Out of work, but not out of options

Employment listings in a newspaper.

Tess Vigeland: We'll get the latest unemployment figures on Friday. A snapshot of how it's going out there in the American work force.

But behind all those numbers are people like commentator Cecilia Marquez, who describes for us the experience of taking a risk to get a paycheck.


Cecilia Marquez: I landed my first real, out-of-college job when I was not quite out of college.

I was offered a job as the sales and marketing director at a small fine jewelry company right before my final semester. I debated for weeks over whether to take the job and leave my liberal arts major behind. I told myself I was lucky to have a job offer in this economy. I reasoned that school would always be there, while this opportunity wouldn't. I wasn't going to be part of the alarming unemployment statistics for my age group. Almost 6 percent of recent grads are unemployed. That's double the rate from two years ago and the worst it's been since 1983.

It was my dream job in a field I was passionate about. Before then, I had floated between internships and short-term marketing stints. But I had always wanted a career in fashion. I imagined sitting in a creatively charged office talking about fashion and style.

But the reality didn't quite match up. Yes, I helped with a few designs. I took a business trip to San Francisco. I had a steady paycheck and was earning more then I had in the past. I moved to a bigger apartment. I ate out more than I did when I was in school. And I started thinking about buying a new car. I kept telling myself I should save more, but I had plenty of time.

But the thing was, I didn't. I got laid off three months into my new job. The company had underestimated the cost of funding my position. When they told me, I was trying so hard not to control myself, but my hands shook uncontrollably.

But when the shock passed, the odd thing was I felt a sense of relief. I pushed myself into the job market early, because I feared I wasn't going to get a job. I still don't know if I'll find work after I graduate, but I realized getting a degree is the most important thing I can do now. And I'm not afraid of being unemployed anymore.


Vigeland: Cecilia Marquez lives in Houston, Texas.

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