The job market being what it is, with a reported ten percent unemployment rate in Atlanta (that figure representing ten percent of the population drawing unemployment benefits- discounting those whose benefits have run out, or those who don’t draw unemployment) that means that competition for jobs is a bit fierce right now. And employers know it- they are picking and choosing whom they hire, taking only the creme de la creme. A recent study showed that most employers immediately discount anyone who has been unemployed for six months as an undesirable. You obviously aren’t a desirable commoddity if you haven’t caught an employer’s eye in six months.
So where does that leave the trans community? Those of us with passing issues face a number of hurdles in the job market already, and with employers quick to fire and reluctant to hire for the reasons of public image, HR issues and what they percieve to be ‘hassles’ in hiring the transgendered. And even those who pass just fine may have issues with documentation, legal hurdles where everything is going along swimmingly until the gender marker issue or the birth certificate comes into play.
So what’s a poor girl to do? Because I speak in generalization, there is no story that I can tell nearly as well as my own, and my experience tends to create the filter through which I view the world. Y’know, like yours. So with that in mind, let’s examine my experiences and I can explain how I arrived at my current solution.
Step 1: LOSE YOUR JOB
If you are doing well and cooking along in a career in corporate America, then more power to ya. It’s a fine feeling- a steady paycheck, benefits and security as you work today to build yourself a better tomorrow. And then all of a sudden the rug can be pulled out from under you- be it corporate downsizing in a poor economy, the company simply shutting down, a buyout where the first step is to slash staff or interpersonal conflict with a boss whom you make uncomfortable *cough cough*. But pack up your desk, because you’re out the door, beyotch, bye bye bye.
Step 2: THE HUNT FOR JOB OCTOBER
Hey, no problem, plenty of fish in the sea, plenty of places out there in the same business, and you have contacts- put it out over the web and tug a little, something is bound to turn up in short order, just bide your time and feel people out and something will turn around for sure. Update that resume and brush up on those skills, and the bank account can carry you for a bit, right?
Step 3: WHAT THE HELL
Now it has been months, and no interviews, people aren’t returning your calls and you are really starting to sniff your armpits and wonder if maybe you haven’t got a trio of sixes branded on your forehead. You’ve already started padding your resume and filling in that you JUST lost that job, not six months ago- after all, you know the company’s policy is to just give out the information that you worked there, period. So you’re keeping hope alive as you go ahead and cash in the 401K- no biggie, rebuild it later, just keep paying the mortgage and putting food on the table for now. Oh, and somehow you’ve put on 15 pounds, which makes everything better, right? Yay.
Step 4: WHAT THE F%$K?!?
Okay, now you have been out of work for so long you really are feeling like a leper. Fast food jobs won’t touch you, clerk jobs won’t touch you- hell, you can’t rember the last interview. The savings have run tight and the ebay store is actually a welcome relief income. Depression has definitely set in and you are starting to think about answering one of those “Make $300 a day from home!” spam ads in your filter, Your friends commisserate, yet nobody has a lead. Your worries about the future have moved from “I’m sure something will turn up soon” to “Are we going to lose everything?”
Step 5: CHANGE THE RULES OF THE GAME
This is when you finally accept that for whatever reason, the cosmos has decided that you don’t rate a break. Fifteen years in your old career? So what. Now you are overqualified, you cost too much and “oh my gawd I think that was a man in a dress” doesn’t even factor in anymore because the few and far between interviews that you have had resulted in good handshakes and feelings all around, but the cherry-picking of employers means that you aren’t being hired. It’s time to try something else, and this is where you start investigating technical schools. “Become a motorcycle mechanic! Learn to be an accountant! ITT Tech wants you! Welding is in high deamnd right now! Investigate an exciting career in comestology!”
A little research yields the information that student loans and grants are actually quite available these days, and sure enough, there are a number of career fields where being trans isn’t really much of an issue. A tough mechanic chick who looks a little burly turning a wrech becomes a turnon rather than a liability. A tall hairdresser with big hands and a winning personality is popular in any salon. The little stout welder guy is handy to fit into those small repair spaces. And there is a surprising amount of money to be made in those fields.
So therein hangs the lesson for today’s column; if you find the deck stacked against you and the rules of the game are getting you down, don’t keep trying the same thing expecting different results- that’s the very definition of insanity. Instead, change the game and change the rules. Find a new career field that suits you, get some loans- and with your name change, you might be surprised that suddenly you are elligible for all sorts of loans and grants now that you may previously have been cut off from. Do your research, see how much money is out thre, and find a new niche to go with your new life.
After all, with all of the changes happening inside and outside of you, why not change the environment of your career as well, to match? Because there’s nothing like a good transition and a fresh start!
Written by: Sabrina Pandora