Young And Recessioned: Katie Spicer, Looking To Stuff Envelopes

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The Big Recession may have hit the rest of America harder than it has Houston, but that doesn't mean we're not feeling the effects. Especially the youngest people in the job market -- whether it's twentysomethings trying to start their dreamed-of career or teens looking to begin making money on their own, a lot of people are finding themselves having to settle for less or fight harder then they imagined to get a leg up. In the bi-weekly series Young & Recessioned, we'll be talking to those on the front lines, about the frustrations and, too, about strategies that have worked and might help others.

Today's installment features Katie Spicer, a 21-year-old University of South Carolina grad -- she graduated Summa Cum Laude in three and a half years -- who works a part-time retail job.

Originally I wanted to do business, which was a big mistake, and [South Carolina] has a really good business school. In the application process I found out they have a great scholarship for out-of-state students that's given by Bob McNair. Once I received the scholarship, I got a full ride and housing there for all four years. I enrolled in the Honors College, which has separate requirements in addition to your major. I majored in public relations and minored in French.

I'd always been told that there will always be jobs available for people as smart as you. That's just not true. The day I realized that, I think I had a nervous breakdown. You work so hard, but everything everyone's always told me just isn't true. I had an internship, a job for three years and great references, and [employers] wouldn't even call me back for an interview.

I work my retail job part-time. I think I would kill myself if I had to do it full-time. I make less than $9 an hour, and it's complete crap. I know you're supposed to pretend to like your employer but I can't even lie anymore.

I have to live at home. Since I finished school in three and a half years, my parents said I have a semester as a free pass almost. Especially since they didn't have to pay for me to go to school.

My parents wouldn't believe me when I told them that no one would hire me. But I was applying for two or three jobs a day. Every time I looked, it would be so upsetting that I just stopped. Every once in awhile, my parents would blow up on me, and they still do and accuse me of not wanting a job. That's no fun. I think we're all just getting frustrated.

I was looking for jobs all over the country. I was primarily focused on Houston or Texas, or the North/South Carolina area. Once I ran out of options, I made a list of ten cities I thought I could live in, and I looked for anything and everything there. This past month, I got lucky and found an [unpaid] internship and volunteer position at a museum and a performing arts center in Houston.

At my internship and volunteer job, I see people who are so motivated and enjoy their job and are doing something with a purpose. Then I go to my retail job, and it's like, 'What are we doing? We're selling jeans.' I went to college for three and a half years so I could sell pants to people.

I hate going to work and feeling angry, but sometimes I'm just so mad. I don't know how much longer I can take it.

The worst day at my retail job was after they eliminated our assistant manager position, and right before she left I found out that I made the least amount of money in the store. Eighteen-year-olds, who this is their first job, are making more money than I am. Then they changed my hours without telling me, so I told a co-worker that I was going to be late and to tell our manager to suck it. I think she did.

My ideal situation now is for someone at the museum or the place where I'm interning at to go on maternity leave. I love both those places, and if I could get an entry level job at any kind of arts-centered place, that would be great. Even stuffing envelopes for a museum is infinitely better than working at the mall.

Got a tale to tell about being Young & Recessioned? E-mail Paul Knight at paul.knight@houstonpress.com.

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Server Repair Houston
Server Repair Houston

Your office uses technology for the majority of its day to day running’s; you need your computers to communicate with clients, customers, and other businesses. 

Server Repair Houston
Server Repair Houston

Your office uses technology for the majority of its day to day running’s; you need your computers to communicate with clients, customers, and other businesses. 

Server Repair Houston
Server Repair Houston

Your office uses technology for the majority of its day to day running’s; you need your computers to communicate with clients, customers, and other businesses. 

SparkD
SparkD

Lauren, tell me about teaching outside the U.S.

Lauren McCabe
Lauren McCabe

I, too, was unemployed during the recession but I thought it was a great opportunity to do something totally off the beaten path while I job searched. I taught enrichment classes in public schools, waitressed, tutored the SAT, and got out of the US and headed to Asia.

Let's not mope, instead try:

Teaching english in Thailand for a year. You can still apply for "real" jobs back in the US, but in the meanwhile you'll be doing something interesting-- learning about a new culture and pushing your comfort zone. It's super easy to get a job and it requires no training, as programs teach with immersion.

SparkedUpAgain
SparkedUpAgain

And I don't appreciate some of you judging this young lady or even the younger generation for being whiners or underprivileged.

That's why Chelsea Clinton had to put her mother, Hillary in her place for judging the younger generation. I wish some people could be more understanding, and not as dream-crushing here!

SparkedUp
SparkedUp

Again, don't be afraid of Temp Agencies. One of the Fortune 500 companies I worked for had a whole IT staff, and many Engineering staff as a long-term temps. That's why many people are out of jobs today, because they don't add temporary recruiters to their work strategy. When temp companies pick up in work, it's a sign that the whole economy is turning around. Few people know this, that's why you need to take your skills, get your foot in the door, network/volunteer/join organizations, and add a temporary recruiter (add a mark/comm temp recruiter) to your job strategy!

Doctor Reality
Doctor Reality

Sorry if I wasn't clear, Paul.The 'Mommy's Unique Widdle Snowflakes' comment wasn't directed specifically at Katie, but to "empowered", early-20-somethings generally.

Paul Knight
Paul Knight

Doctor Reality,There's nothing about Katie that says she's Mommy's Unique Widdle Snowflakes. I'm not even sure what that means, but I think you're misguided.

Granted, there's nothing in your comment that indicates you actually read our post, but Katie isn't out there whining. She's working three jobs that she barely gets paid for, not waiting for the facts of life to set in, but trying to find work she enjoys. We just asked her to share her story and she did.

And we're asking a lot of young people to tell us these stories, because we think it's important. If you want to contribute, please do. Maybe share some knowledge on how you made it when you were her age, or better still, share some advice on how to stay away from 40 years of hell.

local
local

Damn Doctor, what's eating your ass?*get off my lawn and turn down that damn music*

CptIncredible
CptIncredible

Hang in there. The negative comments, while containing a nugget of truth, are the same thing that our parents' parents said about them, and aren't particularly effective at addressing the issue.

Yes, all of us should perhaps re-align our expectations when it comes to the job market. Yes, it's difficult to have realistic expectations fresh out of school. That's okay. That's called life and all of us hopefully go through it, come out better, and realize that it's a process that doesn't stop until we're in the ground.

It's good that you have supportive parents, even with the tension. Sit down, go over expectations (there's that word again), go over plans, and show that you're working on your goals and getting a job. Like #1 said, look at various organizations and go to town.

After getting my first degree, I spent 3 years in the service industry. The hours were decent and the pay was much better than what I'd have made at most entry level jobs. There are some maddening aspects to working front of the house in the restaurant business, but it can be good money for the time involved, and might be a good stopgap as you're looking for something more career-oriented for you.

Either way, good luck and don't be afraid to fail right now as you experiment. This is the easiest time to do it. :)

Reeseman
Reeseman

I think I work next to Doctor Reality. Every day's full of sunshine with him!

Doctor Reality
Doctor Reality

boo-freakin'-hoo.

Most young people today who are fresh out of college are entitled, overprivledged, morons, anyway. Somewhere along the road, along with mommy and daddy brainwashing them to believe that they were "special", someone also convinced them that "If you have a college degree, you're going to get a job making $100+K/year right out of college! Employers will compete for you, if you're good!" Then they get a job making what they're actually worth (�$30K), and they whine like babies about it until the facts of life set in.

So, Mommy's Unique Widdle Snowflakes - suck it up. Your hell has only just begun. You've got over 40 more years of this crap before you're forced to retire and have to get a job as a Walmart greeter so you can afford to buy catfood, so you'll have something to eat.

Sihaya
Sihaya

I know older folks than y'all who were in about the same position after they got laid off last year - they had a solid year of unemployment, even though they were veteran enough to know exactly where to pound the pavement for the jobs that you don't find on Monster or apps.

Xan - Try The Planet. They're an enormous hosting service based out of northwest Houston. They need IT support 24/7 for their customers and in order to maintain the servers. I don't know how the pay is any more, but it's better than zero, and it does seem to be a resume builder.

If they're not hiring, then take out a newspaper ad for your skills. Target the ad to your neighborhood in the "This Week" section or your neighborhood's weekly paper. I know more than one tech who has made ends meet by being "Tech for Hire" or "Phone a Geek!" for a little while. My husband did that for a couple of months before his ad actually garnered a good job offer from someone who was starting a business in the area.

Katie - Your local Chamber of Commerce may have a Young Professionals group. These groups usually have discounted membership dues or none at all. This'll be like the museum gig - it won't pay, but you'll get to know alot of people who know people. You want to be in on the larger chamber activities, luncheoning or volunteering with businessmen on a regular enough basis that they remember your face when the hiring freeze finally thaws.

To both of you - temp agencies may seem sort of a dead end, but it's not, really - it's certainly no worse for the soul than folding jeans part-time. Alot of companies eventually pull full time employees from Administaff or similar places. You want your name on file, and you want to say, "Yes," to a few temp offers.

Man, I was y'all back when the economy was supposedly great - I came out of college in the mid nineties with my degree that I'd earned with a full-ride scholarship. That first year my husband and I earned $2000 above the poverty line. We put groceries on our student credit cards in order to stretch things until the next month. It does come to an end, eventually, but the light at the end of the tunnel looks awfully distant when you're in the thick of it. Neither of us had first jobs with alot of upward mobility. I really do wish the both of you good luck soon with your job hunts.

Xan
Xan

I understand this COMPLETELY. I am in the same boat right now except I have no job, mostly because my parents understand and are not worried if it takes me a while to get my career rolling again. I moved to Houston from Louisville where I worked an internship since my senior year of high school then in January of 2009 they lay me off, then I find out I made the least money of everyone in the IT department there. Granted I haven't been to college but I have a few certifications and I went to a tech school my junior/senior year of high school, thus how I got an internship. After they laid me off, I kicked around back home for a year trying to find ANY job and NO ONE was hiring, not the grocery store, not clothing stores, nothing, not ONE job. I did get a job at a local small repair shop, then they closed because of the recession. My dad lives back home in Indiana and my mom lives here in Houston, my dad did that same crap to me told me I was lying and I just wasn't trying to get a job, but I was dropping three to four apps a day for unemployment, all on places that were not hiring. Hopefully here I can get my foot in the door and I plan on going back to school and maybe change my career path because as much as everyone says the IT industry is booming, it isn't. Good luck finding a job in IT out there it's like pulling teeth there is low supply and HIGH demand, got 40 people fighting over one position. Sorry for the long comment, but I just wanted to say I know how you feel and just tough it out and something will hopefully work out for you, I already have a few prospective jobs here and I have only been here for two weeks, and without a few years experience its gonna be hard getting your foot in the door.

Augustus
Augustus

Give me a break. Fresh out of college and the first speed bump she hits freaks her out. Grow a backbone and do the best you can at what you're doing. Learn from it. Things eventually get better. Sometimes you just have to earn your wings the old-fashioned way.

Sparkedup
Sparkedup

Somehow, I believe you can make it. I think you need to join and participate in the local communications organizations and get on their committees to build experience (IABC, PRSA, HIMA, AAF). You also need to register with a few temporary agencies to get your foot in the door (Clearpoint Creative, Kelly Services.) At least you'll work in a professional environment with decent pay, and a less degrading setting. Keep the faith, and think outside of the box. If you're working part-time, you can definitely work temporary. Have you considered joining or asking one of the recruiters from one of the local communications / marketing agencies to review your profile (Clearpoint Creative, Brookwoods Group)? You have the education and skill, it's time to build on your experience. Don't lose hope because your parents don't understand; and just because you're too young to understand the wisdom you will acquire from this!

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