A while ago, a friend tipped me off to Professionally Unattached, which sounds like a dating site but is actually a blog about being unemployed in San Francisco. One of the bloggers talks about having a plan b, a back-up plan in case the dream job you’ve applied for falls through. Of course, both of the bloggers are employed now, with seemingly kick-ass jobs, but once the slap of bitterness wore off, I found myself reading and enjoying several of their entries.
I’ve been unemployed technically since September, though I can’t really count the month I spent traveling through Greece as time spent trying to find a job, so let’s say November – making it about 3 months since I last received a paycheck. Personally and professionally, I’ve always been the kind of person to put all their eggs in one basket. I’ve never had a plan b because I didn’t have to (insert lesbian joke here). I applied to one college. I had one job at the University of Arizona Press throughout college. After I graduated, I applied to AmeriCorps and was hired by them before moving to Chicago. When that ended, the first job I applied to was INCS, and while that did take several months to nail down, I was hired eventually and worked there for three years.
I don’t discount the fact that I was probably incredibly lucky in acquiring these jobs so easily, but to say it’s been a shock to be unemployed in San Francisco after three months of trying is a severe understatement. And it’s starting to get to me. I’ve sent almost 40 cover letters. I’ve offered myself to websites, marketing companies, nonprofits, sex toy stores and even a dog walking company (which was, sadly, the only interview I’ve managed to get thus far), part-time, full-time, freelance, inside, outside, cubicle and telecommute. I’ve had professional meetings with several great contacts that have amounted to nothing (although, at the risk of sounding ungrateful, I am scheduled to write copy for a jazz music festival at SOME point in the future). I have tried networking with everyone I know here, which is admittedly a rather small bunch, but still, I can barely get someone to return an email, let alone pay me to do anything. I’ve revised and re-designed my resume about 4 times now.
Some of this frustration, I will pin on the recession. To give you an idea of how bad it is, watch this video. The darker the color gets, the worse the unemployment is.
But supposedly, those with college degrees have the lowest unemployment numbers, at 4%. “There isn’t an unemployment disaster for this demographic” says the employed writer of this article. To which I aim a hearty skyward pointing finger at them. A degree in Creative Writing is never something I’ve thought would give me an advantage in anything, except maybe at pretentious art parties. “Of course I’m a Derridian! Look at my cardigan – it’s so absence of presence.” Ellie, whose degree is in Theater, and I joke that our degrees are in lying and crying for credit, respectively. If you think your degree is embarrassing though, try being told that you’re not qualified to walk dogs.
Throughout all my attempts at getting full-time employment, I have also been trying to freelance my writing. The problem with that though is increasingly, nobody wants to pay you for it. Or if they do pay, it’s an embarrassingly low amount. One acquaintance of mine is writing for Associated Content, which pays, no exaggeration, $2 an article, plus an additional $1.50 once your article is viewed 1,000 times. That is downright piracy. These huge companies are cashing in on the desperation and ignorance of people who don’t believe their work has any value. I wouldn’t even write them a f*ck off email for $2. Another pitfall of sites like Associated Content, Examiner, Demand Studios, etc. is they are cheapening the value of writing for everyone – writers, consumers, journalists, artists, web producers – so that no one is making any money but them. And it’s forced people to write faster articles with little research, content or merit that will satisfy whatever buzz word people are searching for at the moment.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to enjoy the beautiful sunny weather of San Francisco, which is the one big perk of my unemployment, aside from researching freakish Twilight trends, before I go back to endlessly rewriting cover letters.