Lazy. Entitled. A drag on society. “Welfare queen.”
I’ve heard all these terms with regard to the unemployed. Most of the people who use these terms either don’t know me or don’t know my situation.
I’m college educated. Over the past 10 – 15 years I’ve built a decent career doing something I love (including a three-year off-shoot into the gaming industry, which I also loved). I am also unemployed. I have been unemployed for nearly 18 months.
So when people bloviate about “the unemployed” like we’re some nameless, faceless group of slackers, drones and dropouts, I feel the need to educate them.
As someone who’s been long-term unemployed and taking those much-debated unemployment benefits, I can say with certitude I wanted to be anything but unemployed. Because of my situation, some people reflexively say I should take any job, anywhere and be happy with it. Here’s the problem with that thinking: I might be able to get a $9/hour job at Target or Wal-Mart, but it’s likely I won’t be full-time employed. You know what that means: no benefits, no paid time off, no paid sick time. Add to that these jobs would end up paying less than unemployment benefits and leave considerably less time to look for jobs, apply for jobs, interview, etc. Despite what you may or may not think about applying for jobs in the technology age, it’s not just two mouse clicks and you’re done.
People also like to lecture “the unemployed” that they (we…I) should take any job anywhere in the country and be satisfied with that. Sure. Absolutely. But ask yourself something: exactly how able are you to simply pack up your entire life and move across country for a job? As romantic the notion may be, it’s not very practical for a person with a family, a mortgage and any other debts life carries. It’s not impossible, but let’s dispense with the idea that “the unemployed” are unwilling to relocate. Some things in life are cost prohibitive.
People tell “the unemployed” we should be looking for jobs outside our field of expertise. They’re right. We should. And we do. But whom do you think a potential employer is going to hire between someone with 10 years experience in another field vs. someone with even 1 – 2 years experience in the field for this job? You’d be amazed at how many doors get slammed in your face when you’re “inexperienced,” compared to a 22-year old college graduate with a business degree.
As for my field (where I’ve worked for about 12 years), every job for which I applied gets anywhere from 100 – 300 applicants. That’s not an exaggeration. So, right there, the odds of getting hired are greatly reduced. The other problem is employers these days are more likely to hire someone with less experience and pay them less. When you’re over 40 years old in a job market that is hiring less and paying less, you’re up against the wall in a hurry.
The truth—that people who chastise “the unemployed” don’t like to face—is the caricature of unemployed people is so far removed from reality. And when you confront them with reality, they say the same thing: “oh, I wasn’t talking about YOU.” What they don’t realize is I am the status quo, not the exception.
Fortunately, I landed a job just as unemployment benefits expired. I’m one of the lucky ones. But “luck” meant relocating across the country, which isn’t a problem, but for the expenses (yes, those add up quickly). “Luck” also meant taking a job for considerably less than what I was making before. “Luck” also meant relying on the generosity of family to help me survive unemployment and get myself relocated. “Luck” is a rather humbling experience, let me tell you.
So, before you look down on those 1.3 million people who are unemployed, put yourself in their shoes for one minute, and please spare me the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” horse shit, too. Anyone I’ve known who’s been unemployed is like me: stressed, frustrated and just trying to hold their lives together any way they can. Don’t think for one moment that $300 a week is a gift. It barely covers the bills, if at all.
The most frustrating part of all this isn’t even the shitheads who judge the unemployed and dismiss them as lazy welfare queens. It’s the fact that the recovery has been sooooo good for corporate profits. Businesses are making plenty of money, but they learned after 2008 that they could run “lean and mean” and make more money with less employees. And the ones they keep are scared to lose their jobs so they’ll work themselves to the bone just to keep their jobs. That isn’t a statement of work ethic either. People aren’t motivated when they’re under the thumb like that.
If you’ve never had to draw unemployment benefits and can’t empathize with those who have and who do, be thankful and leave it at that. But if you, for one minute, think the unemployed are doing this because they’re lazy, ask yourself this question: would you willingly draw unemployment for 26, 52, or 99 weeks, watch your savings and/or retirement get depleted, be forced out of your home (living with your parents), then move across country for a job that pays 3/4 of what you were making before that?
That’s the reality of unemployment.
I am the reality of unemployment.
I am the face of unemployment.