Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On Not Getting the Write Job

Even though I blog almost every weekday, I like my privacy.

I write about personal convictions, yes, but they're convictions I'd tell almost anybody.

For example, I've written about my stance against gay marriage, but one of my best friends is gay, and I've already told him the same things I've blogged for you.  He doesn't agree with me, but we're still friends.

I've written about my centrist political opinions, even though those same opinions seem to cause more friction between my evangelical friends and me than my gay marriage opinions do between my gay friend and me.

Odd, huh?

Occasionally, I've even allowed myself to wander off into some musings about unemployment, an exceptionally personal subject for me, since aside from my monthly writing gigs with - for which I'm extremely grateful - I recently completed my second year of being jobless.

To be honest, I really don't like talking about myself. At least when it comes to topics where I'm seen as weak, unproductive, and insignificant.  Three things almost every working American considers the unemployed to be.

Weak, unproductive, and insignificant.

Conservatives figure something's drastically wrong with my work ethic, while liberals say I'm proof our economic system is broken.  Either way, in our culture, for the most part, if you're unemployed, you're disenfranchised socially.

Perhaps I've been woefully naive in thinking that if I could prove myself at writing, I'd be able to get a writing job.  My supportive editor at, upon learning that I wanted to write, suggested that about a year and a half of three blog entries each week oughta provide a decent portfolio for prospective employers to evaluate.

Which may be true... if anybody was hiring.  What few connections I have in the writing world paint as depressing an employment scenario in all forms of publishing as exists in virtually any other profession.  Basically, it seems as if employers in the United States - except for the federal government - are holding their collective breath, waiting for the current White House occupant to be voted out of office so they'll know what to expect tax-wise.  If there's one thing capitalism doesn't thrive upon, it's fiscal uncertainty.  And that's what we've got in Washington these days.

Not that it's just President Barack Obama's fault, especially since none other than the Wall Street Journal came out yesterday with an uncharacteristically negative assessment of Republican leadership in both the House and Senate.

But I think something else, other than national politics, may be at work.  Not just in America's employment numbers, but my own individual experience as one of the chronically unemployed.

God may be allowing our society to experience some fundamental changes in the way we view work, employment, financial rewards, and the purpose of money.

Living off of credit card debt and generous gifts of cash from family members isn't a healthy long-term plan for anybody.  But it's what many unemployed Americans - not just me - have been doing for a while now.  We're assuming that good times will return, and that debts will be repaid, and that we'll become givers again, instead of takers.

But the cynic in me increasingly wonders if, whenever any "good times" return, they will take more the form of adequate provision rather than abundance.

We were told that education is the key to financial reward, but these days, plenty of under-educated people can earn salaries larger than over-educated professionals in fields like education and healthcare.  Just ask anybody looking for employment, and anybody responsible for hiring, and they'll tell you that interpersonal connections weigh far more than education and experience in today's job market.  Statistically, it may still appear as though the more education people in our society receive, the more money they can earn; but individually, that's far from any guarantee.

Granted, I can't hold my BA in Sociology as a get-a-great-job-easily card.  But I never expected to get rich off of it.  I never thought it would be so worthless in our economy, either.  Liberal arts alumni, for all the gushing corporate America does over people qualified to think wholistically, have probably become the least-employable people on the planet, since it seems companies don't want employees who extrapolate information as much as they want robots to blindly process that information.

I can do both in a job.  Shucks, like many liberal arts majors, I've spent years doing more of the latter than the former in a variety of jobs!  But as many employees become less human in the eyes of their employers and more of a cost factor, the pay available for the mundane jobs continues to slide.  At least in terms of the cost of living, and executive pay.

We're told that it's because we're not worth as much as we used to be, now that we have a global economy.  Which may be quite true.  But at some point, even $10 an hour won't pay the expenses corporate America still expects the working class to accrue.  After all, ours is a consumer-based economy, and if the working class doesn't have the money to buy the stuff companies make, then whose fault is it that our economy suffers?

We hear of how our new generation of college graduates would prefer flex time over higher wages.  We're told that the conventional 9-to-5 job is quickly becoming outdated.  But how much of this is a product of employees actually getting what they want in our job market, and employees having to settle for what the job market offers them?

Even supposing I'd long ago given up on surviving on a simple BA and plowed ahead into a law degree, like many unemployed  (or, as employers claim, "unemployable") liberal arts people do, have you heard how many lawyers are getting laid off these days?

Meanwhile, as I pass through yet another Christmas season as an unemployed person, with my meager mutual fund long ago scraped clean, my savings account bone dry, and plenty of people telling me I write well - but none of them able to give me a job doing so for a living wage, I've come to see that one of my few options is to evaluate what God may be telling me about how I've spent money in the past, how grateful I should be for those who give me money now, and how I should leaven my desperation for employment against the writing I thought He was guiding me into over two years ago.

And frankly, it doesn't help me to realize that I'm not the only person in this predicament.

Actually, I'm surprised more Americans aren't concerned that so many people like me exist in our country.  Not so that I can feel an outpouring of sympathy, because sympathy is the last thing I and most of America's unemployed want.  Or need.

But because if our economy can limp along for three years now, with all of us out of work, who says it can't absorb the impact of even more people losing their job?

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