Category Archives: Work

Study Hall

This weekend my roommate moved to her new apartment. I, however, am stuck in the old one for two more weeks. To say that it feels odd to be in a half-empty apartment is an understatement: it’s actually really difficult! Aside from the lack of material comforts (couch is gone; most dishes are gone), there is a tremendously sad sense of abandonment that manifests itself like a whisper blowing through the empty spaces: she is not coming back. Continue reading

Why I Like Rejection

When you’re looking for a job, even rejection can be a positive.  After a few (dozen) instances of completing an online application and attaching resumes and cover letters and references and hearing nothing in return, it is easy to believe that all that information is just landing in some great void. It’s easy to believe that no one ever sees it and no one cares and *sniffle sniffle sniffle* …  Continue reading

Education and the Economy

The one remark that stuck with me from Obama’s address to Congress in February went something like “It is your patriotic duty to get an education.” At least, that was how I interpreted it. Some of his actual remarks on education were (as published on npr.org):

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that outteach us today will outcompete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education — from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.

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It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country — and this country needs and values the talents of every American.

It is nothing new for a president to recognize the importance of education. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush implemented educational initiatives, as I’m sure did the presidents before them. What impressed me about this statement is that President Obama seemed to focus more on personal responsibility: (. . .) I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. I wonder whether any citizens will take this request seriously. Then I hope they do, because it’s true that the productivity of the nation depends on the productivity of its people, and education enables citizens to be more productive.

A New York Times article from March 6 reported that the jobs lost in this recession will not be coming back, as they are indicative of firms’ decisions to leave particular lines of business altogether. This means that economic recovery must include job training, yet the Times reported that the stimulus bill recently passed in Congress includes only $4.5 billion for job training. That seems a little light to me. I would think that, at this time, “making this system work” should include more funding for job training.

The Recession is Coming!

I wake up to NPR in the morning. While I love NPR, I’ve realized that I must stop listening to it first thing. Every morning I hear something along these lines: “Dow Jones closed down 100 points yesterday. It’s down 30 points right now. The recession is alive and well! Consumers are scared!” Well, of course we’re scared. The media tells us every day to be scared.

Even before the economy was in recession, every day brought reports that like this: “Is a recession coming? It looks like a recession is coming. Experts think we’re headed for recession! Recession is coming! Recession is coming! What will we do?” Then, several months down the road: “Data for the last quarter show that the country is in recession.” Well, of course! Even if the faltering and failing banks didn’t mean recession, the constant barrage about how “we might be headed for recession” was enough to have every consumer tightening their belts, which means what? Recession. I don’t mean to imply that the media is responsible for the recession. Obviously that is not the case. However, I do think that less repetition of bad news would be a good thing, in that it would give consumers a little space to feel confident again.

I confess that all this talk about banks collapsing and the domino effect and “The economy hasn’t been this bad since the Great Depression” had me going. It had me terrified and paralyzed, in fact. It had me convinced that I should sit tight and hang on to my job even though I haven’t been challenged by it and had been considering seeking a different one. I nearly had a panic attack when my car needed repairs, because that meant taking money from my emergency fund to fix it, and I might need that emergency fund down the road if I lost my job. I became convinced that the entire economy would tank and I’d end up living in a Hooverville shack with 10 other 30-somethings, scraping by on raw onions and grass.

But then I decided it was time for perspective. Most economists consider our economy at full employment when the unemployment rate is about 5%. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment was at 7.6% for January 2009. While that cannot be considered a good thing, neither is it worthy of all-out panic. We really are not so terribly far from full employment. In saying that, I am not saying that I view that 2.6% lightly — I know that it represents a lot of lost jobs, and it’s incredibly difficult for the affected communities. I also acknowledge that a person will view the situation differently depending on their current status in life. Someone who has a family and owns a house, for example, will feel much more pressure than I do, as I have neither. Someone who owns a small business that is struggling will feel even more pressure. But the average person among us needn’t panic.

Several European countries regularly sustain higher unemployment rates and still manage to be highly productive, stable societies. While I don’t think that we necessarily need to aspire to their model, I do find the knowledge that there are different models of success comforting. And while the job loss numbers are scary, and actually losing your job is even more so (I know, I’ve just been given notice at my own), I still have faith in our collective ability to work through this. There is no single way or right answer, but as long as everyone is trying to be productive, I believe that the economy will improve. For some, being productive will simply mean finding a different job, for some it will mean changing fields, for some it will mean seeking training to learn new skills. For still others, it could mean doing volunteer work while between jobs. But for everyone, it means working on something.

Resume Redo!

I am redesigning my resume. I want something more creative and interesting, something that gives a better idea of what I am like, not just what I know how to do. It’s kind of a pain. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who hasn’t thought so. But it’s the way of our (corporate) world, so I acquiesce. I was tempted to hire someone else to write it, but then I saw their fees ($379!) and I saw their samples (hey, I could write that!), and I decided to do it on my own.  And then I got notice from the company where I’ve been working: one more month on my current project, then no more work for me! I am heading back into the wild word of job hunting!