For the next three weeks, we will share stories of job seekers who have applied for a scholarship (see the application form here), so you can see how important it is that we get them the help they want and deserve, but can’t afford. Meet Steve. who's tired of being led on by employers. Q: What’s the hardest part about unemployed long-term? A: The hardest part about being unemployed is how futile I feel my efforts have been and how confusing and possibly manipulative the relationship with employers has become. I feel as if I'm always being led on by employers. I started this journey, after completing graduate school, by working at an early stage tech start-up company. Thrilled to at least have a job given the recessionary economic climate, I started as a contract employee with an low hourly wage and no benefits-- clearly underemployed by definition-- but with the promise of evolving with the company's growth. I liked what the company was doing, it was relevant to my academic studies, and the idea of being entrepreneurial was largely attractive. Over the following six months, I continued to be "strung along", while adding value to the company (I created the essential content, devise performance metrics to inform strategic planning, and even got the company's product launched after two years of stalemate), and ultimately my experience culminated in being laid off. The work I had done, with the promise of a living wage and essential health coverage, was all for naught: The company was successfully acquired and C-level received a nice payout and I got a pink slip. Not to be discouraged, I was focusing on the silver lining and looking forward to seeing how my recent M.S. degree and new relevant technology skills would help my latest attempt to start a career. Unfortunately, the (just about) eight months to follow has yielded nothing but frustration. There were interviews that lead no where-- meaning weeks of frequent communication via phone calls, e-mails, in-person interviews, only to completely cease out of nowhere without any explanation-- a situation that has lead me to believe that employers view me more as an interchangeable and disposable widget in their machine, rather than human capital to benefit and grow with their organization. My latest experience has been a five week long hiring process with a local government agency I am-- or should I say was-- very excited to be a part of. They responded to my application within ten minutes of sending, I was phone screened and called in for an interview, I completed and successfully passed a two-hour exam on the quantitative skills the job required, and lastly was asked to provide two professional references and meet the agency's chief of staff. My interview with the chief of staff was perplexing as it was exactly the same questions I was asked in the first round of interviews. No offer was made and I was told they would "be in touch." I became even more confused when I noticed on the job boards I frequent that they had reposted the job notice for the position I had been interviewing for the day before I came in for what was supposed to be the final round of interviews-- and lead to believe they would offer me the job. An additional element of frustration in my job search has been the fact that wages are clearly decreasing while current students and recent graduates are saddled with excessive debts. I was told that making the investment in a graduate degree would allow me to earn a higher salary, but this is an absolute farce. It's unbelievable for me to reconcile that most of the positions I have been applying to offer the same salary range I earned almost seven years ago at my first job right out of college with zero work experience, except now I have almost fifty thousand dollars in student-related loans to pay back. These loans are in forbearance, continuing to accrue interest, and will be capitalized into the principal because I can't make payments being unemployed. I was even forced recently to give up my apartment and move back in to my parent's house. I was lead to believe that the type of work I would be doing after graduate school would be more fulfilling and offer a living wage and quality benefit programs, but these opportunities are few and far between in today's labor market. Q: What have you been doing to look for work so far? A: I have been networking through my personal connections, have attended workshops and used job boards through the career services at my graduate school, used internet resources like craigslist, idealist.org, nyc.gov/jobs, workforcenewyork.org, thejobnetwork.com. I read job search related articles in newspapers, magazines, and blogs. Q: Why do you feel our Job Search Accelerator Program can help you? A: I am just so desperate at this point I feel like I cannot leave any stone unturned. Steve* is one of the 30+ scholarship applicants we have received since launching Allies to the Out-of-Work. Want to know how you can help job seekers like Steve? Harnessing the power of the micro-fundraising site, Indiegogo.com, we launched a campaign to raise $10,000 that will give 100 long-term unemployed people a full scholarship to our Job Search Accelerator Program (JSAP). This program is helping hundreds of people find work. However, it’s not something we can give away for free. So, we are hoping to get donations from those of you out there who: A) Have been out of work recently and know how hard the job search really is. B) Know somebody long-term unemployed and want to sponsor them. C) Care about getting Americans back to work and on their feet.
February 19, 2013