The View From Your Recession: Checking Back In

This reader was a project and quality control manager who worked primarily in concrete. Original post here. The reader writes:

My optimism about finding another job in construction within a few months after getting laid off last March turned out to be badly misplaced. It's been nine months and counting and I have yet to find a job - I haven't even landed an interview after sending out maybe a hundred or so resumes. I've personally talked to the top project managers on some of the major heavy civil projects in the area (Metro extension, Virginia HOT lanes), but have come up empty. It's a terrible job market right now, plain and simple.

I spent about two and a half months during the summer helping a friend do some renovation and home improvement work on his house for some pretty decent CUT (Cash Under the Table). However, the contractor he hired to do the work was forced upon him by his father in-law and turned out to be a thief, a liar, and a lunatic; I hated the guy with a passion and felt like quitting on numerous occasions, but my friend's a great guy, his wife had just given birth to their second child, and it would have been a real shit move to just up and walk away amidst so much chaos.

In terms of personal finances, I have unemployment through June 2010, my personal savings, and the generosity of my family. The unemployment helps but it's not nearly enough and it certainly doesn't cover my bare-bones monthly expenses, like the mortgage, car payment, and condo fee. As I wrote last March, my condo's 5-year ARM resets in August 2010, and I anticipate that my monthly mortgage payment will balloon significantly; renting it out looks more and more like the most sensible thing to do since 1) it's still badly underwater, so refinancing is out of the question, and 2) it's still badly underwater, so selling it would cost me more money than I can afford to pay off right now. Also, unless Congress acts to extend COBRA subsidies, my monthly payment for health insurance will triple starting next month.

So right now life is somewhat bleak from a professional and financial standpoint. But I still have my family, especially my dog and my brother's dog (I can send pictures if you want), and I am not destitute. I'm very fortunate that I don't have a wife and children to support, otherwise I would be in much more desperate straits.

I've applied to business school at Virginia Tech in their executive MBA program and am currently scrambling to get letters of recommendation and financial aid forms squared away, since they told me that there was still space available for the cohort starting in late January. I'm hoping that a business degree will arm me with certain skills that I have not been able to develop over the past several years, particularly in finance and accounting. (Nearly five years in management in private business taught me an object lesson: you learn only the skills that your superiors want you to learn. But it's up to you to go out and get the specialized knowledge that will make you dangerous.)