The other day, I sat through an hour-long presentation at the state jobs’ office. The group of about 35 people was an interesting mix of ages, races, education levels, backgrounds, and reasons for being jobless.
Unemployment seems to be an equal-opportunity jerk.
There was an older white man who just moved back here from another state after losing his job and declaring bankruptcy. He was living with his sister and shared that he’d never used a computer in his life. (Wow).
There was a 40-something Latina woman who asked several questions about what the state could do for her, “someone highly skilled and educated,” so this and subsequent meetings wouldn’t be a “waste” of her time. (Eye roll).
There was a young black woman just beginning her career path looking for state funds for a nursing program at a local community college. (There’s no money available right now).
I sat at my table slightly stunned by this cross-section of America in this small meeting room. Men/women. Young/old/middle-aged. Well-dressed/wearing flip flops or ball hats. Arriving early/arriving late. Laid-off/fired/down-sized.
I was also surprised that some people just do not know how to behave in a group setting. Some took notes, others forgot a pen or didn’t care. Some blurted out questions, while others raised a hand. Several were long-winded or asked vague questions. A few took up too much time with super personal, specific questions. (Eye rolls aplenty).
I sat in the front row and wondered what my fellow unemployeds thought of me. I had arrived early, asked a few general questions (hand raised), and took copious notes. I was dressed pretty casual, but I hadn’t planned on attending this presentation when I left my house that morning. It seemed some people treated the gathering as an interview, while others came because of a requirement or even with hat in hand, looking for funding. I fell somewhere in the middle.
What was clear, however, was that none of us wanted to be in that room.
The speaker joked that we’d all rather be someplace else rather than listening to him talk about job programs and resume workshops. And I believe that’s true. I know I’d rather be at work complaining about needless conference calls or annoying email chains, dealing with staffing problems, or eating a hurried 30-minute lunch in a tiny windowless kitchen.
But we were there. But hopefully not next time. Hopefully.