Sunday, January 12, 2014

From Staff Expert to Unemployment Statistic

I am 32 years old. Both of my parents have died from cancer within the last 4 years. My brother, and only sibling, still struggles with drug addiction and only calls when he needs money. I persevered through unimaginable adversity over the course of a decade to get my B.S. degree so I could get "a real job;" have a career. That's what everyone said for as long as I can remember, "education is the way," "you got to get a college degree." 

Although I graduated when unemployment was nearing double-digit figures, I remained optimistic because I had graduated with honors so I was sure that would set me apart. I landed my first "real job" as an entry level software tester 2 years later. By the end of my first year I had become the Subject Matter Expert (SME) for testing mobile applications. Only 4 months away from celebrating my second anniversary the company announced that contract negotiations to outsource all test execution activities were complete and, just like that, my position was eliminated. 

I received a severance package based on my years of service, but it did not last long because my untaxed unemployment benefit is literally half of what my net income was when I was employed. Not only did my income drop by half, but my medical expenses have increased significantly since I lost health insurance coverage when I could not afford the ridiculous COBRA rates. For instance, an injection I must get at the doctor's office every 12 weeks went from a $25 co-pay to $124.50 -- 498% increase. On the upside, I've learned that I was paying more in premiums for the health insurance coverage than the insurance company was paying out to the pharmacies and doctors' offices.

I've had a number of interviews and many calls from recruiters, but no offers because "they decided to go in a different direction," "not the right kind of experience," or "not enough experience." Ironically, the expiration date of the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits program was also the 6 month mark since my layoff. I am 1 of the 1.3 million Americans who started the new year with the sole resolution to find full time employment, but without an income.

On top of the usual stresses of looking for work, I now worry about how I am going to buy food or pay the electric, rent, and water bills. I am deeply saddened and shocked by the thought that I would be better off in jail or dead, but it seems to be true. In jail a person has shelter, clothing, food, and even medical care, all provided while serving out his/her sentence. As the days become weeks waiting on the government to act, the instinctual need to survive will override civility and obedience to society's laws.