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Where do I fit into the new economy?

By Marianne Steffey,

The recent events in Washington have made me even more uncertain that America is getting back on the right track. I’m sure I’m not alone. It’s clear now that things aren’t getting better any time soon, and hope for job prospects are dwindling rapidly.

I’ve been thinking about what kind of job I want in the future because the truth is, jobs are changing in definition and in purpose. They’re completely different than the jobs of our grandparents, even the jobs of our parents.

The jobs that we have lost during this recession are gone. They’re never coming back. They’re outdated. Companies have become accustomed to doubling up the work on their existing employees.

I witnessed this at the paper. My supervisor retired, leaving an opening on the copy desk. Instead of moving up the next in line and hiring for the desk, they simply gave my coworker the title and never hired anyone else. We all did more work for the same amount. In the past, who would accept that without a substantial pay increase? But in this case, we were scared to death about what would happen if we refused or asked for a raise. As a reporter, I wrote for the magazine, the Web site and the print edition instead of just being able to focus on one outlet. Think about how much money they saved because I was a hard worker and enthusiastic about my career.

It’s going to take a different type of job to get this economy going again. It’s going to take a job that allows America to prosper and allows people to feel as if they are achieving the American Dream. It’s going to take jobs with benefits and retirement plans because Medicare and Social Security could very well collapse, leaving those without private benefits in big trouble.

I’m not sure shovel-ready jobs or jobs in infrastructure are the answer. Granted our roads and bridges are in need of repair, and yes it would employee a lot of people, but when you get that bridge built or that highway repaved, then what? You’re out of work again.

I’m talking about the kind of job that lasts. Take the Internet. It created millions of jobs in fields we never dreamed about before its invention, and I’m sure it’s only going to grow. Those are the types of new and lasting jobs that this country needs.

I’ve been thinking about how I can use the skills I currently possess in a different capacity for a different job. After all, “what happens to a dream deferred?” I believe Langston Hughes knew. It does “dry up like a raisin in the sun.” So, you get a new dream, right?  You move on. The question is how.

I’ve thought about going back to school, but I can’t afford it. I can’t even get a loan because I still owe for my first stint in college. Add to that the recent statistics that have shown that college degrees are decreasing in worth compared to the price of tuition. Today, almost everyone has a college degree. A bachelor’s degree no longer solidifies your ability to get a good job.

How do you shift your talents to match a new need —fill a new void? And how do we recognize the void or know where to look for it? I have no idea, but I’m working on it and I sincerely hope others are, too.

Marianne Steffey, a 32-year-old former journalist from Erwin, Tenn., has been unemployed for seven months. Read more about her here. Read about the “Help Wanted” project here. Visit the project home page here.

Read more updates from Marianne here.

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