Still unemployed

Still unemployed??
Gary Kline

This was borrowed from my FWIW rants and moved to these TransFinite web pages... .

Thoughts on the (Still) Lagging Employment

If you are among the recent college grads [‘recent’ meaning: in the past few years] who have never found a job--or nothing beside working for a temp agency--, have heart. Things will improve, if only very slowly. Mine is a good object lesson, although I realize that it cannot apply to every un- or under-employed person.

After two tries at a college education, it was only after the second time that I Succeeded. So I was a (much) older college grad in 1982 when I finished my degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

To anyone much under the half-century mark, the early 80's may seem centuries ago, but the reality is that the economy was only extremely slightly better than now in the early Twenty-Tens. There was both extreme inflation and extreme unemployment. And, living in Berkeley meant that there were at least hundreds of follow unemployed engineers and computer programmers.

The path I was forced to take was to be a “consultant.” There was a running joke that a consultant was someone who couldn't find a real job: one that was Full Time and with Benefits. The joke was also a truth that I lived with for close to three years since it was in October, 1985 that Cray Research hired me on. Between December, 1982 and October, 1985 I took my first consulting job in San Jose. (Commuting was impossible.) I had to move back to the center of things in Berkeley where I had access to the things that the university provided when my job ran out. The doors slammed on me and my nascent career around August or September, '83.

The line from my boss went something like: "Well, the funding ran out so I have to let everybody go. ---Sorry I didn't mention that possibility... . But shit happens, right?"

And from then on until my first real job, I got around by BART and/or bus. Not very easy considering that my life was complicated by being in a motorized wheelchair. Several experiences quickly taught me that lines of nonsense that my first boss told me were as numerous as the snowflakes in a good snowstorm. Or, more simply, you take what people say--co-workers, bosses, whatever-- and ignore 99% of it.

Those years of hardship taught me perseverance the way that nothing had before. To this day, I'll stick with tasks until I have finished them-- if not mastered them:-) The fact is that I am stubborn, and I admit to it. At 65 with a teenager to see into (or hopefully through college, I'm still at it.

I am in no way holding my journey up as an example of virtue. I agree wholeheartedly with what Jiri Mucha wrote in his prison journal. Mucha had it dead-on:

“Misfortune doesn't improve anyone. That is a fable to reassure the afflicted. A life of hardship humiliates man and forces him to expend all his energy on resisting its deadly pressure. If a man comes out of it improved, it only means that he has spent an enormous amount of energy on improving in spite of everything. Just think what he might have done without that pressure.”--Jiri Mucha, Living and Partly Living 1

Everyone who is unemployed and who wants to work [and who is able to] will almost certainly be working in the near future. If you are in your elder middle years and your job has been outsourced, well, that's one thing. Even so, your age and experience will have taught you about networking and organization as keystones on the road back. Going back to school for retraining is a no-brainer ... if that is a must-do.

If you are bright and young and recently out of college, then the advantage is yours. The blunt truth is that we all may need to organize, to form very small single- and dual-person companies to market our services, skills, and expertise. OR, on the other hand, organize and boycott various companies whose top brass have suck huge masses of wealth into their personal bank accounts while outsourcing local jobs.

What follows details the experience of a high school classmate of mine, and how for more than two years, aged 59-61, he did whatever it took to survive:

...[W]hen I had the job with Marmon/Keystone, I was on the road [many] hours. A normal day was two to three hundred miles. I'd leave the house no later than seven ... so I could be on time for my first appointment. I would arrive home at seven or later, after my last appointment. When home, I would spend at least an hour and a half on the computer. The sales manager wanted to have everyone's call reports from the previous day, so he could read them first thing in the morning. I had to spend that hour and a half because I had to convert my hand written call reports to e-mail form.

...I was consumed with work, with very little personal time. Weekends were about car maintenance and cleaning, and planning trips for the next couple or three weeks. Generally, Sunday was MY only day. And of course I tried to see my son, and Linda always wanted my time. It was an interesting period in my life. Still it was a great experience and I don't regret it.

[About the two-year stretch.] It was during parts my 59th, 60th and 61st years. Man, that seems like a long time ago. Getting into some of the nasty places we did, to get [CAT5 cables] pulled, I wonder how much asbestos I inhaled. ... .

When I was not employed by any company, yes, I did do odd jobs. I supported myself by doing most anything that people wanted to hire me to perform. Even Donna Eppley hired me to erect a four section vinyl fence paralleling her side walk. I did work in garages, and there was lots of yard work. I dug a ditch for drainage purposes. I worked with another guy on occasions when he needed help: constructed a deck, scraped up floor tile, installed a water heater, and electrically wired a couple of house additions. I did lots of painting. (can't for the life of me figure out how I survived that. I really dislike painting, but you do what you have to do to survive) I even worked with Bill Crabbs once when he needed help installing new windows in a house. 2

The key to Dave's story is right above; that you do what you have to do to survive If this means changing your career as an engineer or architect--or rocket scientist or neurosurgeon--[for a few years or however many years], then if it is a matter of survival, well, it's up to you.

Remember that it took the rah-rah bubbles of 2000 and 2007-8 to get us into this slime. It will take us awhile longer before the upswing gets rolling; it has already begun, but at a glacial pace. And this time, given the evolution of the plutocratic economic system--include greed [and fear and loathing] into the mess and you will have a better grasp of the situation.

Final words? I have no final words; but I have a final suggestion: persevere. 3

gary kline
December, 2010

Last update:
19 December, 2010
1.  Mucha, Jiri, Living and Partly Living, page 119, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1967. [tr E. Osers]
2.   Cline, David F., Personal Communication.
3.   Responsibility, a brief autobiographical sketch.

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