“A Life-Changing Stroke at 26.” I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read this title, so I turned to the story immediately in the Sunday, September 25, 2016 edition of the New York Times. It’s about a young man who in the year 2000 catapulted himself into the fast lane of today’s employment world by joining a “venture-backed start-up company with a focus on education.” “I was 26 and felt invincible.” Putting in 70 hour weeks, his career surged until a year later when he arrived at his office not feeling well, attempted to participate in an office meeting, began slurring his words and awoke to the news he’d had a stroke.
My daughter, in her early 30’s, has been looking for a job for the past six months. Just the other day she read to me two job descriptions for what sounded in ” like glorified administrative assistant jobs. The pay for the full-time job was $19 per hour; for the part-time job the pay was $12 per hour. Both positions required appropriate college degrees, extensive experience with a multitude of computer programs, excellent writing and communication skills, ability to multitask and perform a multitude of functions from writing ad copy to managing staff schedules to financial tasks including bookkeeping, keeping track of staff payrolls and purchases. In both cases, the candidate is advised that he/she will sometimes be required to work additional hours, including weekends, and travel to other sites.
I was aghast. In my experience (and I’ve had many, many jobs of all kinds in my life) fulfilling the requirements of the fulltime job description would require the services of at least two full-time people; for the part-time job several part-time people would be needed. I couldn’t believe the pay that was being offered for the range of duties that were listed. No one could last a month in the Northeast on $12 per hour; even $19 per hour would not allow anyone to live independently.
We discussed the two ads and laughed about them for their impracticality. My daughter reminded me that this is the way it is now for anyone currently seeking employment. Employers expect the moon, and they expect employees to work well below what they are worth, if indeed they possess all the requisite skills, stretching themselves thin working unpredictable shifts and long days.
The only scenario I could envision is that anyone who is offered the fulltime job and attempts to fulfull all the duties conscientiously will also have a stroke within a year’s time. Or, the employers for both jobs will hire someone who simply will not be able to do the job well, and will have to either change the job description or keep hiring new employees as they each burn out trying to keep up with the job requirements.
Though both are jobs my daughter would love to have ( each is associated with non-profit organizations she would love to work for), we agreed that they were impossible jobs, not worth the anxiety and stress she would undoubtedly experience if she were hired.
In the meanwhile, my 33-year-old college-educated daughter, who speaks Spanish, has a college degree from a California University, plays the violin and is incredibly creative, articulate and responsible, since graduation has held half-a dozen minimum-wage jobs in various shops and businesses until she quit the most recent one due to unsavory behavior and discrimination on the part of her two male bosses (I insisted she leave). She now lives at home after several years of trying to live on a shoestring in California, and longs for a place of her own and a career she can sink her teeth into, as well as the companionship of other working people her age. She has lived in Australia, traveled to Spain for an archaeological dig, visited several European countries on her own but she is stuck at home on Long Island where she has no companions her age, nor any prospect of a good job.
Lately, I have been reading the news about how the economy is improving for low-wage earners. Not so for those who, like my daughter, are aching to use their education, their talent and their passion and be reasonably paid for doing so. Other than providing her with a safe, secure place to live I have run out of ideas for how to help her. Telling her there are thousands like her, languishing in their parents’ homes, waiting for a miracle is just not helping.
What will you do about her and others like her, Donald and Hillary? We’ve been watching the news and the debates. We’re waiting for an answer, but I fear we aren’t likely to get one. I’m not even sure the problem will be addressed.