The View From Your Recession

A reader writes:

I worked hard to build a career that led to becoming a vice president of an international design firm.  And I worked hard to build a successful business for the seven years after I left them.  My industry, the architectural design industry, and especially large design firms, have seen cumulative layoffs from anywhere between 40 to 70% during the last three years. 

I'm a single parent with primary custody and I don't receive child support.  Also, I don't get unemployment because I've been self employed. One other also: I don't have a college degree.

I'd never had to apply for a job since I was in my late teens/early twenties.  I was lucky enough over the last twenty-five plus years that people recognized my hard work and skills and offered me jobs before I ever even looked at want ads.  In the last fourteen months, after I realized I could no longer make a living in my specialty, I haven't had so much luck. 

I've applied for hundreds of jobs.  During that time, I've worked in a warehouse, written copy for websites and hammered nails as a carpenter.

All of those jobs were project based meaning no long term prospects or benefits or unemployment eligibility.  To be clear, I have not been fired or quit any of those jobs. The healthcare insurance for me and my son has gone up 29% in the meantime.  I used to eke into a six figure income.  Now I'm happy to get a short term $15 an hour job because it means, with lots of Ramen noodles and little air conditioning/heat, I can keep a roof over my son's head.

Some politicians, and the number of them seems to grow daily, are claiming I'm lazy because I couldn't get a job.  I've found jobs!  None are of the type the politicians are alluding to apparently. McDonald's or entry/mid level employers won't hire me because I've had too much success in my past and others won't because, despite my proven accomplishments, I don't have a college degree. 

I'm not a special case.  There are hundreds of thousands of people like me.  We're not taking year-long vacations!  We're scared about not having the gas or a car to get our kids to school or to the extremely rare job interview (I've only had three in over a year).  We're spending sleepless nights worrying about nourishing our kids so they aren't distracted in school by hunger pangs, and how to buy new shoes as they grow out of the last pair, and how to not show them our deep anxiety about what next month brings.  We're frantically exploring whether we have enough money left to buy the time to sell our homes in a deeply depressed housing market and where we can find housing if we do...or don't. 

I do have good news though.  I recently accepted a job as senior account manager for a small firm.  It's a full time position with benefits and lots of incentives.  I'll even be managing the efforts of others.  Ten bucks an hour.