Menial Work v. Unemployment Checks

by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

I can relate to much of the sentiment behind the "milking the system" email. When I graduated from college in 2001, I took my degree in English and Theology from the Boston-area liberal arts school back home to Dallas, expecting to find temporary work as a clerk while I applied for law school. Before long, I had gone the surprisingly short distance between seeking work in a law office to desperately hoping that my lack of restaurant experience wouldn't prevent me from getting a job as a waiter. After several rejections I finally I got a job at a Tex-Mex restaurant. My tips were horrible, and I had trouble paying my rent. One month I had to borrow money from my younger brother to make ends meet. But it never even occurred to me to seek unemployment assistance.

Fast forward to 2006. I had graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, and had moved to DC to be with my fiancée. Not only could I not find any jobs at law firms, I couldn't even get temporary legal work reviewing litigation documents on a contract basis, because, even though I had passed the bar exam, I still had to wait 4 months to get formally sworn in as an attorney. I was rejected from a job at Whole Foods and eventually ended up doing temp work for a staffing agency that put me behind the front desk at several DC-area apartment and office building lobbies. Again, unemployment never crossed my mind.

The lesson I took from both experiences is that you do what it takes, you don't let your pride in yourself be determined by what job you happen to be doing at any particular moment, and, most importantly, you don't take yourself too seriously.