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Unemployed or Underemployed? 3 Things to Stop Doing RIGHT NOW!

December 15, 2010

If you spend more than an hour listening to public radio eventually you will encounter a program where the host round-tables with guests and they bitch about how shitty the economy is.

Ever thus to deadbeats, Lebowski

It’s a bit rich coming from folks who all have jobs and whose experience with the light man coming to the door to cut off the juice is only theoretical. There are a constellation of activities the un/underemployed are expected to do in order to prove to those with jobs and no experience with being on high wire without a net that we aren’t a bunch of deadbeats whose fate is completely deserved. To be fair, this breeze isn’t just wafting from public radio; it’s everywhere. If you are un/underemployed you don’t need to hear anymore about how bad it is. You need some practical cashmoney generating advice and for corn’s sake you need some freaking hope. I can’t offer the former – as much as I wish I could – I damn sure can try to offer the later.

1. Stop listening to “employment policy analysts” and other wonks – It don’t make no kind of sense to be listening to the chow chow of folks whose livelihood is entirely dependent on you not having a job. Don’t make me break off some Lebowski logic, but seriously, who is benefiting from all of this? Is your mortgage squared up because of these folks? How about your credit rating? Has it been helped by anything these analysts or wonks have said. Un/underemployed folks do not need what amounts to “hope this helps!” advice, analysis or information. Moreover, listening to these wonks is not conducive with keeping your spirits up and your game face on as you try to hustle it out. I am the walrus indeed.

Your revolution is over! Condolences! The bums lost!

2. Stop viewing volunteering as a means of securing paying positions – Having worked in the non-profit sector in the capacity of volunteer management I can assure you the folks who find positions via this channel are people who aren’t hurting for cash or employment anyway. In addition, I have not observed any non-profit to be effectively able to value the work of unpaid staff. I’ve seen unpaid staff abused, their efforts diminished and when a paid position opens these same “valued team members” are overlooked in favor of someone who didn’t give up their skills for free. If you can’t put food on the table, you can’t be fooling around with some volunteering. If people want your skill set they’re gonna have to pay for it. If they can’t, well they don’t need your skills that badly. Non-profit sector has long enjoyed some kind of impeachable status as it relates to volunteers, despite having a problematic history with its cultivation and retention of them. Here’s some real talk, sports fans: people rarely value that which doesn’t require them to compensate the person providing it. Besides, why would they pay you for shit they got you to do for free? I love volunteering, but I have to come to terms with the reality of it as it is practiced in the US. It’s a class comfy person’s game. It shouldn’t be; don’t kid yourself it is. So if you are considering volunteering they’re gonna have to show you the money. Be it gas money or a standing offer to provide a quality reference – complete with detailed glowing letter and availability to field requests for information from prospective employers. That said, volunteering to give back and do good works is entirely different animal, which I’m not talking about here.

3. Stop “bucking up” leave them bootstraps alone and to hell with the “bright side” – You have the right to be depressed, bitter and resentful and nobody has the right to take those feelings from you. You are allowed to watch television all day, snark on rich people, curse the heavens, buy pricey foods with EBT cards, scoff at any suggestions to treat “job hunting like a job”, cry, feel sorry for yourself or sleep all day. I don’t care if you’ve been un/underemployed for a minute or a year or beyond. You have the right to feel whatever emotions you’re feeling and take care of yourself in the manner you see fit. If folks want to dictate how you spend your freaking time, they ought to freaking pay you for it.

But wait… there’s more!

Spend a little time each day not thinking about finding work, bills, or money and engaged in an activity that you love and are good atMy pen love got me through some really rough spots and ultimately has brought me greater “success” than anything else I’m currently doing. I know, right? But in the beginning when I was on my hopeless job search where I was getting doors slammed in my face like I was in a damn Egoiste commercial I spent a bit of time a day writing in my journals and fondling my pen collection. It, of course, doesn’t have to be pens. It can be anything!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2010 1:52 pm

    1 and 2 I have down, but thanks for the reminder on 3!!

  2. fsparks permalink
    December 15, 2010 2:18 pm

    I needed #s 1- 3 big time!! Thanks snarkysmachine.

  3. Hsofia permalink
    December 15, 2010 4:42 pm

    #3 is great, but don’t forget about the people you live with – try not to lash out at them.

  4. blackgirlinmaine permalink
    December 15, 2010 5:31 pm

    I love it! As you know I am in the non-profit sector and in 15 years I have never ever seen a volunteer get hired…it rarely happens. I agree the folks giving the advice should STFU better yet spend some time unemployed and then come back and talk. Frankly when your cheddar is short volunteering for free is pointless, I mean you are wasting good gas money, etc.

    Great post!

  5. December 16, 2010 12:39 am

    Thank you for #3!

    I’m currently volunteering with a non-profit but I don’t really have any illusions that it’ll lead to a paying job. Luckily I find it personally rewarding and closer to what I’d actually like to be doing (as opposed to my paying retail job) so it’s worth it. Plus I’m sure I can get good references/resume fodder out of it since it’s a small group and I get to know the guy in charge pretty well. And he got me a cool christmas present as compensation! That being said it is pretty sad how many people are settling for volunteering/”internships” just because they can’t find a paid position.

  6. December 16, 2010 12:43 am

    ❤ ❤ ❤

    That is all.

  7. Gwen permalink
    December 16, 2010 1:10 am

    Thank you.

  8. December 17, 2010 10:58 am

    YES. Volunteering can be a snake pit and it is best to know this now.

    I have worked in an area that deals with a lot of volunteers. The people who run that program are VERY clear that volunteering WILL NOT lead to a job. That’s not to say it hasn’t happened in the past, but it’s like winning the lottery — jobs rarely open, and when they do, there are armies of retired volunteers with 20 years experience beating down the doors, so your couple of months with the program adds up to a whole lot of who cares. But still, about once a month, somebody quits their program because they were sure it would lead to a job, and no job is forthcoming, and they thought we were putting them on when we said as much.

    (A brief aside here to say that in a lot of cases, the work that volunteers are doing are things that SHOULD be funded enough that volunteers are not a necessity, but a bonus, and it is no sweet wonder that volunteers doing what are actual jobs — and dealing with supervision and bureaucracy and yearly reviews as if they are actual jobs — frequently throw a fucking fit and run off because after doing an actual job for years, they are told they aren’t qualified to be paid for what they’ve been doing.)

    The program also has a rule that they do not accept volunteers who are unemployed and actively job-hunting. There are good reasons for this, from the program’s perspective. A person who suddenly gets a job is a person whose schedule and priorities suddenly change, and they might leave the program in a lurch. But it effectively limits the pool of volunteers to the very privileged and the very retired; those are the only people who can prioritize something in their lives other than getting a paycheck, which volunteering pretty much requires you to be able to do.

    So you end up with a pool of volunteers assigned to help demographics that could never fucking afford to volunteer (and these are the folk with the most to offer a volunteer program), and then you (not so rarely) end up with bitter angry volunteers because nobody is being properly grateful for their ignorant, meddlesome, privileged help. Not to mention, it is not lost on the people being helped by volunteers that getting them some assistance and support isn’t considered important enough that money, training, or employees should be involved; making another pass of pamphlets and a sign-up sheet at a retirement community is what their serious life circumstances are worth.

    This program I’m talking about makes a very focused, particularly aggressive effort to appreciate and accommodate and heartily love their volunteers. There are gifts, parties, free training programs, hand-written letters, tiny perks of no real value except the fact that somebody tried to give you a perk, and there are people on call 24 hours a day just to help the volunteers out. Which takes money, and takes people who are actually paid in real money and real jobs to make volunteers happy and competent. But the program is just a program — it’s run by a larger group of muckety-mucks, and their attitude is always, “Just get a volunteer to do it, they’re free, right? Why do volunteers need paid office staff to help them? Can’t we just get volunteers to do the office work? Get a volunteer to be the supervisor of the volunteers. While we’re at it, just replace the custodial staff with volunteers, too, tell them you’ll give them a college reference. Yeah, just get the volunteers to do everything. What, they don’t want to do everything for free? Then they should get jobs, what a bunch of selfish whiners — don’t they care about community?”

  9. December 17, 2010 2:27 pm

    “Just get a volunteer to do it, they’re free, right? Why do volunteers need paid office staff to help them? Can’t we just get volunteers to do the office work? Get a volunteer to be the supervisor of the volunteers. While we’re at it, just replace the custodial staff with volunteers, too, tell them you’ll give them a college reference. Yeah, just get the volunteers to do everything. What, they don’t want to do everything for free? Then they should get jobs, what a bunch of selfish whiners — don’t they care about community?”

    This sounds like every single non-profit I’ve ever worked with or for. Everything is always about getting some poor unpaid sap to do this high quality work. It’s worse for things like Grant Writing, which orgs never seem think they should have to pay for, because they’re doing good works doncha know? Frankly, I am harsher on Non-Profits because I find them to be so much more exploitative of their staff with this puritanical notion that hard unpaid work is good for the soul or something, which, honestly I think is bullshit.

  10. December 18, 2010 11:05 am

    There’s a Cometbus somewhere where Aaron Cometbus is talking about one of his first jobs at a family-owned business. The family aspect was very nice, and all the employees were sort of invited to be a part of the family in a encouraging community sort of way, but it made for bad boundaries. When you did good, you were a good employee. When you did bad, you were a bad son. Non-profits act a lot like that sometimes. They’re on a world-saving mission, what they do is important, noble, wonderful, saving lives or maybe trees or manatees. But when you do well, you’re a good employee/volunteer/intern/contractor, and no more — you certainly don’t get paid or praised like you have just saved the final messiah manatee. When you do badly, you’re DESTROYING THE VERY EARTH AND KILLING ALL THE STARVING CHILDREN I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY WITH THIS TPS REPORT.

  11. blackgirlinmaine permalink
    December 19, 2010 11:18 am

    It’s hard to change the culture of non-profits though especially the ones that have come to use volunteers in lieu of paid staff but it can happen. I run an organization that for 5 years had this amazing volunteer, dude was the volunteer program manager, custodial engineer and basically these folks were taking advantage of him. Man worked almost 40 hours a week for a free bus pass and the end of year gift card.

    Well when I came on board things changed and our programs expanded but my board took it for granted he would stay with us, long and the short he finally snapped and quit. I ended up hiring staff but the wages are low and now the board is finally realizing that I knew what I was talking about when I said we had to pay folks and pay em a decent wage. So progress is happening but its slow.

    I agree it’s worse for grant writing, my side gig (see even being the executive director I need a side hustle which is grant writing) and I am always amazed when people approach me about helping out their organization yet when I mention rates they look at me crazy. Worse is when I explain that I do bill for research time….um, I can’t spent 20+ hours doing research and not get paid. People really do have this jacked up opinion that such services should be free. I do think its compounded by the fact that everyone thinks they can write a grant.

    I was in a situation recently where someone with no knowledge of grants wrote a grant though it was going to get funded, of course it didn’t and they got an attitude when I explained all that was wrong with that grant. SMDH.

    Nope, don’t feel bad for going hard on NPO’s, they deserve it in many cases.

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