Your dream job, expendable in this economy?

You work hard for years to score your dream job. Then comes one of the worst recessions ever. Suddenly, you discover the hard way the economy considers your dream job “non-essential.”

It’s a bitter lesson taught too often these days to people in their late 40s, 50s and 60s. People who had cool, even enviable, jobs in a hot economy are finding their work to be expendable.

Judy Neiswander of Minneapolis is an art historian and museum curator who told us she was laid off and “unable to resume my career here, but fortunately I married (late, in my 50s)” and so has a stable income. But she wanted to talk about some of her friends who are struggling. She wrote:

Four of my friends have lost their jobs and another independent contractor has little work. The ones I worry most about are single women in their late 50s or older. Two have such specialized skills (textile conservator, Renaissance art historian) that re-training or changing careers is difficult if not impossible.

I should add that this isn’t JUST a problem for women – the guy next door was a philosophy professor who was laid off and can no longer find work in his field. But his wife works and can support them while he re-trains as an actuary while looking after the kids…

We tend to equate all job loss as equal. We’ve heard from people over the past few months who are a paycheck or two from homelessness, so obviously that’s a lot more dire.

Still, I hadn’t thought about the pain of losing that ideal job until that note from Neiswander, who’s a source in our Public Insight Network.

We all have dreams as kids (mine: second base for the Red Sox). But imagine snagging that perfect gig after years of effort, only to see it eliminated with little hope of it coming back. I’m not sure there’s any way to quantify that.

If you were in the job you always wanted then it got cut or compromised, please share your story with MPR News or post something below. Drop us a line if you’ve lost your perfect job, no matter your age.

Neiswander shared a couple stories. Her textile conservator friend worked…

…at a very high-level for her whole professional life… Now all her work has dried up and some private collectors have retrieved the items they’ve left with her for treatment because they can no longer afford her services. She’s lost her studio and now must share w/ a friend, but this means she can’t work on large pieces like rugs or tapestries, further limiting her earning capacity… she has no living relatives. So at 60ish, she’s really, really scared; all her friends are scared for her, but we don’t know what to do.

Neiswander also told us about a neighbor, “a training specialist, single and in her 50s, I think, who had been laid off and was without work for two years… she ran through her savings, her unemployment ran out and she had huge hassles about health insurance.

Then, after all that time, she landed the job of her dreams at a non-profit and was ecstatic, only to be laid off again after three months! Then she found herself unable to collect unemployment insurance, because she hadn’t worked enough quarters! It was insane! She had to clean houses, paint apartments, do odd jobs just to stay afloat. Fortunately, she owns her bungalow so she wasn’t about to be put out on the street, but again, she lay awake many nights worrying about what would become of her.

This story does have a happy ending (so far), as she just this past week got a job counseling displaced seniors who are looking for jobs – oh, the irony!

She says she got the job because she convinced her employers that she’d been there – she had lived through what they are living through.

Check out the map below for insights from people about the current job market. Then tell us what you’re seeing.

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