When No One Will Hire You – What It’s Like to Be Unemployed in America

When No One Will Hire You - What It's Like to Be Unemployed in America

Some of you, dear readers, have protested that I should be looking for a job and not loitering on the good graces of the United States Government and all of you patient taxpayers.

I want to say that I have tried, tried, tried. After sending resumes for years into the Abyss they call the Internet, I called the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marines (each individually and earnestly) and asked if I could join. None of them would consider me (I am too old).

I had thought the armed forces could use some good women with mad skills. True, I’m not twentysomething, but I am quite capable. I didn’t necessarily think they’d send me to Afghanistan (I’m a single mother, after all), but aren’t there plenty of things a literate, competent, motivated woman could do here in the U.S.? Anywhere in the U.S.?

They absolutely would not consider me.

The military, being military as they are (and, by the way, I can do a few sit-ups and pushups, in case you were wondering, and I think I could even climb a wall and fling myself over, a la Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs), may have their reasons. But why do my resumes, impressive as they are, receive nary an email back (besides an automated acknowledgement) from the corporate world?

I have begun to suspect a sort of ageism and sexism. Yes, believe it or not, I feel that there is some bias against people like me. I’ve had other women in my situation tell me they felt the same thing.

OK, right, the economy is a factor, I can’t deny. But, really, I think that a man with my resume a few years younger would not be in the scrape I’m in now. He’d be writing poorly-written beer commercials and feeling smug.

Let me go back now, since I’m on my second martini, to the undercurrent of bias that I’ve detected in my several years of job searching. It’s for real. And, as time goes on and the economy continues to wither, well, so do I. Thus the martini.

During my years of job rejections (or lack thereof), I got a graduate degree, I did a couple of very impressive internships, and I was hired to do piecemeal freelance work for a prestige firm that paid a pittance. I continued to look and look for a job, sending resume after resume into the Internet Abyss (I feel a modern myth coming on).

Finally, I got accepted to the State of Connecticut’s Accelerated Route to Certification teaching academy. This is difficult to get into, by the way. The bureaucracy alone must daunt many hundreds of otherwise worthy applicants: the program requires lots of recommendation letters and transcripts and standardized tests that you have to take at distant high schools with number 2 pencils and etc. I had to get fingerprinted, and you have to pay to get fingerprinted (Double Indignity). I had to contort myself in several different types of knots to accommodate this class, which is super-intense and started in the middle of my homelessness-ness.

Oh, and it was expensive too. There are no scholarships for teacher boot camp.

I’m in the middle of this class now, and, man, it is stressful. I have to sit through whole days of lectures (I challenge you to sit through seven hours of PowerPoints in one day in the back of a class of 100 people held in an institutional basement), learn tons of things (teacher law, teacher technology, classroom management, accommodating special ed kids in the regular classroom, discrimination, how the brain works, etc.), organize a blizzard of paperwork, and student teach high school kids who are reluctantly taking a class over in order to graduate.

I’m about halfway through. I have a newfound respect for teachers and everything they manage. I feel that teaching is something that is important.

But, unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of teaching jobs available. Because in this economy, people, and by people I mean teachers, don’t want to retire or leave a job.

I stopped off yesterday at a local Board of Ed office, because I thought that, rather than send infinite resumes into the Internet Abyss, why not stop by and introduce myself? They responded with surly dismissiveness. If I wanted to substitute teach (which I don’t, I really would rather be a full-time teacher, but I’ll substitute if I have to), they need me to send an official transcript. “Official transcript. Official transcript,” they said, annoyed. I asked, “College transcript? Grad school transcript? Summer school at UCLA transcript?”

Just have an official college transcript sent, they told me. That will cost me money, of course. And they didn’t want to know my name.

Kathryn Higgins’s new book of  humor, Snide Remarks in Sotto Voce, is available at most ebook outlets through Smashwords. ...read more

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