Living with credit

So this is what being unemployed is like

If you had asked three weeks ago, I would have told you my financial future was set. My belongings were boxed up, and I was on my way to law school with plenty of financial aid from Uncle Sam. But my plans changed, and like so many others, I found myself unemployed and unsure of how to meet expenses.

The economic conditions during the past few years have not been kind to people in my situation. The average job seeker is unemployed for about five months before finding work, according to July 2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet this estimate lumps all the unemployed together. It doesn’t distinguish between candidates who are more attractive to employers, such as those with relevant job experience, and those who are new to the workforce. The picture is less rosy for many recent graduates like me.

Americans' financial worriesOnly 56 percent of college graduates from the class of 2010 (my graduation year) have been employed in some way since receiving their diplomas, according to a May 2011 report from the John. J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. The median starting salary for those lucky enough to snag employment has sunk from $30,000 to $27,000.

So when it comes to Americans’ top financial concerns, I can now commiserate. The fiscal issues most worrisome to the average family include a lack of money, high health care costs, debt and unemployment, respectively, according a July 2011 Gallup poll.

Amen. After living off the dregs of my checking account for as long as possible, I had to do something completely unglamorous. I became one of the many young people who moved back home with a parent. It’s rough to go from financially independent and on your own, to waking up in the same bedroom that you did back in the third grade. Nothing was more humbling for me than depending on my family for meals again.

Thankfully, my sob story is short and has a happy ending. I was offered a full-time job several days ago. I will soon be able to pay my bills again, unaided, and move out if I so please. After getting over the initial shock of being unemployed by consuming massive amounts of ice cream, here’s what I did to improve my financial situation as fast as possible: I emailed and called every person I knew who might have a good job lead. I contacted former professors and bosses, and even friends with steady jobs.

A recent New York Times article quotes a graduate saying he’s discovered who you know is an important factor when it comes to finding a job. I couldn’t agree more. I applied to approximately 20 jobs during the past three weeks. Of those, I had a personal connection to one position. I heard back from two people; one emailed to tell me sorry, but seven professionally experienced applicants applied for the same entry-level job that I did. The other, that I was eventually hired by, allowed me to interview because of one of my former supervisor’s recommendations. No one else contacted me.

For those facing similar employment predicaments, my best piece of advice is don’t forget about the friends you’ve made at school and at work. They ended up being a major, if not the main, reason for my successful job hunt — I guess sometimes it takes a little dependence to reach financial independence.

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