Young and Recessioned: Stephen Rawlings, From Engineer to Part-Time Musician

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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 than 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 Stephen Rawlings, a 25-year-old University of Texas grad and aspiring musician who was recently laid off from his job.

I got a job right after I graduated. I did take about a month off after graduation, just to do whatever and hang out. I went up to see my brother who lives in Michigan for like a week or two. I got the job through the career services at [the University of Texas]. I was a mechanical engineer at Flour Fluor in Sugar Land.

I was laid off about a month ago, and there were quite a few people let go. I worked there for about two and a half years. Getting laid off wasn't too much of a shock, because it had been tough times there for awhile. Actually, I can't believe I lasted that long.

I've started looking, but I haven't had a whole lot of success yet. I'm trying to stay in the engineering field, because I do actually enjoy it. I'm just trying to figure out where I want to be.

I figured it'd take a little bit of time to find a new job. I am surprised by the lack of response in general from people I've applied with. Nobody really contacts you back with any sort of urgency.

When I was in school, I never expected to be unemployed. At least you always hope not.

I moved out from my parents' place a while ago, so I'm actually on my own now. I have some savings that can last for a little while. I definitely cut down a lot of extraneous expenses, but I had enough [savings] to where I haven't gotten to where I'm struggling a whole lot yet.

I may have to start looking in another field. It could happen, but for me, I don't really see that happening anytime soon.

Probably the best lead I have right now is going back to Flour Fluor. In theory, they can call me back whenever and it'd basically be stepping back into my old position like I never left. That's probably the most promising lead I have. I've talked to my old boss a couple times, but I don't know if that's just hopeful thinking. I haven't talked to him in a couple weeks. I guess whatever he initially had planned for me didn't come through.

I got busy for a couple weeks, because I'm playing in this music festival in Oklahoma this weekend. The Norman Music Festival. I needed to get a CD put together, so I took about two weeks and just recorded shit as much as I could for that. That kept me kind of busy, and unfortunately out of the job searching, as much as I wanted to be.

Now that I'm not doing anything for work, the music is something good to keep me busy. I usually play a show maybe once a week, or once every couple of weeks. At least that's what I try to do. I've got one next Saturday down in Stafford. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to do [music] full time. Who doesn't want to be a rock star?

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

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