No Room At The Workplace

People looking for work > jobs available. Despite the notion that the recession is slowly ending, the impact it has on people out of work continues to be alarming. (

Over the weekend, two New York Times (credit to SI’s Richard Deitsch for highlighting these links on his Media Matters column this week) articles about unemployment in Europe and here in the United States, reaffirms my belief that the middle class is extinct, or on the verge of it…and it is time to create a new identity and image that best represent what is left of the middle class and the unemployed.

In Spain, young aspiring workers in Spain are leaving their country for better opportunities for jobs elsewhere in Europe. Sadly, those opportunities never come to fruition. The unemployed here in America continue to fall through a downward spiral into parts unknown. Most are considered not hire-able due to being overqualified, unemployed/underemployed for a long period of time, and other various reasons.

It reminded me of the analogy in 2010 that Generation X is the “middle class”: they are in a precarious spot.

Writing from experience, I don’t foresee us returning to pre-recession days, because the culture has changed. Government isn’t creating a WPA and putting people to work, businesses are tightening their belt, or using more discriminatory practices to justify who to hire.

There are a few things I’ve gleaned from both articles and it relates to my personal experience with unemployment.

“Creating” jobs: during this recession, jobs and positions people had were either eliminated or was merged with another job or title. The promises of creating new jobs from elected officials is a silly notion. How can anyone create a job when there are more people out of work than there are jobs that in existence? After all, what is a “new” job?

Unintentional discouragement: phrases like “I hope you find something” or at worst, pat you on the head, feeling sorry for you are the biggest insults to the unemployed today. The unemployed want advice and opportunities, not hollow “feel-good” statements a la Stuart Smalley. They want a chance to feel like they are contributing and learning in the workforce.

This is the new world order we’re living in: it’s better to be in a dead-end job than to be unemployed and be told you’re not hire-able because you’re unemployed. That what it sounds like to me.


Searching for a Direction

Dallas J. Moore is one of the most thoughtful and wisest individuals you will meet.  As CCO and CEO of Social Republik, Dallas has a strong and deep interest in helping his clients be successful when they convey their message through marketing.

Today, he posted a tweet recommending anyone who is on the unemployment sidelines to watch a movie called “The Company Men.”  I did not know about this movie until today and after seeing the trailer on You Tube, it didn’t take too long for the trailer to hit a nerve for me…in a sobering way.  I’m looking at myself in the mirror, wondering what direction I should go.

There is no compass to follow.

We, as humans, have defined ourselves by our work, job title, and accomplishments.  When all of that disappears, you are left to ask where is your place in this world.  In the case of Ben Affleck‘s character (Bobby Walker), he questions his self-worth and whether he will ever return to the world he knew.  In Bobby’s case, he is reminded of what he has at that moment:  wife, family, and a will to get back on his feet.

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) searches for directions, when his compass is shattered.

I don’t have a wife or a family of my own.  It feels like a lonely trek.  You don’t have that buffer or the person at home to talk to and get support from.  You wander around on the internet and networking, asking and begging not just for a job, but for someone to give you a chance to tell your story.  A story of what you are good at and the value you give to a potential employer.

It’s a difficult and frightening position to be in.  Even now.  Most of us who are out there, searching for anything to maintain a sense of normalcy (which we know that there is no such thing as “returning to normal”) and a measure of self-confidence and self-worth that we lost. 

A job, any job, will do.  Bobby makes the decision to work with his carpenter brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) as the only way to provide for his family.  For him, he hopes for someone or something to throw him a life-preserver to keep him afloat.

I hope that there are enough life-preservers out there for those who are hanging by a thread and losing hope.  I want them to get it before I do, even if I need it the most now.

An Imperfect Christmas

The Christmas message this morning at St. John’s Lutheran was simple and understandable:  “there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ Christmas.” Holiday movies such as The Ref, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Miracle on 34th Streettries to convey this statement, but in real life, if it isn’t a “perfect” Christmas, it’s a failure.

The holiday season, whether it’s Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas, isn’t always a joyous time of year.  It’s a painful, depressing, and sad.  Someone is unemployed, mourning a loss, or experienced a life event that has affected them greatly.

I feel that this entry from last November is an appropriate one to re-post as a reminder that if things are going well for you, but not for someone you know who’s having a rough time, the best you can do is to be there for them when they need it.

Have you received the “letter” yet?

No, not this letter. A letter from Iowa Workforce Development, telling you to show up or lose your benefits.

This morning, the “Get It Done” girl, Suzanne Hull, sunk her teeth into Iowa Works, or the agency to be formerly known as Iowa Workforce Development.  Recently, IWD has sent out letters to unemployed workers advising them to attend re-employment customized classes.  Failure to do so will result in losing your unemployment benefits.


Suzanne and the Unemployed in Des Moines group was able to get the ear, literally, of a representative from IWD last week and voiced their concerns and questions about their experiences with IWD and what they feel should be fixed.

There are some issues and problems that IWD needs to address, if they ever get around to addressing it.  If you have had past experiences with Iowa Workforce Development, what were they and how would you like to see changed with IWD?

Do not pass go, do not collect unemployment extension

Extension of unemployment benefits....DENIED

Late last night, the U.S. Senate “failed” to pass a bill extending unemployment benefits to people who are out-of-work.  They approved it 57-41, but as the Iowa Independent put it, “in the strange logic of Congress, that is enough to prevent the motion from moving forward for now.  The cloture vote has failed, likely meaning the dissolution of the jobs bill and the separate passage of its most important provisions.”

A better way of saying it is that the Senate fell 3 votes short of passing it. And now, 1 million unemployed Americans are going to lose the short-term financial help they need to keep a roof over their heads and food on the plate as they struggle to find work.

This is a clear cut reason why promises are always made to be broken, especially when it comes to Congress.  Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts came out with an initial response, of course pointing a partisan finger at Republicans.  He’s better off asking the 12 members of his party who broke rank to go against the “tax extenders” provision in the bill.  If not for those 12 Senators, it would have been more than enough votes to pass it.

And yet, Congress passed a financial overhaul bill that would “straighten” out Wall Street.

Well, that’s just fine and dandy.  Fixing Wall Street is a bigger priority than individuals who are laid-off, being told don’t apply for jobs (unless you’re employed), and are starting to be looked at in disdain because they’re so many of us pounding the pavement, trying to get back in the game.

Wall Street > unemployeds.

Partisanship aside, today may not be the next “Great Depression”, but it’s starting to feel like “The Great Unemployment Depression” for people who lost their jobs during this downturn in the economy.

On lighter news (sort of), Des Moines was ranked as the 8th most recession-proof city in the United States, according to CNN Money.

Like that is going to put a smile on several thousands faces in this town.

Moving around and lessons in business

Today, there are two articles I want to share that has to do with choices and lessons.

Joe Light from the Wall Street Journal writes about that as the economy is slowing getting off the ground, many workers who did not lose their jobs due to the economy are making the choice right now to quit and pursue new interests.  This has now created a backlog of workers waiting for better times to make a move to better jobs.

Midwestern social media guru Albert Maruggi (@AlbertMaruggi on Twitter) passes along this article from the Harvard Business Review by Adi Ingatius about the passing of his brother-in-law, John Tarbell.  Before his death, Tarbell spent as much time as he could to teach his only child the life lessons that he wanted to pass on to her.  With the blessing of Tarbell’s wife, Ignatius lists the 8 career lessons that Tarbell learned for himself.

A few of these lessons we have learned in the past, and there are a few that we never had the chance to learn.  For me, lesson #1 was “seeking a mentor.”  It’s a lot harder than it’s expected to find a mentor who is accessible, willing to take time out to talk and teach you valuable things, and for you to follow as an example.  I became convinced that I am my own mentor because it’s hard to get a Barry Griswell, Suku Radia, David Hurd, or a Teresa Wahlert to be a mentor.  Everyone is in line, clamoring for these VIP’s to mentor them.

Is it important to find a mentor or should you learn from your own life as a textbook on how to be a mentor to yourself?

Returning to work may not be all that happy

You may land a new job, but you may not be able to leave the baggage at the door...for good reason.

Landing a job can feel like a huge burden has been lifted off of your shoulders.  However, the stress, anxiety, and emotional strife continues to linger after getting back on the saddle.

Marty Orgel, a freelance writer for Marketwatch, writes about how those who have been through long-term unemployment are more likely to be in the red financially, worried about their status once they’re back in the workforce, and emotionally fragile, when they return to work.

Mentally, people who re-enter the workforce builds up a wall to protect themselves from being burned and betrayed by managers and companies, for fear of being let go again and starting over from scratch from the umpteenth time. Most mental health professionals say that this is normal.  But does it become a long-term problem that could come back to haunt anyone who continues to foster a sense of distrust and isolating themselves from opening up in the office?

I contend that it’s easy to give people the tools to how to deal with unemployment, albeit with a great dose of bureaucracy, but not enough tools to handle it mentally and emotionally.