Over time I have read a lot of diaries about the great fall a lot of us have taken. Going from having a high middle class living to being broke and on the verge of losing everything.
I have been there, and I found my way out by reinventing myself.
Below the fold is my story. Feel free to use this path, this is why I am writing about it, it is not for every one and I certainly can not promise the results that I have ended up with.
The main idea is a state of mind. In this country we are used to having a benefactor who we put in our time with, in return we get the money that lets us live a hopefully comfortable life. I am suggesting that instead we approach life as an entrepreneur, the product being sold is ourselves, our skills and our time. Just as in a business we will want to look for a niche then find a way to fill it.
My journey really started in 2002 shortly after George W. Bush was elected. The industry I was working in began to collapse with in a week of his election. By January the manufacture of computer chips in our plant had slowed from 98% capacity to 38%.
My job as an industrial engineer became engineering the shut down of the giant machines that create computer chips for just about everything. Lay off began shortly after the first of the year 2003. One third of our 800 person production staff was let go. The following month brought another round, and on it went.
My job had in the past been one of the few where there was more jobs then there were people. For several years it had not been unusual for job recruiters to jump out of the bushes as I left work to offer me a job with some other company. They knocked on my door occasionally also. But the down ward spiral of the industry changed all that.
They finally got to me in March 2003 right around the time my husband finally got really sick with what would be his final battle with liver cancer. I was actually grateful because, at the time my husband needed more and more help just to do what he needed to do to keep going. Being jobless gave me the time to be there, and that is something I will always be grateful for. He died in June of that year leaving me to deal with a lot of unfinished business. I had a good stash of savings and some life insurance money. After the debts were paid I was able to consider taking some time to regroup.
I got called back to work for about two months in October of 2003. Then another layoff as the new year approached. The writing for me was on the wall. Our company had been wholly bought by Taiwan Semi Conductor the largest free play computer chip producer in the world. We were being used as an overflow facility to take on the extra work they could not handle in their 8 plants located in Taiwan. Our plant was also bordering on obsolete though it was only a few years old. The industry tanked badly shortly before the housing bubble burst and as my savings dwindled the future became very uncertain.
Since I was now supporting myself without the safety net of another income in the house, I began looking around for a different job. I had a lot of general skills that could translate to some jobs but the unemployment rate was high enough that people with the exact training in the same industry were available. In many cases I interviewed several times and they loved me but they would always go with the person that had the track record in the industry. Things were getting tight and I was facing a new problem no one wanted to hire someone who had not worked as long as I had.
A friend, someone I had always considered a little gullible had recently ordered a booklet about secret shopping and encouraged me to read it. I rolled my eyes at first but I was desperate, I needed to do something. I started researching the industry. I began taking jobs, generally the ones no one else wanted, the pay was poor and sometimes it took me much longer to complete than the job was rated for but I was also gaining skills. I was a independent contract employee which means I had to save and pay my own taxes. It was normal for me to leave the house at six in the morning not to return until seven or eight at night, then eat my dinner while writing reports and surfing the various companies for as many of these one time jobs as I could schedule. I developed a record for being dependable and writing good reports. $125.00 and celebrated after expenses I had made enough to pay the light bill.
Soon they began calling me the jobs got better paying, I began taking "part time" merchandising jobs two of them that were each 8 hours a week, filling in with other single jobs as many as I could fit in. An offer came to work for a marketing company 18 hours a week merchandising for a cigarette company at for $12.00 an hour I thought I had arrived, considering prior to my lay off I had been bringing in around 60,000.00 a year it seems rather suprising but true. That job lasted a year and a half before the company lost the contract and I got laid off once again. But I still had three other part time jobs to help me limp though.
My habits had become frugal. I grew most of my own food but still keeping things going was not easy. I picked up a job doing clip strips in some grocery stores not many hours but the pay was hourly and it was good training in the grocery stores. I began looking around and noticing just how many vendors were in the stores. I began asking about their companies and how they came to be working for them. Then came my break I found a post for a merchandiser with a cracker company in the grocery store the pay was much better $16.00 an hour with 28 hours a week. I met the sales rep in my local store he recognized me immediately we had been working the same stores for some time, he hired me on the spot. I could drop some of my other jobs and have days off, a luxury I hadn't had in years.
I decided to stick with this job awhile and prove I could actually stay in one place, my job became more than 28 hours a week with a few months. A year later my merchandising hours were adjusted down to make room for auditing hours at higher pay. I stayed with this 4 years.
One day while I was working in the back room of one of the grocery stores the shipping clerk told me about an opening for general manager at the local food co op. This co op founded 5 years ago had recently doubled its size. Its membership had tripled since the store opened. There is a plan to open a second location on the other side of town. Did I have the experience? I decided to go for it all they could do was say no. I decided to apply. I was interviewed by a committee, I was called back to interview at a general meeting, along with two other candidates. I learned that night they had over 100 applications, many including the two on stage with me had far more education and bigger credentials. But everything from organic farmer, to a stint as a volunteer for the Olympia food co op, to my odessy through the world of contract work added up to this job.
I got it. The person who called me told me they were impressed by how I had created a "career" from nothing and the life long commitment I had shown to local food production, organic agriculture and the genetic diversity of food crops. With my new job I have truly arrived, no its not engineering computer chips but I wasn't all that fond of that any way. It doesn't pay as much but it does pay well and far more than the minimum wage I was making when I started this journey.
I had a few things going for me when I started this journey. I owned my house so had no payment or rent. But I am proof that it is possible even in these times to start from nothing and rebuild your life.
To do this kind of work you will need a computer, a phone. The ability to write a narrative paragraph and the ability to be dependable will take you far. If you begin on this path finishing your jobs on time will get you more jobs. Get good enough and they will be calling you. You can find these jobs and research the companies that need work done in your area by starting here
If you have come up with a way to generate income please tell us about it. The greatest thing we as Americans have going for us is our ability to brain storm and work together to solve problems. It is not our government, or our corporations that once made our country great but the regular people working together to solve problems.