest thing. And it’s easy to get discouraged fast because you spend hours every day fixing up your resume, writing cover letters, looking for open positions, etc., and you never hear back from 99 percent of the employers. It seems like you’re just wasting your time.
Unemployment compensation is definitely not enough to live off of. I don’t know how I’ve made it so long. I’ve been living off unemployment and the bi-yearly checks I get from my school for my leftover financial aid. I have exhausted all of my regular unemployment benefits. I applied for the emergency unemployment about 2-3 weeks ago, but have heard nothing back. It is frustrating dealing with the unemployment office. Every time you try to call and ask them to clarify things, the phone lines are always busy and it just automatically disconnects your call. I have been unable to reach anyone to ask where my money is and why it’s taking so long.
There is definitely much more competition for work, especially for the administrative/clerical field. Employers are offering much less pay and are asking for much more experience because they know they’ll be able to find someone desperate enough. Most all of the receptionist/office jobs I have come across require you to be bilingual and are asking for accounting skills as well and only offering $8-9 an hour.
I still have not found any work. Giving up is not an option. I still have bills to pay and need money to live. The only reason I have been able to survive for this long is due to great money management skills and pure luck. It’s frustrating because I miss working; I WANT to work, but no one is willing to give me the opportunity to prove myself.
It seems as though the only way to get a job is if it’s an area that you are extremely experienced in and are willing to take a drastic pay cut. As I said before, for those of us in the secretarial/administrative field, it’s extremely hard to find anything at all. Employers would rather have an accountant that can also double as a receptionist, instead of a professional front desk clerk. Employers are looking to have as few employees as possible to save money, so you must be skilled in many areas to even be considered. I would recommend going to the library and taking their free educational courses on various computer software (Word, Excel, HTML, Photoshop, etc.) to sharpen your skills and volunteering somewhere where you can learn skills that will benefit your job hunting.
I think the long-term unemployed would make incredible employees. Being out of work for so long has shown me that I took my old job for granted. We are so desperate for work that if I was to get hired, I would work twice as hard as I used to. Being poor, hungry, and desperate drives you to never want to be that way again; it gives you determination and drive. Hiring a long-term unemployed person could be a great asset to a company. We would be loyal and grateful, and would work hard to prove ourselves so we won’t have to be in this situation ever again. All we need is a chance—an employer willing to give us a fair salary and the opportunity to prove our value.
'Care enough to inquire. Care enough to assist however you can.'
I was employed as a copywriter for an advertising agency in 2008-2009. In early March of 2009 I represented the only remaining creative employee at the company. Earlier that year all three graphic designers and our web designer had been let go. I was also “let go” in middle March.
The company had experienced difficulty in acquiring full payment from clients for work rendered, and with incomplete payments came the inability to continue paying employees. Hence, we were all laid off.
The most difficult thing about being out of work for months numbering more than six or seven was remaining positive in the face of frustration and disappointment. Having been employed as a writer for only 2 years after graduating college, my limited experience (barring any freelance I performed after being let go) had limited my ability to compete with the hundreds of unemployed senior copywriters applying for the same positions I was.
It’s hard to determine whether my lack of job inspired employers to look in the other direction. More often than not I never received an interview and only few inquired as to what I had been doing with my time prior to applying for an open position.
Unemployment benefits were practically useless. Conveniently, I do no have a family for whom I must provide. I found myself applying for positions of the entry/mid level status alongside of creatives with many years more experience than me. So yes, I have found the recession-era job market to be many times more competitive than its healthier predecessor.
I have been working part time as a baker for Philly Pretzel Factory since my most recent lay-off experience. The last job I was let go from was with a therapy provider. In the summer of 2010 they hired dozens of people, myself included and boasted the ability to grow their company substantially. After Medicare was cut before the end of the year (something they should have seen coming) they let 35 people go in one sitting. I, having been one of the most recent hired, was one of the first to go.
I have been working. But I’d also, up until recently been searching still for a writing position, to continue doing what I love. I’ve now decided to redirect my energies toward securing a position in sales (something I wouldn’t have done given the choice … but I feel I have no other choice at this time).
So far in my attempts to find meaningful work, my greatest comfort has come from the personal and professional connections I’ve made over the years. One of the greatest tools anyone can use is their sphere of influence, if not solely for a source of employment, then at least for advice and ideas. It has been the willingness of others to share these things with me that has made my journey that much less difficult. What can WE do to make things easier for the unemployed? We can be willing to help them on the level of citizen to citizen, not business professional to job seeker. Care enough to inquire. Care enough to assist however you can.
'Unfortunately, there weren't any job opportunities in those career fields where I lived'
In December 2008 I, along with almost my entire department, was laid off.
At the time I was assistant publications dditor for the Star-Gazette, a daily newspaper and the first Gannett newspaper, located in Elmira, N.Y. I had worked for the daily newspaper for almost eight years, starting as a news assistant and advancing to an assistant editor and reporter.
Throughout my time at the Star-Gazette I watched our newsroom grow smaller and smaller due to layoffs and buyouts while those of us left behind were asked to “do more with less.” It was stressful, sad and disconcerting to watch talented professionals lose their jobs through no fault of their own.
By the time a notice went out asking for those willing to take a buyout in late 2008, I was ready to go. I had co-workers who needed the job and the insurance more than I, a single, healthy, hardworking individual, did. However, when they made their cuts, my entire department was laid off except for the editor of my entire department.
I received unemployment benefits for approximately two years minus a brief stint working for the Census as a field enumerator from April to June 2010.
I knew that I would probably not be able to find a newspaper job, and didn’t really want to stay in that field, but felt that I had enough general office experience and additional writing skills to find an office job or, with my advanced media skills, a job in public relations and marketing.
Unfortunately, there weren’t any job opportunities in those career fields where I lived.
During the time that I was in Elmira, NY looking for work, I organized and executed a series of fundraisers for the local animal shelter, handling every aspect of the event planning. I also began writing an online column (blog) for a local TV news station. It was an unpaid job, but I thought it would keep my skills current and show potential employers that I was still active.
In June of 2010, I moved with my sister and her son to Austin, TX after hearing news stories about the positive job outlook in the area. Unfortunately, most of the professional jobs in Austin are tech-based jobs, which I have limited experience with. Since moving to Austin, TX, I have applied for a wide variety of jobs from general office and clerical work to retail, and customer service work.
I am currently working on getting a license needed to sell alcohol (required by Texas law), and then I will start applying for bartending jobs.
It is disheartening that while businesses have rebounded from the recession, they are not willing to hire eager, hardworking people.
It is also disheartening to constantly hear the unemployed being vilified by some who have two and three jobs to support their families. The unemployed are being called lazy and shiftless when there are no enough good-paying jobs.
It would be difficult for me to take a minimum wage job that would not pay for basic bills (food, shelter, gas/public transportation), and the debts I’ve accrued since being unemployed. However, I have lowered my standards considerably. At the time I lost my job I was making $16.41/hr. Now, I’m looking for jobs $8-$10/hour jobs, so I am willing to sacrifice in order to get my foot in the door.
Finally, I haven’t received any feedback that suggests this, but I feel that, in addition to an abundance of competition for these jobs, many businesses do background credit checks on prospective employees. Obviously, if folks have been unemployed for an extended period of time, their credit will most likely be bad. How is one supposed to work on improving their credit if they aren’t given the opportunity and employers count bad credit against applicants?
I am still looking for work, approximately 3 to 4 times a week.
I live with my sister and her son, and she supports me (she is a nurse).
'The future for the educated is not as bright as it was promised to be'
In two days I will have been jobless for 2 years. This is a milestone I am not proud of. I am 27, received my undergrad degree and currently working on my master’s degree. I worked for a non-profit organization that got into some trouble. Top management assured us we would keep our jobs—only for them to get sacked right after that. Interim management then felt a need to re-interview the entire staff, asked them what they did on a daily basis and let go those they deemed useless to the organiation. If you assisted anybody whether in finance, research or clerical and were not paid from a grant from the university your luck was out—which is what happened to me. The hardest thing about being unemployed is knowing how good of an employee you are and no employers seem to notice it. No matter how many times I re-do my resume, coverletter, have mock-interviews, nothing works out. My unemployment money has run out and contrary to the belief of Republicans, I did not sit on my butt all day everyday basking in receiving money I did not work for. I applied for several jobs daily, walked in stores asking if they were hiring … I was not a lazy unemployed person. With me being out of work for two years I fear becoming undesirable—even in my young age. I even feel the need to “dumb down” my education in order to not be over-qualified. I have managed to volunteer since being unemployed to gain experience in the field I studied in undergrad since I have not been able to obtain a paying job that will do the same for me. This has helped fill in the employment gap for me I guess. I cannot say if employers have been wary … they might be since I’am still unemployed. There is definetely more competition. Not only are the unemployed seeking jobs but people who are employed are seeking better jobs. We also have to deal with the people “who know people”. It seems that if you don’t know anyone you wo’t get the job either.How can you make it easier for the unemployed to find work? I don’t think that is possible—not right now anyway. I have become discouraged yet I still search for jobs, maybe not as hardcore as I once did. I don’t know what else to do. The future for the educated is not as bright as it was promised to be. Rosalyn B., via email
'I'm not stupid but I sure have been made to feel that way.'
My story won’t be any different from the article and stories I read on your website but it is good to know I am not alone. Everything people wrote about feeling horrible about themselves and not sleeping, not going out, not having money for food is true of me! I have a BS in Education and taught in the public school systems in Texas and Florida for over 15 years. I was on an annual contract in ‘08 in Florida when I was told my position was eliminated. I did apply for unemployment but thought that the proper thing to do was get another job immediately. I found a temp job and lost my unemployment. I also lost that job after working one month. Of course, I was no longer eligible for unemployment.
I found other odd jobs but was forced to sale my house on a short-sale. I attempted suicide when I had no money, no gas for my car, no job, no food, and my electric and water had been shut off. Only by some fluke of nature or whatever you want to call it did I survive. But survive is all I have been doing ever since. Odd jobs and graciousness from my mom keep me going but I have no quality of life. I live in hell on earth each and everyday.
I’m not stupid but I sure have been made to feel that way. I have filled out 100s of online applications and sent my resume as well and haven’t even received so much as an email from any of the places I have applied. It now seems like filling out online applications is someone’s idea of a cruel joke. They seem pointless. If I physically go into a place to inquire about jobs, the management always tells me to fill out the online application and then I never hear back.
At this point, I live with my boyfriend because it is a roof over my head. My mother sends me money each month that helps me pay bills and have food. I have no car, no other means of money coming in, no TV, and basically no life. I have no self-esteem and no motivation. Everything seems pointless to me. I go nowhere because I have no transportation and no money. I have been to other parts of the world during better parts of my life, South Korea, Germany, Italy, Barbados, and people in those countries seem to have a better life than I do. Sometimes it seems unreal that I am an American!
At 46, I never dreamed my life would ever be like this.
I have been out of work only since May but this isn’t the first go around for me. I was out of work for a year prior to my last position at a hospital. I worked there for a year.
My initial boss was very happy with me and my review reflected that. Then she was demoted and her replacement then got rid of me. So there goes another job for me. I try to stay positive but let’s face it, “luck” is not my middle name.
I had known layoffs were coming at Johnson & Johnson for months, but they were slow to move. I had put my life on hold since April of 2008, waiting to hear if my Technical Analyst job of nearly 9 years would be eliminated.
Early January 2009, I learned it would be. They needed me to finish a long-term project, so I would be kept on until September 2009, which would have given me time to build my resume, brush up my contacts, etc, except that in early March, at age 35, I suffered a stroke. I worked very hard to rehabilitate as quickly as possible, and returned 6 months later, the project, and pretty much any assignment, gone.
With only 2 or so weeks left with the company, nobody wanted to give me work, and hardly anyone even spoke to me. My department director didn’t send so much as an email to see how I was doing, and I was let go as scheduled in October 2009.
As of today, I am still looking for work. An old friend has thrown some part-time work at my old job as a stagehand my way, but it is not enough, and the physical nature of the job is killer, as I still suffer the after effects of the stroke.
Two years later, I have had two or three interviews out of over 400 job applications I have submitted, and maybe 8 or 9 of those have bothered to even send me a rejection. I still try because I have to. My COBRA benefits ran out this year, and the medical benefits my wife and I now have are not very good.
I never thought I would wish so strongly for a desk job, but the pain remaining from the stroke is tremendous, and my body is not getting enough of a chance to heal. Our families have been great, but we don’t want to lose our home, or have to take anything else from anyone. We just want what we had three years ago.
'I kept a job pursuit log ... it wound up being a 70 page Word doc'
I was jobless for two years, from December 2008 to December 2010. I knew my number was up because in my job I was assigned 2 accounts (customers) and both of them went away. My company had been on a several year run of RIFs [reductions in force] and we all knew there was another one imminent. It was not a good time to lose customers, with managers walking the halls looking for people to lay off. I suppose there was karma at work—while in management positions within this same company I had to lay off half-a-dozen people myself.
For me the hardest part of the layoff was the loss of self-esteem. Most of us define ourselves (mistakenly!) by what we do. You go to a party and meet someone, and what’s the first thing they ask? “So, what do you do for a living?” Saying I’m an unemployed IT manager sure sucks the life out of a conversation!!
As you lose self-esteem you lose your ambition. Like others have reported, over time I experienced the change in sleep habits. Imagine lying in bed in the morning and saying to yourself, “What’s the point of getting up today? I won’t be any more successful with my job search today than yesterday.” It was very hard to not be discouraged to the point of giving up, and I felt that way a lot. But I kept at it. People who are close to me comment on my perseverance and persistence, and were especially impressed with my resilience in the face of so much rejection.
I kept abreast of all the current thinking on resumes and job searches, and edited my resume to take out all hints of age (I was 54-56 during my job search). Though my resume talked about a lot of varied experience, it had no dates other than my last 10 years of employment. That created a funny situation—I’m in the lobby of a major cell phone manufacturer, waiting for the hiring manager to come retrieve me for an interview. She came out, I was the only one in the lobby. I have a bit (okay, a lot) of gray hair. I look my age. She expected someone in his 30’s, I guess. She tentatively called out my name and when I stood up, she was literally dumbfounded and speechless. To her credit she did at least continue on with the interview, and the rejection came via email weeks later. And that was when I started coloring my hair.
In phone interviews I was asked quite often what I’d done during my time off. Many people seemed to be sympathetic because the IT industry is notorious for layoffs. I was being interviewed by a 4-person panel on the phone once and when I had to explain the resume gap, one of the interviewers did a quick poll and everyone on the call had been laid off before. Several interviewers wanted to know if I had used some of my time to improve myself. It did help that I could tell these people I studied for and gained ITIL certification. I often mentioned that I’d become an adult literacy tutor, showing that while I was in a jobless state I was at least trying to give back. Yet one interviewer said something like “well, that’s great, but did that help you keep technically current?”
I was very fortunate that having anticipated the layoff my wife and I could prepare financially. We put our large house on the market and during my layoff period sold it and moved into a smaller rental. We completely eliminated any debt, and of course, we had my wife’s salary. My job loss reduced our household income by 70 percent, but the unemployment benefits and the lack of debt helped. We still had to hit savings some, but much less than we would have otherwise. Due to my filing date and some eligibility gaps, I did not get the full 99 weeks—maybe more like about 90. But what a huge help that money was!
I truly felt that there was age discrimination at work, but it was insidious, not obvious. As my jobless period got longer and longer, I was beginning to see that unemployed bias, as if employers were saying “You’ve not found a job in 18 months? You must not be worth hiring…”. That was never stated, just always below the surface.
Ultimately I did get a job in December of 2010. It pays less than my last job, but fortunately only about 10% less. It’s not a bad job, but it’s a hugely stressful job and my manager is really a big jerk. I don’t plan to work at this new company forever, and I believe having a job makes finding a new job easier. Age will still be a concern for me, though.
In terms of practical advice and tips, what you hear is true—networking is the way. I so hoped I’d find a job on Indeed.com (my favorite employment site) and be able to say “I don’t need no stinkin’ network” but it was my connections that got those initial doors opened. And I’m using those same network contacts to develop my next opportunity.
I kept a job pursuit log, that was half statement of fact (company name/location, job title, where I learned about job, status) and half diary. I believe it wound up being a 70 page Word doc.
Finally, I tell my still-unemployed friends not to give up, and be willing to think and act outside the box. My wife and I moved from Florida to the Pacific Northwest for my job—we spent $10K out of pocket to do the move. Who would ever have thought we’d wind up in the opposite corner of the country? But I’m convinced this job will give me another opportunity to get back closer to where I want to be.
'I could not just take a 'job offered.' It had to be above 40k a year due to daycare costs'
What can I say, I lost my job after uprooting the family and moving to Arizona from Washington, D.C. for a chance to buy an affordable home and set roots with the family. I was 37. I had never been out of work since I faked a copy of my birth certificate at 14 to get a job at McDonalds; they paid a dollar more an hour. With a 4 y.o., 18 month old and a 6 month old, my company fired me. New management had come in directly after I accepted the position. They proceeded to railroad all legacy sales persons. I had been a Telecommunications Technician for 15 years and was doing well with the transition from tech side to sales side. Desperate, I had used all our savings to move and tried diligently to find a job for 3 months, with a few interviews for high paying jobs. Arizona did provide unemployment insurance, 240 a week. My wife took a part time job at Target. We barely made it.
I could not just take a “job offered.” It had to be above 40k a year due to day care costs for the children. We applied for assistance and received it. I do believe that being 37 was a factor in being passed over for jobs; technology is a young man’s game. Potential employers thought I may be rusty with my skills. I was very afraid. We finally said enough and started our own business, in my wife’s name of course, as we are relying on the unemployment to help us until the business really takes off. The reality is, there are few jobs out there for a lot of guys in my boat. Trained to an expert level, but no one can afford to hire me as their company is struggling to stay afloat, a 70k a year phone guy is a luxury. So, here we are with 1 month of benefits left and receivables steadily gaining ground.
If you cannot get a job, make one I guess. In the last year, in order; we’ve moved for a “better life” across country, had a child (when we conceived all was good), lost job, had car repo’d, borrowed money from family to get wheels, went on public assistance, cried a river over my manly short comings, was inspired by my wife and am now an entrepreneur. Scary how quick life changes.