It’s Labor Day. Let’s Talk About Jobs.

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I don’t even know where to begin this post. There’s the fact that even bringing the words “jobs” and “recession” into the mix here at Lifting Fog means we’re already overextending ourselves, discussing BIG topics well outside our usual purview. Then you consider tone — can you talk about these things in a way that’s still funny, and entertaining? What number of Shia LeBeouf jokes is appropriate? (Two, probably.) Part of me wonders if tackling anything serious — and “Harry Potter reflections” DOESN’T COUNT — is in direct violation of our stated blogging mission:

…Sweet, ignorant relief.

That is definitely the target we tend to hit! But against the backdrop of a Labor Day underscored by continued 9.1% unemployment and zero job growth in the US this past month (and also the upcoming September 11th anniversary, so…), it feels oddly okay to cut the laugh track for a minute and dive into some actual, real issues. You think I’m kidding? Look at this serious face:

If that doesn’t scream “no bullsh*t editorial,” I don’t know what does.

Your time in the Real World starts, I’ve learned, the minute you leave your formal school setting behind. For me that was three years ago, when I was forcefully pulled from the Morningside Heights bubble. Since then I’ve held a number of odd, months-long jobs, among them:

Tutor
– Dog walker
Assistant Swim Coach
– Blogger (not just here, either!)
Cabana Boy
Counter Server
– Babysitter
Script Reader

(Replace a few of those titles with “intern” and you have maybe a more accurate resume, but we’re not here to debate semantics.)
In many ways the gig path is one I’ve followed out of necessity. I want to work in the entertainment industry, writing for television and film, and the road there is (romantically!) paved with table-waiting and temporary secretarial work and “favors.” Hell — even the Great Job you’re shooting for is likely only temporary. Sh*t My Dad Says, anyone?

As of today I’d describe myself as a “Barnes & Noble bookseller-cum-aspiring television writer,” which means I direct you to the store’s clearly labeled and located ‘The Help’ displays while wondering what character you’d be in a sitcom. Am I proud of the position? Not terribly, no. But things are not so bad!

And anyway, whatever frustrations I may be feeling with my current station in life (that I’m not rich? Drink Gordon’s, and not Bombay Sapphire gin? BOO HOO CRACKER BARREL) pale in comparison to those felt by way too many Americans. It’s shitty out there for anyone looking for a job, and by “anyone” I mean exactly that: recent college grads; fired Baby Boomers. Even the old men you always saw working at McDonald’s to supplement their pension are struggling to find those opportunities today. People who want to work can’t work. And people who are working can’t risk not working. They call that a Catch-22, and in this case a Catch-22 that sucks more ass than usual.

The Atlantic has been publishing reader-submitted accounts of the job market today that are at once fantastic and vital…and also the most heartbreaking stories you’ll ever read. Their latest series, featuring voices from our “Millenial” generation, is about as fun as Precious:

I spent 15 months searching for a full-time job out of school. Over 600 applications in total, and I received a call back for an interview from 3 of those (1 was part-time). Over those 15 months, I stripped my resume from that of an award-winning broadcaster graduating summa cum laude to literally making up secretarial experience to make myself appear qualified for administrative assistant positions. Why? Because after literally hundreds of applications for assistant positions, I received zero calls back.

I want to blame the universities and “grown-ups” who I feel should have known better. They were the ones, after all, peddling the mantra of “go to college, study hard, get a job.” Instead, egotistical like the rest of my me-first, entitlement ridden generation, I blame myself.

Overall, I’m concerned for my generation in light of this recession-depression-what-are-we-even-calling-it-now. What if we, as individuals, don’t fully recover from this? I think we’ll go down as a Lost Generation before too long.

It makes me goddamn cry to even consider that last thought, but it doesn’t feel entirely unfounded. With each new day that someone goes unemployed (or underemployed) the prospect of finding good, fulfilling work proves that much more elusive. What do we do? How do we pull ourselves out of what feels like a long, steady tailspin? It’s so formidable an undertaking that right now I barely have the energy to yell “not that TaleSpin, nostalgia freaks!” as much as I DESPERATELY want to.

Obama is slated to deliver a big jobs speech to Congress Thursday night that might lay the groundwork for employment progress. And of course fall TV is on its way back, promising new story lines to replace those you’ve already watched and re-watched on Netflix. But short of some dramatic overhaul to our working system (maybe a new New Deal, as suggested here), there seems to be very little power we have on our own to make things better. The only option, really, is to just keep plugging away. “Just keep swimming.” And to empathize, sincerely, with those struggling to even get in the water.

Tomorrow: Stories about farts.

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4 Responses to “It’s Labor Day. Let’s Talk About Jobs.”

  1. Jeff Hull (@jsh2134) Says:

    ….And the bankers are back to getting paid what they did before the crash http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/taleb1/English

    • Henning Says:

      I don’t claim to understand…a lot of that article, but the fact that it’s taxpayers and RETIREES footing the bill here I find reprehensible. Fun fun fun.

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