Maybe you read about The Sun’s invitation to nominate your workplace as one of the best in the city. We’re inviting you to do something similar, but slightly different. We’ve all had terrible jobs. If you currently hate where you work, please tell us why, using plenty of good, concrete detail (or as much as you feel comfortable sharing). Feel free to post anonymously. The best worst stories will surely brighten other disgruntled laborers’ days, and the best of all wins special recognition on BFB. Let us hear!
Silicon Valley is old news; if you want a tech job these days, according to Forbes, you’d be hard pressed to do better than… well, right here. Fun fact: while California still has four times as many tech jobs as the national average, it turns out that the job growth is happening elsewhere. That’s partly because the gold-rush fever of a “tech-driven jobs boom” conveniently ignores the bust half of the cycle; according to Forbes, Silicon Valley actually employed 170,000 fewer people in 2011 than in 2000.
Around this time last year, I remember asking my Johns Hopkins students what their summer plans were. As soon as the question left my mouth, I could tell it was a mistake. Apart from the few who had solid gigs as lifeguards or research assistants, most of these bright and dedicated kids were still searching for someone who would let them work for the summer… for free. Once an optional half-step up the career ladder, the unpaid internship has become something of a necessity. According to new research, more than 90 percent of employers think that students should have completed at least a couple internships before graduating. And that, according to Atlantic editor Derek Thompson, is a big problem, because “unpaid internships aren’t morally defensible.”
Yikes. Those are some strong words. But Thompson has the arguments to back it up. First of all, a career track founded on unpaid internships (as is common in politics, research, journalism, and non-profits) hurts low-income students. “These students need work that pays money, but they also need an internship to work in the field. As a result, poorer students are at permanent disadvantage in the summer internship market,” Thompson writes. Even for students who aren’t in precarious economic positions, the unpaid internship is a shaky deal. Employers reap the benefits of bright young minds, but don’t have to offer up any job security, benefits, or actual money. According to the Labor Department’s guidelines, unpaid internships have to satisfy three requirements: they must be more like education than a job; interns can’t work in place of paid employees; and their work must not be of “immediate benefit” to their employer. As Thompson notes, “these rules are flouted more routinely than speed limits.”
“When people ask, ‘What do you want to do when you graduate?’ I feel like yelling, ‘Whatever I can do for whoever will hire me,’” Towson University senior Maria Malagari told the Towson Towerlight. She’s hardly alone; this year’s soon-to-be college grads are entering a job market that should make the rest of us grateful that we’re not members of the Class of 2012. (And if you are — sorry!) According to a recent study commissioned by the Associated Press, half of young college graduates are either un- or under-employed. Job prospects for young people with bachelor’s degrees are at the lowest level in more than a decade.
The AP’s analysis of government data is one of the first to take into account the problem of underemployment — that is, when grads have some sort of way to earn money, but not one that employs their skills or offers promise of future advancement. With tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, twenty-somethings feel lucky to get a job as a barista or retail clerk.
Of course, it’s not equally bleak for everyone. Those graduating with degrees in nursing, teaching, accounting, or computer science have much stronger prospects than arts or humanities grads. And suddenly, the time-honored wisdom of going to college in order to snag a high-paying job stops seeming quite so logical. “You can make more money on average if you go to college, but it’s not true for everybody,” says Harvard economist Richard Freeman. However, “If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing, it probably bodes well to take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of what you want from college.” Most of the careers with the largest projected job growth over the next decade don’t require a college degree.
Back here in Baltimore, the soon-to-be Class of 2012 at Towson remains (nervously) undaunted. “I’m going to keep researching and applying to jobs no matter how many rejections I get,” Malagari told the Towerlight. “I’m still hopeful. I know something will open for me soon.”
Motherhood does funny things to a woman’s professional life.
It sucked me right out of a steadfast vertical career track. Through some inexplicable, instinctive, split-second decision made when that faint pink cross showed up on my pregnancy test, I knew I would be dropping out of the full-time, on-site workforce in favor of motherhood. At least temporarily. So started the juggling act of part-time work and child care. Now a freelance writer, I am marginally employed with zero benefits and no guarantee of getting paid, at least not regularly, a circumstance I assumed I would eventually replace with a more seamless and fuller professional life in my 50s and 60s. Now I’m not so sure.
Here’s why: Recently I witnessed three female acquaintances, each approaching the empty nest phase of life, lose their jobs. These professional women had played—excelled at, even—the part of supermom for so many years, fulfilling work responsibilities, meeting the needs of children, spearheading school volunteer activities with equal aplomb. They fully expected to remain employed for several more years before gracefully retiring—on their own terms.
Then, abruptly, they were let go. Laid off. Shown the door. Their kids didn’t need them the way they once did either; most were in college or out on their own. Now what? And why?
If the economy has had you feeling grim, just be patient. Wait around a few years, and things will look better — especially around the Baltimore area, it seems.
So says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which released its employment projections through 2020 last week. With professional services, health care, and education slated to be the sectors with the most potential for growth in the next decade, the Baltimore area is poised for increased job creation. In fact, the Baltimore-Towson area is the ninth-best metro area for projected job growth by 2020. And there’s good news for our neighbors as well — the DC/Arlington/Alexandria area comes in at number one, with Bethesda/Rockville/Frederick in second place. (Other potential winners? Colorado Springs, New York, El Paso, and Baton Rouge.)
And you can once again thank your higher power that you’re not living in Gary, Indiana; Salt Lake City; Cincinnati; or Greensboro, North Carolina — all cities at the bottom of the list.
According to the Atlantic, Maryland’s female wage-earners have a lot to be grateful for. In the magazine’s ranking of the best states for working women, Maryland comes out on top (if you don’t count D.C., which we don’t).
Maryland’s working women have the highest average earnings ($42,164) of any state in the U.S. Okay, so D.C. women outearn their Maryland counterparts, but D.C.’s not a state and we refuse to compete with them. That’s more than $10,000 more than the national average, and nearly $20,000 more (!) than in the state with the lowest national average — North Dakota. Women’s earnings make up 40 percent of all the wages earned in the state — not parity, to be sure, but higher than nearly every other state.
The wily statisticians even came up with a “location premium” figure, which means the extra earnings that come from working in a particular state, with all other variables (education, skill, hours worked) averaged out. The average Maryland woman can thank our fair state for the extra $6,728 she’s making this year — a much nicer deal than the negative location premium ranking for states like Montana (-$7,871) and Virginia (-$6,948).
Clearly, a lot of Maryland (and D.C.)’s dominance in these rankings can be attributed to government jobs. Any other ideas why Maryland might have come out on top?
Last month we asked for your stories of summer jobs in hell. This tale about a job in a dirt factory during a hellishly hot Georgia summer will make you grateful to be unemployed. Dirty worker, please identify yourself at [email protected] to claim your $50 gift certificate to Grand Cru and go get yourself a well-deserved beer!
“Worst day of my worst summer job was back when I worked at a dirt factory (and yes, we processed and manufactured dirt) in southeast Georgia. The day started like any other. It was about seven in the morning, the sun was coming up and my best friend and I were getting our orders for the day. It seems that we needed to empty a silo that was filled with gypsum. The job started with us torching a five-foot by two-foot door at the bottom of the silo. Once the metal was removed we were then greeted with a solid wall of gypsum. Now, to catch a few of you up, gypsum is a very soft mineral composed mostly of calcium sulfate dihydrate. Key word there is dihydrate. This silo had been sitting over half full for over four years in one of the most humid places in this country. Needless to say, after that amount of time it absorbed a lot of water and became rock hard. We began to shovel at it, getting a very small amount at a time. We began to pick at it with a pickax just to break it up and get a little progress going. By this time it is about 10:30 and already a hundred degrees. My friend and I are covered head to toe in this mineral and barely have a hole dug. We felt like it was going nowhere but, hey, a full silo needing emptying is definitely job security so we just kept on keeping on. When we got back from lunch it was about 1 o’clock and also about 105 degrees by now. We came up with a brilliant idea to take a sledge hammer and start beating on the silo to try to break up some of the looser stuff that was on top. We were making more progress this way and after about an hour, while I was beating on it, a wave of gypsum comes pouring out, covers me up to my knees and scares the crap out of us actually. The top two-thirds that wasn’t as hard finally gave way and all poured out this tiny door at the bottom of this three-story silo. At this point we’re pretty good. All we had to do now was get the front end loader, scoop it up one load at a time and take it about 100 yards away. When we got done it was quitting time. We took one look in the silo and knew that, starting the next morning, we were going to have to hang out in this silo in this heat and manually shovel out the remaining 15 feet of gypsum. Oh happy days.”
Not that I’m regretting dropping four years’ tuition into a bachelor’s degree from a top art college, but why did I choose to major in illustration rather than….creative ways to sell stuff? For the past four years I’ve been telling myself, “Don’t worry, you’ll have a job waiting when you graduate.”
Seems the only places hiring are marketing and sales firms. As soon as I put my resume on Monster and Career Builder, my email and phone lines were flooded with recruiters looking for new grads aspiring to be telemarketers. I guess you should take what you can get, but for someone who’s not a “people person,” calling strangers during dinnertime and pestering them to buy something they don’t need not only seems like a poor use of my degree, it’s not physically doable.
I’ve zoned out for hours surfing the web for design jobs, since I have a couple of great graphic design classes under my belt. The catch is that 99 percent of the graphic design jobs posted require knowledge of web design. I guess the average Corporate Joe wouldn’t realize it, but graphic design and web design are two different things. Just the other day I went to an interview for a “part time graphic design with maybe some writing” job. Immediately they told me they wanted someone to build their website and edit video footage. Where did that come from? It says nowhere on my resume that I build websites or have video experience.
Surely, the jobs are out there. It’s just a matter of finding one to which you can apply your hundred thousand dollar degree. For artists, it’s ten times the battle. I can dedicate myself to being a freelance illustrator, without the security of a steady income or reliable clients, but I’m looking for something permanent. I wish my school officials had told me freshman year, if you want to make money with a Bachelors of Fine Arts, you need to learn web design. Or figure out how to cold call people and talk them into magazine subscriptions.