Unemployment and a Web 2.0 Challenge

Date Put forth on November 8, 2007 by XicanoPwr
Category Posted in Unemployment


In our need for a sense of control during uncertain times, we are deeply driven to keep a sense of identity – “who we are.” We cannot deny we describe ourselves in terms of the work we do along with the type of family relationships we currently are in: “I” am a Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher or Engineer; “I” am married, single, or divorced. Throughout our lives, we have learned this type of classification and when the situation is changed or lost, our world is turned upside down.

Last week, the Labor Department reported that employment rose by 166,000 in October, yet, unemployment remained unchanged at 4.7 percent. Strong gains in both services and government jobs offset declines in both manufacturing and construction. According to the Labor Department, Professional and Business Services created 65,000 jobs (mostly temporary help), 45,000 jobs were added in the Leisure and Hospitality category (mostly food service), Education and Health Services added 43,000 spots (mostly ambulatory and health care), and Government payrolls increased by 36,000 (mostly at the local level). Manufacturing lost 21,000 jobs and construction payrolls declined by 5,000, led by a loss of 21,000 jobs in residential construction that were only partially offset by an increase of 15,000 in non-residential construction.

The flexibility of the labor market is generally considered a source of strength for the US economy. However, some people remain jobless for a long time. A recent report from Congressional Budget Office (CBO) illustrate the dynamics of unemployment. In 2006, an average of 2.6 million people became unemployed each month. On average, about 1 in 6 unemployed people in 2006 (1.2 million) were unemployed for more than half a year, even though the overall unemployment rate was low. As a result, unemployment may have lasting effects, such as losing the opportunity to earn income, gain work experience, and, in some cases, receive health insurance and other non-wage benefits provided by employers. CBO also found that African Americans and Latinos/as were much more likely to have been unemployed than whites. Moreover, higher percentages of them had at least one long-term spell of unemployment.

Not all unemployment begin with a worker leaving a job, nor do spell nor do always end because the person were looking for another job. According to CBO found that long-term unemployment appear to have resulted from job loss, rather than from the workers quitting their jobs. Psychologist Edward Diener found that there are two life events powerful enough to derail a person’s normal sense of well-being: loss of a spouse and loss of a job. Diener noted:

It takes five to eight years for a widow to regain her previous sense of well-being. Similarly, the effects of a job loss linger long after the individual has returned to the work force.

One could argue that equating job loss with the loss of a spouse is like comparing apples with oranges. However, the emotional impact of losing a job has a powerful symbolic meaning. A threat on this type of symbolic value can produce devastating and lasting emotional consequences.

According to psychologist Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness, there are three components one needs to find happiness – pleasure, engagement, and meaning, with the last two explaining why losing a job can be so devastating to a person. Seligman defines engagement as “the depth of involvement with one’s family, work, romance, and hobbies,” while meaning refers to “using personal strengths to serve some larger end.” Having a job brings “meaning” in the sense of one’s personal worth and identity. As a person loses a job, they suddenly feel they have been stripped of both; leaving them a gap that needs to be filled. This explains why the initial response is profound shock, following with depression, and in some cases, anger directed towards their former bosses.

Since we do go through life labeling every facet of our lives, the type of response we give – “what we do” – becomes the heart of numerous subtle judgments, ranging from a person’s worth, financial status, intelligence, education level, ambition, and social position. Nevertheless, if one no longer has that “label,” we have no status.

Language can be a bane of human existence. So just imagine, if you no longer have that magical “label” is looking for, we are not only admitting to ourselves but to the world, “I don’t do anything,” which many see it as an equivalent of saying “I am nothing.” Depending on how long a person is unemployed, less value is put on you.

Do we automatically imprison ourselves, as soon as we turn to classifications? Many presume that, if you are unemployed, you must be either “lazy” or “defective” because we have been taught that if a person who does not a job, they lack meaning. When we persist in these identifications, we thrust ourselves into those labels so eagerly that we make them come true, which can lead to feeling vulnerable and eventually hopelessness. The hardest part about being unemployed is not letting the games your mind will play on you.

In these circumstances, there is a tendency to withdraw, feelings of shame and lack of self-esteem. This extends to a decline in the libido, insomnia, a loss of sexual desire and an inability to respond to or give affection. In contrast, where the victimized worker socializes their private discontent and converts it into a public problem, they are more likely to join social movements, which channel aggression outward towards the status quo.

Two years ago, I was laid off and since then, I am still unemployed. I guess it is really all a question of will power, to remain upbeat. Thanks to being unemployed, I have become the master of will power. I have become very good at maintaining self-control of my feelings, smiling and avoiding the question or making up ways to fit neatly into the social mainstream when people ask me. I guess I do this not only to avoid my own embarrassment but also the person who is asking.

Being unemployed and in my 30s, I am seen as social pariah. Telling people, many of them back away quickly with looks of fear in their eyes, and terrified that I will some how infect them with the job-loss virus.

Because the December holidays have come around one more time, the emptiness has slowly begun to take over. It has become a painful reminder what has been missing in my life. There is so much that one can do in a day pore over job sites looking for that small glimmer of hope that somebody actually thinks you are good enough to work for them. I have applied for literally every job I felt I qualified for, and nineteen times out of twenty, I didn’t hear back. We are talking about jobs for which I knew I was the ideal candidate. During the year, I have been a finalist for several, but never got the position, because either, I was told, “how intelligent I am, but …” or the job went to another person who knew somebody in the inside. Even in jobs where I knew somebody in the inside, I was passed over because the person who was hired knew somebody higher. Each time I am told, it has reinforced my own internalized inferiority complex that has overwhelmed my heart with feelings that I am under-educated, unqualified, skill-less, useless, and worthless.

Maybe it is the holidays that are making me so melancholy, because the rest of the time, I have found it easier than to live without caring what people thing. Or maybe I beginning to feel that that I am not contributing to society by blogging. So I have come up with an idea that is a social media experiment. I got this idea from Evelyn Rodriguez at Crossroads Dispatches.

About a year ago, she asked bloggers to help a person get home by using online tools.

Part of my idea involves getting bloggers and the like to videoblog him each day as he wends his way back to Nola in a “connective” manner.

And maybe we’d help him get to the next leg on his journey using online tools (whether Craigslist to score a ride to Austin, or MySpace to post his music and get a small audience following him on the road, or CouchSurfing.com for a place to crash, etc etc).

The fact is the web has changed how we define the meaning of friendship. It is clear that our entire concept of friendships has evolved due to the web, which has led to a change how we experience friendship. With all the different online resources, people whom I would have considered to be an acquaintance, I now consider them as a friend.

I believe that everyone brings something to the table. So why does it have to be a physical preference? If Web 2.0 is about connecting people, ideas and resources, then I would like to utilize it. Most of us have embraced online applications to do the bulk of our work, while at the same time we rely on the power of social media sites to stay in touch with our peers and build our extended networks.

My little experiment is to see if people actually are willing to walk their talk. Let’s face it we talk about being activists, helping people in need. Well, I am in need. I have never really asked people for help, but at this time, I am looking to this venue for help. I am not talking about getting a foot in the door, that has been done, I am talking about being employed.

When I was in college, I often heard heard the benefits of joining a fraternity or sorority. One of their selling points was that not only are members informed about a wide array of opportunities, but the purpose of the organization is to get members into positions of power and have those members hire other members. What I am hoping in conducting this little experiment is to see if this is true or not.

The way I see this, we must be willing to tosses each other a bone. Web 2.0 is about utilizing all the online tools at our disposals to get the word out. It is easy for people to rally around an issue, but when it comes to individuals, rarely, are we willing to take a chance. We have been conditioned to believe that we should kick the little people to the curb. And for good reason, this has occurred very often.

But the question I think we really should ask ourselves is why do it? Why do we continue to prove this idea correct? Have we really lost faith in each other? Better yet, have we lowered the level of expectation we have on each other?

Here are the basic facts about myself.

EDUCATION: MSW with a concentration in Macro Social Work and Community Development

WORK EXPERIENCE SKILLS:

  • program evaluation;
  • assisted in a variety of reports through writing, editing and formatting as needed;
  • researching social service trends;
  • data analysis for agency reports;
  • advising program coordinators on identification of appropriate performance indicators;
  • assisted in the research of potential funding opportunities;
  • assisted in the grant writing process through writing, editing and formatting as needed;
  • managing the organization’s information systems, including computer operations, systems programming, applications programming and networks;
  • analyze the needs of the organization;
  • identified Federal, State, and local funding sources;
  • assisted in variety of written community development and neighborhood plans, reports and working papers through writing, editing and formatting as needed;
  • developed project proposals in the areas of housing and community development;
  • advised agency planners and administrators on relevant government regulations and industry trends;
  • provided assistance to the department’s annual request for applications for funding process

Managed Projects:
Project Administrator of HUD’s Continuum of Care Planning Process at the local level. Fiscal Year 1998, 1999 and 2000)

  • organized applicants’ orientation and training conference;
  • provided applicants with technical assistance on application process;
  • provided applicants with technical assistance on outcome measures and program evaluation;
  • developed training materials for proposal reviewers;
  • trained proposal reviewers;
  • compiled summative project report
  • responded to general and specific technical information requests generated through mail, email, and telephone contact

If you know of something or somebody, please contact me.

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  1. odd Geoffrey Philp « Professor Zero Trackback on Nov 11th, 2007 at 8:11 pm
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11 Comments

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  1. Gravatar Icon Nezua Limon Xolagrafik-Jonez Nov 9th, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    damn bro. without even reading your rez, i just cannot imagine why a person so smart and motivated is unemployed still. you KNOW shit ain’t right with the economy. i would definitely hire you if i had any work that was worth your ability and time. we are definitely blogmigos and i always try to throw you any bones i get. and always will. let’s hope good things come of this. i’ll keep my eyes open. i’ma think on this.

  2. Gravatar Icon HispanicPundit Nov 9th, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    I forwarded your post to social worker friends I have…aver que dicen. Hopefully they can help.

  3. Gravatar Icon Nezua Limon Xolagrafik-Jonez Nov 10th, 2007 at 8:45 am

    yo, i always hated that question, by the way. “what do you do?” hated it. and i’m not afraid to say what i believe in, what i hope for, what i fight for, what i love to spend my time doing…but that phrase….”what do you do?” leaves me cold. for the same reasons. its just a quick way to peg someone and sometimes stick them in a slot.

  4. Gravatar Icon Robert Corcoran Neves Nov 10th, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    It takes me a long time to answer that “what do you do” question Nez, and then finally the person says, what’s your real job?, and of course I haven’t had a real job in over 30 years, then they get anxious and want to know how I make my money and we are back to the beginning again.
    XP, is there no way for you to make your own job or jobs?

  5. Gravatar Icon Richard Grabman Nov 10th, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    Damn, X — I had to print out your esssay, and I’ll need to read it over when I recover from my “underemployment” so-called job — and will email then

    In the meantime, a couple of thoughts. It sort of embarrassed me when, working a few hours a week as the local reporter for an out-of-town paper, I’d be introduced as “a journalist”.

    Hell, I’m more than that. I’m also the guy who writes the Mex Files, a historian of U.S.-Mexican relations, a “retired” expert on telecommunications technology and steel production (don’t ask — I’ve had to write more than I care to remember on both )– and probably a lot of other stuff. For MONEY, right now I’m a (not-so) glorified taxi-driver , amking not quite the federal poverty level for a single person (and being a single person who is probably elgible for indigent healthcare makes it semi-bearable).

    I understand it, but TRY to reject the idea that I am my “job.” Naw — the job is something I have to do to live my life. And, my life is going to continually change (and end at some point). So, I’m not the hunka-hunka burning… if … not love… at least I was a hottie into my 40s!

    (my only point in bringing that up is that I was knocking myself out trying to prove the worth of my academic creds in the business world, when I found I was appreciated for something I’d never even thought much about until then).

    Unfortunately, THIS society judges our worth by our economic achievement. It’s fuckin’ sick… my ex- is an ex- becase he hated his job, but defined himself in terms of his job and couldn’t tell me (or even himself) what he wanted for his life, or who he was.

    I’m OK (most of the time) with my condition — though I panic about the bills. Right now, I’m doing something productive (getting my book done) and surviving. WHen the book is done, THEN I’ll have to do something else to justifcy my life to me. NOT TO ANYONE ELSE!!

    All that said, I’ll ask around about your resume. Out here, we have a crying need for underpaid social workers.

  6. Gravatar Icon luisa Nov 10th, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    damn, XP. I wish I could help. currently, i am serving coffee and washing dishes at a cafe. two days a week. minimum wage. so i understand. it sucks. i sure know how to make some good coffee thu! and i serve it in the cleanest cup around!

    i don’t like hegel but his writings on the importance of meaning work i think are pretty accurate. for some reason, when something bad happens and i am not working, i have way too much time to think about it and i get depressed easily. i need a job that i have to use my brains for or else i’ll go crazy. i’m getting cabin fevor…

    anyways, what you do in bloglandia is very important and i hope that when (yes, when) you get that great, fullfilling job you will still keep this place up. good luck with the experiment!

    hey, lurkers, tell XP how much you appriciate the blog! you shy lurkers! show some love!

  7. Gravatar Icon luisa Nov 10th, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    oops. “meaning work”=meaningful work.

  8. Gravatar Icon cero Nov 11th, 2007 at 1:08 am

    Do you need to stay where you are or are you in a position to move? It would seem to me that in New Orleans …
    although I could be wrong.

    This is a great post in any case.

    Pleasure, engagement, meaning: I do not have enough of any of these in my *job* and I am *employed.* That triad of words makes a lot of sense. I will think about this. I like my blog and my ceramics class … hmmm …

    Anyway I will keep this in mind. It really seems odd to e that you wouldn’t have gotten a job yet but then y 2 highly skilled friends who had job loss stayed unemployed for about 2 years each, also.

  9. Gravatar Icon cero Nov 12th, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    XP, FYI a commentator of mine in Australia tried to follow links to you from a post of mine (whose links are working for me) and got the error message pasted in below. Thought you should know … the link goes straight to your main page, http://xicanopwr.com, so I am not sure what the problem is.

    Forbidden
    You don’t have permission to access / on this server.

    Additionally, a 403 Forbidden error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Apache/1.3.39 Server at xicanopwr.com Port 80

  10. Gravatar Icon yave begnet Nov 15th, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Ok, I’ve been called out as a lurker by Luisa. Sorry ’bout that. That’s an insightful post, par for the course on an insightful blog, and I wish you luck in the job hunt. For my part, I’ll link to your post on my minimally-trafficked blog and keep my eyes open for any opportunities.

  11. Gravatar Icon luisa Nov 18th, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    yippy, Yave!

    now, more lurkers must come out of the darkness! I mean, just think of all the free political insight you get from XP on a daily basis! he doesn’t ask for anything in return. come to the light lurkers!

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