Five million Americans are among the long-term unemployed--those without a job for 27 weeks or longer--according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another 7.3 million are looking for work, while the unemployment rate sits at 7.9 percent. Numbers aside, individual stories illustrate how America is affected. To see how joblessness hits home, Yahoo News asked unemployed workers to share their job-hunting stories. Here's one.
FIRST PERSON | Thursday, Nov. 15, marked the first time in 14 years that I did not participate in the Great American Teach-In, an annual event in which local professionals are invited into schools around the country to teach classes in their field of expertise. As Director of Tennis and Recreation for a private country club since 1999, I always spent the day at Twin Lakes Elementary in Tampa, teaching tennis to low-income students.
Nearly a year of unemployment has sapped that energy from within me. Without the confidence to stand in front of these children and the enthusiasm that reigns contagious, I knew it just won't work well for me or for them.
About a year ago, the country club was acquired out of foreclosure by a private equity group, which almost immediately slashed payrolls and employees, and downgraded many of the club's highest quality services.
I didn't aspire to be a tennis director growing up. I received an academic scholarship to Florida State University and graduated cum laude with degrees in journalism and public relations. I spent nine years as a sportswriter and two years as media relations director for a now-defunct professional soccer team. Tennis was a hobby of mine and after the soccer team was contracted by the league in 1998, I took a job at a local country club sweeping tennis courts for minimum wage just to pay the bills. Over the next 14 years, I endured an ownership change and a complete renovation of that club, all the while going from court sweeper to building the area's largest tennis program and summer sports camp as Director of Tennis and Recreation. I did quite well.
Even before I was financially secure in my tennis position, I had always made it a point to volunteer in the community far beyond the Great American Teach In. Young people always marveled that I have spent my adult life working "cool jobs" and in turn I preached to them that through education and hard work they can end up spending their lives doing what they loved too. However, much as my energy to teach voluntary classes has diminished as of late, so too has my belief in that which I had been preaching. That's what nine months of unemployment can do. That's what you feel after expressing interest in a potential job opening only to find those who know you think you are overqualified while those who don't know you don't view teaching tennis at a country club as quality experience. The notion that I actually built a program, managed a staff, maintained a budget, marketed my programs and gave back to the community is lost in translation.
I now spend each day looking for that job that builds on my experiences in sports management. I've looked toward schools and their athletic departments, professional teams and sent resumes to media outlets that may be looking for writers/reporters. But these entities in particular have been hit hard by the downtrodden economy. It makes me wonder again about all the talk of hard work and education being the path to fulfillment. Yes, the times are definitely changing, and with them so too are the fundamental principles that lead to success.
The good news is that I'm not ready to concede fully to my temporary pessimism. As I write this, I sit comfortably in a house, which I own, eating quality food alongside my three pets whom I spoil rotten. While I had hoped to work at the country club until the day I retire, I wonder if my next job could make me forget all about the last one. If this happens, you can bet I'll return to the schools and into the community making my usual speech with all the energy and enthusiasm having returned.
- Sports & Recreation
- Employment & Career
- Bureau of Labor Statistics