Recently, I wrote an entry advising those who constantly complain about their job to be grateful to be gainfully employed. While I still agree with that sentiment overall, one letter sent in by a reader reminded me that the frustration many workers deal with on a daily basis can sometimes be too overbearing.
Her words made it clear that being grateful to be employed doesn’t negate that far too many people – namely black people – have spent years educating themselves only to end up with positions that are both unchallenging and low paying.
In her letter, Felicia, who recently earned her master’s degree, details how she now finds herself working a job that pays less than her internship did while her paler counterparts in school have had it far easier than she and other recent black graduates.
“I compare finding a job in this recession to being locked in a hallway. It’s likely that every door you may try to access will be locked – however, you keep hearing voices and therefore know people are inside. You start to wonder what is wrong with me that they can get in and I can’t.
I remember experiencing such a feeling after finishing undergrad. I noticed a significant difference between the rates at which my black and white college-educated peers found employment. My white peers were exiting the hallway of unemployment at what seem to be a greater rate. Meanwhile, my black peers were struggling to find minimum wage jobs.
After finishing college in 2006, I myself struggled to find a job. I thought going to graduate school would help me find direction, give me knowledge in a specialized area and enhance my résumé. Last fall, I received my masters around the same time the markets tumbled and the recession was truly acknowledged. Securing viable employment over the last seven months has been a struggle for me like a lot of Americans.
Recently, I became successful in landing a job: I was offered a job as an office clerk – making less money than I did as an intern. Still, I accepted the position for the sake of having health benefits and because my phone wasn’t ringing with any competing offers.
So, in a few short months, I went from studying multiple regressions to stuffing envelopes and loading the copier with paper. Even more frustrating is the fact that many of my co-workers are white, a few years younger than me, and do not have a college education or the professional experience I have.
Yet, they make considerably more money than me and hold stronger titles (i.e. my boss). This experience has been humbling to say the least.
I know what you may be thinking, at least I’m employed and things will eventually get better. However, when you are smart, ambitious and eager a dream differed is a painful and expensive waiting period. My loans are due, my self esteem is low and as funny as it sounds, when I see my peers from college and grad school I hide because I don’t want to answer the dreaded question, 'What are you up to?'”
Does Felicia’s experience mirror yours? Have you, too, felt embarrassed about your current employment and/or financial situation as a result of the recession?
If so, I’d love to hear from you.
Leave your comments below or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.