In advance of President Barack Obama's speech on jobs and unemployment, Yahoo! News asked its readers and contributors to tell us what subjects they'd like to hear Obama address. Below is a first-person perspective from a reader.
The first job I had after college was as a copywriter for an office supply wholesaler. While not what I wanted to be doing -- journalism has always been my passion -- I was excited to have a job and looked forward to the structure of full-time work.
Even the 45-minute commute didn't bother me; it was nice to finally have a destination worth that kind of time commitment. When the economy started to fall, so did the industry I worked in, forcing a sudden decline in the need for office suppliers as well as the copywriters who edited their catalogs. The company merged with its Midwestern counterpart and more than 200 employees lost their jobs. That was longer ago than I care to admit.
Since then, I've done a bunch of reporting for various websites and newspapers and relocated from central New Jersey to southwestern Arizona. I still look for newspaper work, but it's a rapidly shrinking industry, one whose decay began long before the economy crumbled. Over the course of my free agency, I've applied to nearly 100 jobs in various fields. Just twice was I called for an interview.
It seems the country's excessive unemployment has forced people to seek work they're overqualified for, thus making "entry level candidates" outmatched by their competition long before the interview begins.
This is a real concern for my generation and one that President Obama must address in some way during his upcoming economic speech. Obama, like most politicians, often talks about lowering the unemployment figures and ensuring that all middle-class children have a chance to get a college education. What is always absent from this equation is the abnormally large number of college graduates who cannot find any work at all. The president shouldn't dwell solely on those who have lost jobs during the recession and remember that recent graduates without a job are also unemployed. The phrase "Getting America Back to Work" might be catchy, but it's misleading: Many jobless Americans have never even been to work in the first place.
During my adolescence, I was sold an "American Dream" in which a college education would exempt me from the type of blue-collar work my father performed. In his generation, any paycheck was something to be proud of, but today professional pride is more related to status and personal goals than it is to responsibility.
Keeping this in mind, President Obama needs to explain how any new program will increase career availability in all fields -- from construction to education. For instance, the president has often stressed that "green initiatives" could provide employment opportunities to the jobless, but has never sufficiently explained what type of work it will be. Would it involve engineering or architectural design? Would new college graduates with liberal arts degrees be capable of performing these tasks? Would they even be interested?
Ultimately, the president has to address the realistic concerns that my generation -- those in their mid-to-late 20s and early 30s -- will potentially be the first generation in American history to have a lower standard of living than their predecessors. No one is willing to broach this issue, but with a stalled recession and constant detours on the road to nationwide stability, it's about time someone did.
Who better than our nation's fearless leader?