Lisa Magid and Katie Simon are both 25 years old and unemployed. Add in the fact that both are interested in improv comedy and there is good reason to think that they probably have a lot in common. But when it comes to unemployment, they’re taking it differently.
Simon, a graduate of Columbia University, was working as a software developer when she was laid off. She had high hopes for all the things she could get done with her newfound free time. She didn’t anticipate the malaise that can take over a person without a set schedule. Simon said she found it, “harder to get things done than I thought it would be.” Despite working in one of the few industries that has consistently had work available over the last few years, she now worries about finding her next job. Simon says she is bad at interviewing and that getting a new job might be harder than she originally thought.
Magid is taking it all in stride. Having recently graduated from Brandeis, she was working as a server when she became unemployed. Now she does occasional part-time work as a transcriber. “I feel like I’m young enough that I don’t mind,” said Magid. In fact, the idea of being employed might hold more terror for her. Magid said she was “scared to be employed in a way because I’m scared I’ll get stuck.” Her fear is, in part, motivated by the high unemployment rate. She worries she would feel so grateful to have a job that she’d stay even if she hated it.
Unemployment can be a mixed blessing for some. Fill out the survey below to explain where you stand, whether you are unemployed or underemployed.
“This rejection is worse than in relationships,” says Dave Ritz, 45. With unemployment holding strong at 9.1%, Ritz is one of many Americans struggling to cope with the insecurity of unemployment. He goes on interviews but doesn’t get hired.
He went on to explain that at least with a relationship, you can always think of there being some reason it doesn’t work, that person just isn’t the one. Jobs are different, though, in a way that he says makes it “more personal.” “Jobs are like clothes,” says Ritz. What he means is, they’re adjustable. You can make changes to fit them or make them fit you. So when it doesn’t work out with a job, it hurts all the more.
As someone who is 45 years old, Ritz goes up against younger people for the same jobs and worries that the rejection will happen before he even has a chance to truly represent himself. “I’m a little bit older,” he says, adding that he feels potential employers “don’t value all the skills” that he has accumulated.
And he does have skills. Ritz had an extensive resume in the hotel industry before moving to New York. Once here he made a very good living as a waiter in a hotel restaurant. Being a waiter was a step down for him, since he had hotel management experience, but the pay was good and the benefits were great. Until one day when he and 30 other people were called in and told they were being laid off. Ritz claims that 10% of the hotel staff lost their jobs that day.
Ritz has interviewed for and tried jobs he wouldn’t normally want because of his long-term unemployment. One job involving ferrying children to tourist attractions had him out from around 4am until after midnight and paid less than $100 for the entire day. That does hurt.
So I pose the question to you: Can the rejection of unemployment hurt more than the rejection of a relationship?
The unemployed are suffering from more than a lack of income. Other ugly side effects of not having a job when you want one, and make the effort to get one but can’t fine one, are stress, anxiety, and depression. A recent Gallup poll on the wellbeing of the employed versus the underemployed (Gallup defines underemployed as “the unemployed or employed part-time but wanting full-time work) shows that the unemployed experience the emotions of worry, sadness, stress and anger on a daily basis at a higher rate than the employed.
It’s easy to find yourself feeling lost. Regional labor economist Scott Bailey sums it up nicely in this article from The Columbian when he says “it sort of sets people adrift when they lose that hope of having what they view as a respectable life.”
How does one avoid feeling adrift? This is also where the lack of income comes into play. What can you do when you’re unemployed to keep your spirits high even when you can’t afford to do much?
Here is a list of fun things even the unemployed can afford to do:
Workout! It’s is popular wisdom that working out relieves stress. Yes, gyms can be pricey, but walking and running are still free. This yoga studio in Harlem has a few “donation” classes a week and all proceeds go to charity. Popular fitness apparel retailers Lululemon Athletica lead free yoga classes in some NYC parks and their own retail locations.
Visit a local museum: This is a great way to give your brain some stimulation. Many museums in New York City are free or only require a “suggested donation,” meaning they can ask you for $20 to get in, but you can give them $1 or even a quarter and be admitted. Two popular examples are the American Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Find a hobby: Did you love to draw but stop doing it after high school? Maybe you used to read a lot of a particular genre and haven’t done it in a while. Now is a good time to pick it up again. Can’t make up your mind of what to do? This list might prove helpful in coming up with an idea.
Have a night out: You might be asking yourself, “how?” There are loads of fun resources online that can help you find things to do that don’t cost much, but one of my favorites is myopenbar.com which helps you find free drinks so you can socialize like someone with some money in their wallet.
You might be able to make the most of this time. But above all, remember this.
As you have more than likely already heard, there were no new jobs created in the US in August. This ABC News article explains in detail why this is a big deal. But anyone who has ever been unemployed doesn’t need an explanation as to how it sucks.
I’ve been either unemployed, or barely employed since 2009, and while I now get to call myself a student and raise my self-esteem, I know first hand that being unemployed or underemployed creates some serious stress. Just look at these numbers from Gallup on the well being of the underemployed.
So what do you do? Personally, I started trying almost any job that would have me. And from this article in the Chicago Sun-Times, it looks like I wasn’t alone. The problem was I barely made any money at the random little jobs I picked up.
I once worked a day for a reality show that I won’t name. I had to go over convoluted paperwork with a mix of crazy and naive people who desperately wanted the chance to perform for some questionably qualified TV talent judges. I was sick for a week afterwards from shaking the hands of the politely deranged. I worked a 14-hour day with hardly a break and I made…$85. That ‘s less than minimum wage from a big company. Hooray!
And as my options dwindled, my ideas got stranger. I almost put on this outfit…
and danced around Battery Park for tourists, but then school started.
Bert Stein, 76, street vendor and former military medic during the Vietnam War.
Bert Stein, 76, is a South Bronx native and Vietnam Veteran who has been working as a street vendor for the last eight years. His cart, located at 43rd and 5th, sells sunglasses, pashminas, and t-shirts. He says his business has “gone down 40-45% since last year.”
He believes “if the Republicans keep their mouths shut, the economy will come back up.” He also attributes the United States’ current economic woes to a lack of domestic manufacturing and the number of jobs moving overseas. “All this crap I sell here is made overseas. I want to set fire to it,” says Bert.
Bert has had help for the last 14 months from Raju Khadka, a native of Nepal who has been living in Queens since 2009.
Bert Stein (right) in front of his vendor table, while helper Raju Khadka (left) looks at the paper.