Just getting a job isn’t enough

Will work for salary and benefits

If you’ve been unemployed long enough and are surrounded by caring and helpful people like I am you will have to get used to the advice that you should take any job.  The job is the goal, nothing else matters.  Not the money, not the circumstances, not the benefits.  Nothing else.  There is no real thought behind this statement but there is a lot of emotion.  I’ve already discussed how being unemployed makes other people uncomfortable and how your unemployment will make people you meet wiser than you.  Put those together and you get, “You just need to get a job, Period.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I want a job but just getting a job isn’t enough.  You will have to figure your minimum threshold out yourself but let me demonstrate with my situation.  I’m married with an eight year old son.  My wife works part time and has to travel throughout the day for her job so we decided to cut back expenses and rely on one car.  I have occasionally gotten some contract work that can mostly be done from my computer.  We pay for rent and medical insurance.  We don’t have enough coming in from my wife’s work so I have been supplementing our shortfall by borrowing off my retirement.  Our credit is still good.  These are all important facts, facts not considered by others when they try to “fix” my employment problem.

So you might say to me, “Get a job, any job.”  That’s fine and dandy from your perspective but not from mine.  Consider this, I don’t live near public transportation and my wife has odd hours in several counties doing counseling work.  If I have to use the car for an interview or some contract work I can but we have to work that out carefully.  If the need were important enough she’d have to cancel appointments and lose the pay.  An out of town job interview means renting a car.  Therefore any job I take means buying a car and getting insurance.  As one “helpful” older friend sighed, “no big deal, you can get a cheap car for $5,000.”  Again, there is no thought to this.  I pointed out that you get what you pay for.  Great I’ve got a running car.  What happens if the cheap car breaks down?  Who pays for that?  A small job and a broken down car won’t pay any bills.  If I lose the job I still have the car to pay for.

In addition, when accepting a job you have to be hard nosed enough to decide if it pays the bills or not.  You’ve got to figure out what you need to pay all the expenses, including the loans you might have, as well as any new expenses taking the job entails.  Even without planning for the inevitable emergency you have to realize that some jobs just don’t pay enough for your situation.  Don’t swap losing money monthly but having the freedom to retool, research jobs, and interview at will in exchange for losing less money monthly and losing the ability to react to opportunities.

A middle ground would be to go for part time work.  Less money, no benefits but still flexibility in looking for better, more appropriate work.  This would somewhat satisfy others and get you some money to boot.  But in my case doesn’t fit the car problem.

Next, and let’s be honest here, there is a self-esteem issue both for you and your family.  You have got to stay positive and upbeat.  You have to maintain that sense of self-esteem.  Being unemployed is hard and you have to make hard decisions.  One of those decisions might be to take any job or hold out for what you’re capable of.  Pick one and be proud of it.  Only you can decide.

I also have to throw in the fact that I’ve seen how people react to employment status.  Consider this.  There is a difference between saying, “I’m unemployed,” “I work for McDonald’s while I look for work in my field,” and “I’m a consultant but I want to collaborate with others in a company setting.”  The “I’m unemployed” smacks of being lazy or giving up whether or not that’s the case.  If as a middle aged, white collar worker like me you throw out that you’re working at McDonalds then people just feel pity for you and potential employers fill in that employment gap with an unemployable plug.  For me, starting a consulting company however small my earnings are was by far the best choice.

Let me make this perfectly clear.  My approach is a gamble.  I talked it over with my family, looked very hard at our retirement savings, and weighed my employability both with and without that “any job.”  I came to the decision to wait for a job that covers all our bills and stays around my capabilities threshold.  My advice to me is the same I give to my son when he has to make a hard decision.  I employ a baseball analogy.  Any pitch you throw in the 9th inning may win or lose the game.  But if you lose, years from now, as you look back, you are going to want to know that you staked everything on your best pitch.  And no one can decide for you what that pitch is.

This is one of my fundamentals of unemployment.


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