Is It Easier to Get a Job….Without a Degree?

Jobless & Indebted...

Excellent news on the homefront…B got a job! What a huge sense of relief I am feeling. Not only do I not plan on going back to social services, but it also gives us a little more breathing room in terms of bills that had been stacking up.  While I am extremely excited about B finding a job (after a little less than a month of unemployment), I am slightly confused by his easy success finding a new job and the difficulty I have had for nearly a year.

While I have a Bachelor’s Degree, B does not. In my mind that should have made it easier for me to find a job, but in this economy I feel as if it has been more difficult for me to find a job. I have a classmate who lives in California who has had trouble finding work as well. He went and applied to jobs at Target with a high school classmate of his who didn’t go to college, his friend received a job and he never got a call back. People have suggested to me that the reason for this is because employers assume that people with degrees won’t keep the job and will constantly be looking for better employment. Isn’t this the case with everyone? Even though B has secured a job he still looks for jobs everyday. He is not unsatisfied with his new position, but if something better comes up I’m sure he wouldn’t hesitate to leave.

I admit that I typically am looking in a more specialized field than B, he has looked in pretty much every field possible, and I have typically stayed in education and non-profits. However, I did apply for a few jobs that were non-salaried and didn’t provide benefits, such as at Best Buy (yes, I admit it was just for the discounts on electronics), but regardless I never received a call from any of the stores. Is it possible that what I have been told is true? Does having a degree while applying to a job where a degree is not required make it more difficult to secure a job? Is the job market more competitive when you have a higher level of education, but not a graduate degree or professional degree? I have heard stories of people with Master’s degrees accepting lower paying, less distinguished positions than they might have accepted 10 years ago simply because the same opportunities are no longer available. I know that job opportunities are scarce across the board, but simply judging by B’s job hunt (which I know is very different from many people in his position because of internet access and his prior job experience) he has been very successful in getting a job in what I would see as a record amount of time.

My mother is convinced that going back to school and getting my Master’s is the path to future success for me, but honestly with student loans and debt drowning me already I can’t imagine wanting to put myself further into that position. There are classmates of mine who earn 6 figure salaries and for them I assume the debts they incurred are well worth it, but as someone who has little interest in i-banking, medicine or law I am more skeptical about adding on any additional debts when I doubt I will ever have a job that pays me as much as my classmates at J.P. Morgan. Just some food for thought. Overall this week has placed a great blessing on us and I am very thankful for the shedding of some stress.

Posted in Higher Education, Job Hunt, Stress, Unemployment | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Unmarried and Pregnant…

Are shows like 16 & Pregnant Normalizing Pregnancy Out of Wedlock?

I recently read a posting concerning pregnancy and unwed couples in the Black community titled “How Do You Get Pregnant By Accident (It’s Your Fault)” and felt like I, as someone who fits into this group of unwed mothers, needed to respond to what I feel are many assumptions and inaccuracies the author makes.

I understand not everyone is going to read the article, but it basically asserts that with as many options available for birth control and contraception that laziness is the only reason for women to have unplanned pregnancies. The posting also, in the vein of the typical older Black religious opinion, suggests that marriage out of wedlock is something that should be shunned.

I knew upon telling my parents (devout Christians, although me and my siblings have for the most part strayed away from our Baptist upbringing) that after their initial shock and disappointment the next logical step for them would be to suggest marriage. While B and I have been in a committed relationship for nearly 4 years I knew that there were a few reasons that I was going to add to the disappointment and not yield to their wishes of getting married. I did not want to be rushed/forced into marriage because I was pregnant. If it wasn’t an option that we were considering before pregnancy I don’t know why we would rush into it simply because of a child. Secondly (and this is purely a selfish reason,) while I don’t dream of an extravagant fancy wedding I do have some sort of idea of a ceremony that I have fantasized about planning since I was a little girl. Having a wedding ceremony that I envisioned is just not possible now and I definitely would not feel as beautiful as I think a bride should while attempting to hide a baby bump.

While I won’t go so far as others to say that the institution of marriage is antiquated, especially for Americans with high divorce rates, I would rather be 100% sure of my decision. I constantly feel the weight of this decision–most recently at our birthing class when the instructor kept referring to B as my husband and then one session noticed my lack of wedding ring and as a devout Catholic felt the need to cluck her disapproval. I shrugged it off, but it is a common judgement people often make. While I do agree with poster “Da Throne” about teen pregnancy needing to be made less acceptable I do not feel that trying to embarrass or placing the “scarlet letter” on unwed mothers is the way to go about it.

I do think that with the prevalence of contraceptives and birth control there needs to be a higher accountability for BOTH men and women. Many pregnancies are due to negligence of BOTH men and women, single motherhood however is less about negligence than accountability for men (completely separate post though). Pregnancy is not a one way street! But as a former teacher who has seen young parents birth children who in turn become young parents it should be obvious that children need to be informed and educated about sex and their various options. I know this is treading into murky and controversial waters, but in many communities (low income and otherwise) proper knowledge of sexual protection and contraception is often not addressed in the home. As a teenager sex was a taboo subject in my household and I had to have a quick learning curve when I got to college.

While I was indeed on birth control when I got pregnant, as was my older sister when she got pregnant, I apparently either am part of the 0.00000001% who birth control fails or inadvertently took my pill incorrectly. (My mother seems to think as a family we are particularly fertile, although I don’t know the validity of this claim.) Regardless, I refuse to be embarrassed of the fact that I am an unwed expectant mother. I have made that choice consciously. While I consider myself to be different than many of the typical characterizations of unwed pregnant women, I think the general “shame on you” condescending tone of the man writing the post is unnecessary. I agree that the rate of teenage mothers needs to be curbed, but I think that shaming and embarrassing young women is the least productive way to go about accomplishing this.

Posted in Pregnancy, Unmarried | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

In Comparison the DMV is Enjoyable…

Uplifting Lives My Butt....

Yes you read correctly. The DMV is an enjoyable experience compared with the brutal experience of dealing with social services. If you have never had to endure the humiliation, degradation, stupidity and WAITING of attempting to apply for social services consider yourself lucky. Not just lucky that you are not so broke as to have to consider social services as an option, but lucky to never have to endure the abuse doled out at social services.

Even when B was working his combined checks and my unemployment barely covers our rent, phone bills, credit cards, let alone having enough food for my pregnant hungry self….especially not food of any quality. The high cost of quality food (i.e. fresh food and the unavailability of organic/fresh produce in Southeast, DC is a WHOLE ‘nother post though). While WIC provides a nice supplement to my grocery budget it only allows for $10 worth of fruit/vegetables a month. That seems ridiculous as the purpose of WIC is to provide nutrition to pregnant and nursing women. But back to the subject. I decided, after months of debating, to swallow my pride and apply for assistance so I could get healthier food and especially since B lost his job it has become necessary.

I filed my claim for Medicaid through Mary’s Center so I didn’t have to go through the “bureaucracy” that is typical for social services. Unfortunately when I contacted them I found out that my case had been assigned to my local DHS. So the relatively painless process I went through to fill out my Medicaid just turned into a major ordeal. While I know that it is best to go to social services in the morning I thought me going in later would just result in a slightly longer wait. I have been battling insomnia, which has gotten significantly worse with unemployment and pregnancy, thus I usually am just falling asleep shortly before DHS opens at 7:30am.

I arrived with B reluctantly in tow, just in case they needed him there to present his information, around noon. I know, I know CLEARLY the wrong time to arrive. I was told to take a number (181), sign in and wait for my name or number to be called. I sat and waited half an hour before I even heard them call one number–72. ?!?!?! Looking around the room there were no more than 50 people in there and from what I could see there were 4 rows of cubicles, however the entire row visible to me was empty.

The room was filled with people who were obviously as disgruntled as I was quickly becoming. Women with screaming children who had waited too long, several other pregnant women who were suffering like me under the “no food/drink policy,” etc. and everyone in need of different types of services, however we were all grouped together. There were people who had sat and been waiting since 10am simply to recertify their expired benefits. No attempt was made to differentiate the groups of people there for various services; ones that required counseling and ones that simply required paperwork.

2 pm came and past and after 2 hours of waiting and having heard maybe 3 numbers called (that is me being generous) I go to the “information” desk and ask, “If there is any paperwork that I need to fill out can you give it to me now so I can expedite this whole process.” The man at the information desk rolls his eyes at me as if I am inconveniencing him from his conversation and then speaks slowly to me as if I were dumb, “Just sit and wait. Your number will be called when it’s called.” As I begin to walk back toward the cattle pen he calls me back, “Here fill these out to the best of your ability.” He hands me two stacks of papers…something I’m assuming I could have begun working on…during my previous 2 hours of waiting? “Pen?” I ask. He shrugs his shoulders and resumes his conversation. “How do you propose I fill this out without a pen?” He sighs once again and begins rifling through his desk and finds a pen, which he waves in my face and in a condescending tone says, “Bring this back. Y’all have been taking them all day and not returning them.”

Here I have been waiting nearly 2 and a half hours and I see workers, who I presume are social workers beginning to return from their lunch breaks. As I have brought all my information with me the forms are completed within 10-15 minutes, as I walk to go return the information man’s pen and forms he walks to the front of the waiting room, “Our computers went down. Y’all can wait around and see if they come back up or come back on Monday.” This starts a unanimous groaning and complaining from people who have been waiting as many as 5 hours. Cell phones come out and people start calling downtown. The situation has just escalated from ridiculous to absurd.

Nearly half of the room clears out, well this should make this process go faster right? “I just got off the phone with your supervisors downtown and they said all our claims can be processed manually!” a lady behind me yells out. The man pretends to ignore her outburst and walks back to his desk. Suddenly a surge of people emerge to the front of the building apparently motivated to mill around since they have an excuse to delay their work…wait, there are this many people working here yet less than 10 people have been helped in 3 hours?!?! Half an hour later we are informed “The system is back up we’ll see what we can do.” Apparently nothing, because 4 pm rolls around and the building closes at 4:30 while only 2 more people are helped.

4:15 and information man comes back to inform us of what we all knew since probably 2 pm was the inevitable outcome, “Y’all should have gotten here earlier. We’re not taking anyone else. Come back Monday. We open at 7:30.” I walk to the front desk to ask if there is any other way to go about this process. “Can I make an appointment? Is there any other more effective way that I can get this handled because I just wasted an entire day.” He shrugs me off, “Get here at 7:30. It’s a numbers game. If you want the help then you’ll be here. If not then really there’s nothing to be done.” It took all my restraint not to act like I had no sense and pull him across the desk to choke him out.

I kept my composure and left. Whether or not I will go back and endure the same degradation, rudeness, inefficiency (I could go on for days with adjectives, but I’ll spare you) I have yet to decide. While I understand that many social workers work very hard and as a former public school teacher (which in a high poverty school deals with similar issues of social welfare and justice) I understand to a certain extent some of the pressures social workers face. I am not writing this posting to disparage social workers by any means. In fact my sister is a social worker and I know how seriously she takes her job and the stress that she carries home with her on a daily basis.

HOWEVER, the organization I visited on South Capitol St SE, was entirely disorganized and inefficient. This branch (I can’t speak for any other branches as I have not been) needs a complete overhaul. I dread the thought of having to go back and be treated as if I am asking for a handout. I consider myself to be very proud and hard working and if I was not in the position I have found myself in I would not go. I am sure there are others who would fall into other categories that are stereotypically associated with needing the assistance of social services, but not everyone falls in that category and thus no one should be treated that way. I left feeling like I wasted my day and was humiliated by how I and my fellow struggling neighbors were treated, like we had nothing better to do than wait around, begging and praying to receive help from the all mighty agents of social services. Whether or not someone needs help does not make them inferior nor deem them unable to be afforded respect and dignity.

Posted in Degraded, Poverty, Social Services, Stress, Unemployment, Washington DC | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Doctor, Doctor

 

Save Me From the Healthcare System!!!

 

 

 

As my pregnancy progresses the doctor’s appointments have increased. I have gone from monthly appointments to bi-weekly and in a few weeks will start coming weekly. Oh, joy. Of course this means added drama and stress.

This morning started off on target to be as wretched as every other doctor appointment. Being carless and living in Southeast puts me in a peculiar position in terms of choosing a healthcare provider. There is one hospital in Southeast and to call it subpar would be generous. When I first was suspected I was pregnant (symptoms: missed period & the inability to keep anything down), my friend suggested I go to Mary’s Center. I went there being without a job and thus without insurance and was given excellent care. After my pregnancy was confirmed I met with a counselor who talked with me about my options and gave me 3 months of prenatal vitamins to start immediately.

Well here I was uninsured, unemployed and now pregnant. Mary’s Center assisted me in every step to procure insurance, WIC and multiple types of counseling. I cannot say anything negative about my experience with them and once my funds get right I plan on donating to them. However, since they do not have the resources or facilities that hospitals do I decided with my new Medicaid I would go ahead and find my own doctor. What a mistake.

Problem 1: Finding a doctor who both accepted Medicaid and was accepting new Medicaid patients. This took about a week of calling around to do. Typically, I would assume that most women would prefer (especially when pregnant) to have multiple choices available in terms of doctors. The degree of difficulty I had finding ONE doctor let alone finding multiple doctors to compare and contrast led me to feel forced to choose the one who was available. I have never had a male OB-GYN before and am still not particularly comfortable with him (and his horrible bedside manner is a completely separate post).

Problem 2: Given my location as well as lack of car there aren’t many easily accessible hospitals and I perhaps am being seen at the least accessible one, Georgetown University Hospital. Depending on the time of day my journey can take between an hour and a half to more than two hours during rush hour (that’s one way mind you). So depending on the length of my appointment and what I need done at my appointment (bloodwork, etc.) a doctor’s appointment can be an all day affair. I guess that’s an upside of unemployment, I don’t have to take time off, however it does drain my day and energy. I am very anxious about what will happen when I go into labor. Hopefully I can find a friend to give us a ride or I can convince the ambulance driver to take me to the right hospital.

Problem 3: I don’t know how any form of Medicaid aside from DC works, but DC has 2 plan options. The plans are essentially the same, but have slight differences that I guess I don’t understand but healthcare providers do. After nearly 5 months of going to my current doctor I was informed today that they no longer accept my type of Medicaid. I was told they would “let” me be seen today since I had been seen numerous times, but that I would be billed out of pocket unless I could resolve the issue with Medicaid. For those of you lucky enough to have insurance you might wonder how much a regular check up could cost? This standard appointment consisted of a weigh in, blood pressure check, urine check all done by the nurse and maybe a 5 minute chat with the doctor for a fetal heartbeat check and stomach measurement. The grand total of such a minor appointment? Over $300. Hopefully I can get the cost covered or it will be another unpaid bill lowering my credit score and another hunt while 7 months pregnant to find a new doctor.

If I am unable to resolve my insurance problems I really have no idea what I will do. Maybe I will go back to Mary’s Center and see what options I have for delivery with their midwives. Fingers crossed.

Posted in Insurance, Pregnancy, Stress | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wanted: Intelligent Pregnant Women…Sike.

Pregnant Women Need Not Apply

I typically have trouble talking about myself to strangers. The art of “selling myself” or what the rest of the world calls interviewing just doesn’t come easily to me. I get very nervous at the prospect of interviews and am very self-conscious about how I come across. My background speaks for itself and I always am able to put together good cover letters and resumes…but once contacted for an interview I transform into a nervous mess. Rarely am I able to sleep well the night before and when asked to answer a question that I could speak for hours about to a friend or submit a lengthy, coherent written response, I am sitting on the spot floundering for words. However, I guess my experience, resume, writing skills, personality…whatever, overshadowed my awkward interviewing skills as I was able to secure jobs. This was me BEFORE pregnancy.

Now at 7 months pregnant and interviewing for jobs imagine how my stress levels rise. The typical job interview rotation of outfits is of course out. So add on the stress of trying to choose an outfit which simply makes me look fat rather than pregnant. I’d like to lie and say I succeeded, but I highly doubt it as my stomach closely resembles a basketball being hidden under a shirt. I looked for tips online and followed them to the best of my current wardrobe, as my budget didn’t allow for a brand new outfit; wore dark colors (black slacks & black shirt) and over accessorized to draw attention away from my stomach (colorful, yet tasteful jewelry paired with a vest to attempt covering my midsection). However, unless the interviewer had never seen a pregnant woman before I doubt I fooled anyone.

Now I know that “technically” pregnancy shouldn’t be seen as a problem by a potential employer, but somehow I’m doubtful. Why hire a candidate who is about to turn around and ask for maternity leave? I think it is a completely different story if an employee becomes pregnant versus hiring a pregnant employee. In my scanning of the various forums discussing this topic I have found both horror stories (inappropriate touching and comments included) and success stories ending in job offers. Well, either thankfully or unthankfully this is a story that is neither.

After what I considered to be a pretty decent interview for a job which, (not to toot my own horn but toot toot) I was more than qualified, my interviewer assured me that she’d be in contact with me by Monday. Tick, tock, tick, tock….Tuesday has come and gone and still no contact, so I will take that as a thanks, but no thanks preggo. Obviously, I am not going to equate pregnancy with my lack of success in this crazy job market, but I can assure you that pregnancy is not a quality employers are going nuts about. C’est la vie…. it was good to get out of the house and even felt a little good (if restrictive) to have a reason to not be in stretch pants.

Posted in Job Hunt, Pregnancy, Stress, Unemployment | Tagged , | 2 Comments

“Flyer than a Piece of Paper Bearing My Name:” Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself….

I was doing my usual showertime venting and I came up with a brilliant idea (albeit a few months late) of documenting and writing about the experiences I am/have been going through. My life is pretty mundane, but I would say that the turn of events that I have been spiraling through have made it not only stressful (to me), but also very telling of the American society we live in today. For me to start launching into a diatribe of daily dilemmas I go through would give only a partial viewpoint of who I am and allow for an uninformed perspective of my life. So here it is as simply and thoroughly as I can define myself in ten short statements.

1. I am a a Black American woman, while this statement might seem unnecessary I feel that it encompasses a large part of my identity. Like many people (I assume) my identity informs many other aspects of my life.

2. I am a recent college graduate from a prestigious liberal arts school. (Which I won’t go so far to say it was a waste of money, but my college debts have me questioning how wise it was to go to a “top tier” school yet still be unemployed.)

3. I am unemployed and have been for many months.

4. I am an expectant mother with my first child, a boy. (Due late April)

5. My significant other (who I will refer to as B) recently lost his job as well.

6. I am broke (I’m assuming statement 3 & 5 would have lead you to this conclusion but I thought I’d put it out there anyway).

7. I am a writer, in the process of writing what I hope will be my first published work.

8. I am a lover and a fighter. I love many things: art, music, nature, football, politics, but I also am a fighter and will fight for the things I love and believe in.

9. I am a former teacher, but still an educator.

10. I constantly feel lost in this machine called life, but I endure and try to improve myself and the world around me. I used to foolishly believe that this was a consequence of my own altruism, but with my impending motherhood I realize that my actions are now, and probably have always been very selfishly for my family’s well-being and happiness.

Clearly this is not everything about me, but I think it’s an adequate start. Hopefully this endeavor will be fruitful to me and my sanity and perhaps give somebody else some insight into what a different walk of life looks like.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments