Before I begin
I’d like to apologize for what you, the reader, might mistakenly categorize as a “woe is me” style rant. This couldn’t be further from the truth, I am simply trying to take an honest evaluation of where I am right now so that I may find another way.
I've been unemployed now for almost three months. This isn't surprising given the lack of jobs (let alone quality jobs) in my hometown in general, but it is still beginning to wear on me. It's time to evaluate my skills and weigh my opportunities.
A List of Skills
Foremost among my skills is my writing ability. While I used to be able to compose paragraphs that were almost poetic for research papers and for my own amusement, I find that my time writing marketing copy for the lowest common denominator has made me more staid and inflexible in my style. This could probably be overcome with a more creative outlet, but my creativity is effectively tethered to my happiness and my well-being, and it’s hard to not consider such things when you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from. It doesn't help that my research sensibility has been so drenched in meaningless SEO and fireplace accessories that I fear I may never recover.
Second to my writing is my art. This is a rather distant second, I’m afraid; despite three years of college-level training my skill with a brush or pen is woefully underdeveloped. While I am considerably more effective on the digital front, I find that when given complete creative freedom I tend to choke. When I have a project that I need to get done for a client I am focused and working. Alas, when I am between clients I seem to be incapable of getting even the most basic tasks done for my sole beneficiary (me). Perhaps it is because I can’t pay myself…
Then there’s video. Ah, video: Cheap to do, easy to make, and incredibly time-consuming. I love making videos – I truly do. And now you’re asking yourself, “If he likes videos so much, why doesn’t he make more of them?” The sad simple answer is one of support: I can either be the camera man or I can be on camera, but not both. This makes any videos I create static and not especially fun to do. Furthermore, it’s hard to do both video and sound checks when you’re in front of the camera. Moreover, scripted video requires a lot of planning that is daunting for a single person to do alone. Now it can be done, but it requires time. It requires quiet time. And when you live with other people, quiet time is something that is in a vastly short supply. I challenge you to edit ten minutes of video with someone asking you questions as machine gun fire blares on the television in the other room, while the dog howls for no immediately apparent reason.
I could fall back on my computer repair and support skills, except for two things:
- I don’t have any official training in that capacity, just twenty years of experience.
- I don’t have an A+ certificate in that capacity, either. And those cost money.
Honestly, this isn’t really something I’d want to do full-time anyway. Most computers can be fixed by swapping out a part, but there’s always a chance you’ll get a computer with a slightly warped motherboard or one single ruptured capacitor that will take hours upon hours of digging to figure out. While figuring it out can be challenging and fun, working under a deadline for very little compensation isn’t. The CompTIA A+ certification is standard for these things, and I don’t have one; it’s the bitter irony of my life that I can either have the time to study for it, or the money to get it, but never both at the same time.
Location, Location, Location
As far as opportunities go, there’s not much to be had in Warren, Pennsylvania. There are jobs, mind you, but those jobs don’t exactly intersect with my skills, tend to not pay very well, and the few that do are in industries that I have no experience with. It’s hard with someone my age and experience level to land one of these jobs anyway, because employers don’t want to spend the time or the money training you if you’re just going to leave at the first opportunity (and rightfully so).
This means that I must look for opportunities outside of Warren, which on the face sounds great, but in practice is incredibly difficult. There are factors preventing me from looking outside of the area for work, and mostly they all boil down to money.
You see, my previous employer didn’t pay very well. Oh sure, they paid better than a retail job or fast food, but for the work involved they just didn’t pay as well as others in the field. It was partially this lack of pay that kept me there for so long, as I rarely had the funds to look for work outside of town. In fact, I was in the process of finding a part time job to supplement my income when I was let go. Now that I am no longer working, my unemployment compensation is drastically less than the pittance I was making before. This leaves me with barely enough money to put gas in my car once every two weeks, let alone travel to a new city for a job interview.
Now there are locations outside of town I can consider. For example, Erie, Pennsylvania is a long commute but should be perfectly serviceable until I can start drawing a paycheck once more. The same goes for Bradford, but they’re about as jobless as Warren at this point. I have friends in Pittsburgh who might be willing to tolerate my presence for a time until I can find proper lodging. And that’s about it, really; I don’t know anyone else.
Running out of alternatives
I’m too old for military service (and far too fat and nearsighted for that, anyway), and I’ve already tried going back to school. The latter didn’t turn out too well, as now I have almost all the debt and no degree to show for it. I would love to further my education, but the funds just aren’t there (which is the reason I had to drop out in the first place). Running a personal business requires an investment that I can’t make financially right now, so that’s out of the question too.
Trying to use career guidance services hasn't been working out either, because they all give me the same options, and even given my experience no one in those suggested industries even seems keen to interview me.
So here I am, caught between a rock and a very hard place. Now, I’m not panicking and I’m not saying that I can’t do any of the things described in the previous text. I’m merely stating that if I don’t find a way to overcome some of these factors that I don’t see much of a future ahead. All I can do (for now) is get to work for myself.