Personal Testimony: Jill in Seattle, WA

Apr 12 2012

Jill in Seattle, WA writes to us:

It is very difficult for me to attend the Unemployed Nation Hearings. To get to the UW by bus from my house takes at least two buses and more than an hour each way. To drive there means pretty high parking costs. This is part of being unemployed.

I worked as an contract grant writer for four years until June of 2010 for one non-profit. I have extensive experience in environmental and water projects. When I lost the work in 2010 I panicked and immediately took a temporary position as an Executive Assistant at a local university -- not UW. The seating arrangement was so poor at the desk I worked at that I quickly developed tendonitis. The university, not the temp agency, suggested I apply to L & I which is something that would never have occurred to me.

I have been being treated for this problem since October of 2010 when the temp position ended. First, 9 months of physical therapy. When that didn’t help, I had a second MRI and a tear was found in my rotator cuff which could have developed over my career or in a fall I had at that job on the third day. I had surgery for that in September of 2011.

All of this is very difficult of course. I cannot tell potential employers about the injury or surgery or I will not even be considered for a position. However, in the past two years I have realized that the biggest obstacle I face to employment is age. I just turned 60 and have gray hair. I never thought of myself as old before this experience but I do now.

I have very little retirement funds. I pay for individual catastrophic health insurance but sometimes wonder why I do. I have a mortgage so I can’t easily move. I have a car payment for a good car. I could sell it but I would still need a car and maintaining older cars costs about as much as owning a good one in my experience.

What I am realizing is that while I’m adept with computers, a great writer, have a masters degree in a scientific field and am a great employee with good references, I am on the bottom end of the list for employers. I have to compete with 20 and 30 year olds for most positions. I get interviews but I don’t get the jobs. The world has changed. In the past my knowledge base was always the key to getting me work. People respected me for being intelligent and capable. Now, it seems employment is about image and I don’t fit the ideal. This is all very frustrating.