We started a series on “The Future of Success” yesterday with Paul Glastris, the Editor-in-Chief of the Washington Monthly. To open this month’s issue, he helped pen a piece titled “Jobs Are Not Enough” - which seemed to pretty much touch ‘em all on why ‘just getting a job’ isn’t enough to get America back on track.
As The Cycle’s resident expert in unemployment - with two extremely long bids of joblessness on my record - it made sense that I produce this segment. Some quick background: I grew up in ‘affordable housing,’ and I’ve done a pair of 6-month+ bids of unemployment since graduating college. The kind of stretch that makes you strongly consider packing up and heading home because you can’t afford day-to-day things. I was “sorry I can’t come to the movies” unemployed. “Please do NOT keep the change, I need it.” unemployed. Like, “peanut butter OR jelly sandwich” unemployed.
It was the type of unemployment that forces you to take a long look at what you’re doing (or trying to do) and evaluate whether it’s really for you. For me, it was writing. I mean - I thought I could write. I was pretty sure I was a blend of hilarious, insightful, honest, and poetic. But a funny thing happened, nobody wanted to pay me to do it.
Steve Kornacki said something interesting in the office yesterday: so many of these pieces claiming to talk about “everything else” when it comes to the jobs issue - tend to ignore the main issue. JOBS. That’s not to say that the Washington Monthly has forgotten about it - quite the opposite, in fact - but there’s no denying that at least HALF the problem is the job. Without it, you can’t save. Without it, you can’t advance. Without it, you’re packing up and heading back to your parents’ basement on Long Island. Well, maybe that’s not you - but it would have been me.
And it got me thinking about all of the ‘jobs’ I had, all the times somebody threw me a bone to help me pay rent. Coaching a team, bartending at a party, parking cars, watching somebody’s kids, helping move offices or apartments, shredding documents for Nick Jr. - you wouldn’t believe what Dora’s been up to. Some of them were embarrassing, some of them were dehumanizing - but every time I got a job, even just for a day… there was some pride there. I’d be able to pay rent, I’d be able to buy groceries, I could contribute. Now this isn’t going to turn into some rah-rah, ‘every job is a blessing’ blast of propaganda. Every job is not a blessing. There are horrible jobs out there that no human should have to do. And those that do them - have my complete respect. But I remember what getting my first real job did to me, and I remember what getting my first real job after I’d been unemployed did for me.
So I agree with Steve… in our effort to look beyond the issue of “jobs” - it’s probably important to make sure we don’t overlook Jobs.