I thought myself kind of special, talented for sure. It felt like there was this magical, “if you want it, it will come” force that surrounded me.
That was then.
Today, I am part of a group of people who’ve lost their jobs and hang out at the coffee shop just to get out of the house, an incentive to shower and dress, if you will. Some of us work on our laptops, writing or sending out resumes and checking classifieds. We all know each other to varying degree, and we are part of an exclusive club: Those who will likely never work at a real job again.
There’s a story in Monday’s New York Times about us.
For my little coffee shop club, we also have the added distinction of living in the Metro Detroit area, ground zero for the employment implosion, or the greatest recession since the Great Depression as I’ve heard it called.
Great optimist that I am, I keep trying. There are no newspapers for me to edit, so I design websites, do some freelance writing, and keep growing LivingstonTalk.com, which I started with former co-worker Buddy Moorehouse, who lost his job the same day as me. After a few bumps, a disagreement with our former hosts and a few weeks offline, I’ve built a new site from scratch, a site I run myself, a site I love with all my heart.
When I have time, I write.
It’s a scrappy, challenging environment. There are so many of us out there who do the same kinds of work, trolling for the same jobs and the same dollars, crossing our fingers that we get paid. We compete on one level and prop each other up on another, sharing leads and contacts.
It hasn’t been enough.
One of my unemployed coffee shop friends — quite an accomplished guy — shared that he took a class at a local college for free, courtesy of a foundation trying to do good for the unemployed. The class had about 100 participants.
“The instructor asked everyone with bachelor’s degrees to raise their hands,” he said. “Then, he asked that everyone with advanced degrees keep their hands up.”
Nearly three-quarters of the unemployed people in the class had advanced degrees.
Now I am part of a group of nearly 30 people, many just like me, who are taking a small business class, learning about characteristics of entrepreneurs and writing business plans, letting terms like “elevator pitch” roll off our tongues. While everyone pushes “entrepreneurship” as an exciting new concept, in reality, the spoils still seem to go to large, established businesses, the ones for which many of my coffee shop friends and I used to work.
We wait. We cross our fingers. We wish and hope.
In the meantime, we drink coffee.