Archive | March 2013

Me as a Number

Here is my own personal experience just to give a realistic perspective on some numbers:

Statistics say that the average person will hold 7 jobs in their lifetime. I am 28 years old, and I’ve had 13 different jobs since I started working at the age of 17. Of all those jobs, only one of them was full time, and had benefits. Of those 13 jobs, I got laid off twice. Another of those jobs was seasonal. I left 2 other part time jobs because the weekly hours reduced by so much that I couldn’t afford to keep working there. And I couldn’t get a second job because even though I wasn’t getting the hours, I was required under contract to be available during evenings and weekends, and couldn’t commit those days elsewhere. I have never earned more than $14 an hour, or worked somewhere for longer than two years. I was even promoted to a supervisory role once, only to be demoted along with my other newly promoted team mates due to “company changes in supervisory roles”.

I went to college twice, and earned a diploma in Career and Work Counselling. And now I’m being turned away from jobs in my field because no one wants to create entry level positions. They want me to spend more money I don’t have on more courses, and some positions want me to have a drivers license and a car. Or a luxuriously expensive university degree. I’m also expected to work as an intern for free to gain experience.

I just started my 13th job. It’s part time and only 26 hours a week. No benefits. And it’s front reception work. But, at least it’s for a non profit organization, which was what I wanted, and I’m loving it there so far. So, despite my turbulent 20’s, I have to say I still feel grateful.

However, I’m 28 years old, with 11 years of work experience, an impressive array of skills and aptitudes, yet in terms of employment, I haven’t progressed much at all. I’ve done all the right things: I’m hard working, reliable, efficient, I’ve taken risks, educated myself; Sure I’ve made mistakes but I’ve grown from them.I have an amazing resume (so I’ve been told) and I interview quite well (so I’ve also been told), and everyone I have worked for has so many great things to say about me. I have great potential, they say. Which begs the question, why can’t I find financial stability after struggling for over a decade to find it?

Truth is, I’m not alone.

The national average for unemployment sits around the 7% mark. However, youth unemployment, ages 16-25, it sits around the 14%. They are also statistically expected to have up to 20 different occupations by the time they retire (however even I think that number is too low). I’m only a few years older, but the situation isn’t far from my own.

I’ve read all the articles, watched documentaries and read countless books on the topic of our lost generation. Heck, I even spent whole courses at school immersed in the social changes that caused this tremendous shift in the labour market. And here I sit, an example.

According to the report on a collaborative study conducted by McMaster University, PEPSO and United Way entitled “It’s More than Poverty: Employment Precarity and Household Well-being”, this is called “precarious employment”, that is, employment that isn’t both permanent or full time. In includes part time work, contract work, work with no pensions or health benefits. Seasonal work or on call positions. Unstable work that offers little to no security or compensation.

And of the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton and Stoney Creek workforce, a whopping 50% of us have precarious employment. That means half of the working population are in my exact predicament, in constant worry about how we’ll make ends meat, unsure of our futures, frustrated with the mounting pressures placed on us by society. No wonder Depression, anxiety, and bipolar mood disorders are on the rise. 1 in 5 Canadians will suffer from a mental illness at least at some point in their lives.

So, yes, like most of my generation, I feel trapped. I also feel angry because I know it was the corporate greed of the generations before me that caused this, and it was our governments that allowed it, and continue to allow it.

For now, I concentrate on being grateful for what I do have. And a part of me is hopeful that even though my generation is facing tough times ahead, we’ll deal with it, and overcome our obstacles. Maybe this is the generation that will learn to live with less.

I can be a negative pessimist at times, but deep at my core I have faith.

Maybe some good will come out of all of this.

The Coward Behind the Computer Screen

Over the past year, I’ve found myself reading articles, watching videos, and sharing photos (as well as said articles and videos) on my Facebook and twitter pages. I’ve posted on things I’m passionate about: employment, social equality and justice, social support programs and assistance, mental health, poverty, human rights, etc. All I really wanted to do was share the stories. I wanted other people to know about what was going on with the world. Maybe start a dialogue.

However, the world exists not without it’s critics, and some of the comments I received were “well, what are you REALLY doing about it. Posting on social media is nothing more than clicking the “share/retweet” button. That’s not changing the world”.

The mentality of who they think does this: the consumer driven spoiled middle class citizen who sits comfortably behind their computer screen posting articles about human trafficking and homelessness just to give the world the impression that they “care”, but not really doing anything beyond that, essentially contributing nothing to the betterment of society. I think that mentality stems from another negative view, that there really is nothing you CAN do to make a difference to those that suffer from social injustice. That those who are corrupt hold too much power, that the “system” is too complicated to maneuver therefore impossible to change. That initiatives put in place to help others are just band-aid solutions at best, wastes of time at the worst. That criticism bothered me, but not because people misjudged me as a coward behind a computer screen. It bothered me because it raised the question of “what can I REALLY do to truly make a difference? What other actions can I take beyond just sharing these stories?” At the end of the day, I knew it wasn’t enough.

I took those questions as a challenge. And honestly, I hope to be asking myself those same questions for the rest of my life. Because the most important thing is that I am seriously asking myself that question. Many people don’t.

So let’s tackle this question: what am I already doing? You see, I’m not some spoiled middle class pretender. I, just like a big chunk of the population (if you interpret all the graphs and statistics correctly), live below the poverty line. I also post about social issues because I chose to centre my whole career around them. I work at a non-profit, a community health centre that services the disadvantaged members of our society with not just basic but overall health care. I went to college and studied Career and Work Counselling, because I wanted to help people find work, the proverbial “teach a man to fish”. I read books and articles and watch videos not just to keep up with current news, ideas, and information in my field, I also do it because I am passionate about social services and helping people overcome their obstacles. I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else as a career and not be Happy.

So in a way, I’m not just sharing articles, I’m dedicating my life to the improvement of the lives of others, and that’s not just a 9-5 job, that’s something I take home with me too. And I feel a responsibility to not only learn as much as I possibly can about social issues, but to share what I learn with others. Even if I’m judged or criticized for it.

As for what more I can do, well that’s a topic for another day, another blog.

Like I said, I am seriously thinking about that one.

Birth of a Blogger

I’ve changed. A very deep, significant part of myself has changed in the last 6 months.

Queue internal dialogue: how is that any different than the last couple of years, last decade even?
I have done nothing but constantly change or grow throughout my whole twenties.

And hello, I’ve had some pretty significant life changes the past year: I’ve completed my post secondary education (at least for now), set out into the world to start my career (key word I should add is “attempted”, as it is still in progress), I started a deep, meaningful relationship with my boyfriend (my first serious relationship I should add to stress the importance of it), I even got to travel for the first time in 9 years.

Wow, life has really flip-flopped for me.

But that’s not the change I’m talking about. This one runs a little deeper, a little quieter, but incessant and annoying nonetheless. And, in the past 6 months, it has bred an obsession. I found myself reading articles, watching TED videos, following groups, posting and sharing endless stories and pictures on my Facebook wall and on my twitter. I have been soaking myself, educating myself in the world of social injustice and social inequality. All these years of developing a keen sense of self awareness has evolved into a type of awakening to my own surroundings.

And here it is: the world, society in general, is cruel, harsh, and despicable.

Queue internal dialog: I’ve known this since I could tie my own shoe, what’s so revolutionary about the topic now?

Holy Crap, that’s a good question, because I actually don’t know. For some inexplicable reason, I can’t stop thinking about everything I think is wrong with the world. It bugs me, bugs me in a way I can’t shake off or ignore. For some time now I’ve been playing around with the idea of writing about all this noise that’s currently in my head. Giving my ideas a voice. This Blog is where that idea took me.

I want to raise awareness to the many issues that interest me: unemployment, poverty, economics and the job market, social inequality, discrimination, mental health, politics, global issues, human rights… Just to list a few. I’m doing this because a tiny voice in my head tells me it’s important. That it’s something that I CAN do.

Queue internal dialogue: Congratulations, I’m now a blogger.