My unemployment story is only different from any other long term unemployment story in that the names, faces, and times are different. In every other regard, my story is relatively the same. I have been out of work 45 months and 12 days. Like others, I have taken piecemeal jobs to fill in the gaps. Whatever comes along.
In 2011, after 8 months out, I took a contract job with my state. The state government shut down and my contract ended. In 2013, long after unemployment insurance expired, I was desperate for work and took an INTERNSHIP position, to both tide me over and put some recent experience on my resume. Though I have 25 years of experience, it was difficult to bite my tongue as I watched the young boss make mistakes that were so obvious to me. When that same 20-something was promoted and the position became open, I was asked to fill in in her stead until the season ended, but was not allowed to apply for the open position because I did not have enough RECENT experience. 3 degrees and 25 years of experience, is overshadowed by 1 year of RECENT experience. This happens so often to the long term unemployed.
Long term unemployment often leads to feelings of depression and thoughts of suicide. The victims of unemployment are often victimized multiple times. The first victimization comes when they receive the news of their impending doom. It happens again when their unemployment insurance runs out (if they were lucky enough to receive it in the first place), and yet again when they run out of savings, retirement benefits and the like. Victimization comes yet once more, when some lose their homes, sell their personal belongings by whichever means are available, move in with elderly relatives, children, or anyone else who may take them in. Some must couch surf, live in trailers, tents, or cars– hopping from parking lot to parking lot. The unlucky few must move to homeless shelters. The worst and final victimization that happens over and over, in a never ending cycle, is perpetrated by our own government and media who falsely claim that we have dropped out of the workforce, are no longer looking for employment, have given up, and then consequently no longer count us as even being a part of the population. We have disappeared. Ignoring us makes it even more difficult to believe that we matter.
This practice makes it acceptable for the public to sneer at us and tell us we are indolent, layabouts living off the dole of the public, and that we are not looking hard enough. “ What the hell kind of people are we? Just go out and get a job already.” To further compound our plight, the working public believes they have the anecdotes to our new found “freedom.” We can go on vacation now. Use this time to invest in our hobbies. And, wait for it…… Open our own business.
The other group of wisdom distributors says we should get a McJob. Take anything, they say. At one time in our nation’s history, we were told to go out and get an education so we wouldn’t have to work a minimum wage job for the rest of our life. Now, these same people ask why, with your 3 degrees and science background, you are too good to take a minimum wage job and stop living off the public. Does anyone else see the irony in this? These soothsayers feel they have been given permission by the media and the government, with their false numbers, to tell us what terrible people we are and if we don’t take their advice, we must want to wallow in our own self-pity.
The first question when people see me now is, “Do you have a job yet? Why not? Where have you looked? Have you tried X, Y, Z? You MUST be working by now! I can’t believe you are not working yet– What is wrong with you?” Believe it or not, we have tried EVERYTHING. We have done things to our resumes that you could not possibly imagine doing unless you are living this life. Most of us could write a book. These are demeaning , unsolicited questions and statements that stab like a million tiny cuts every day.
Many of us no longer attend social or family engagements , partly because we cannot afford it, but also because of the shame and stigma that we feel every day about being unemployed. We cannot stand to argue the fact that there are NO jobs, and go through the litany of the things we have done to try to find meaningful employment.
Politicians seem to be unable to count past 27 weeks. Try counting 27 months, 40 months, 50 months, and more. There are simply no jobs, despite what your radio and television are telling you . It is easier for us to allow you to live in your rose colored glasses world than to see us, and see the reality of what has happened to your nation.
For myself, my retirement money is gone and I received a huge penalty for early withdrawal that I promptly gave to my government. How am I on the dole? My unemployment insurance ran out over 2 years ago. I am still paying back student loans for a Master’s degree I cannot even use for toilet paper. I look for work every day. The rejection letters, when employers see fit to be kind enough to send one, are piling up in my inbox and in a paper folder. Interviews, when I can get one, are futile as 20 and 30- somethings do not see value in people over 40, 45, etc. Overqualified, under-qualified, etc. has become a code word for we won’t hire you, you are too old, and more.
This is only part of my story. This is only part of all of the unemployed’s story. The unrest we feel is festering. We will not wait around for our nation to take action much longer. We cannot wait around much longer. This has long and far reaching effects well into the future. The public needs to hear us. Our government officials need to acknowledge us and ACT. We need ACTION now!!