A Note From a Returning Student: options beyond unemployment


October 29, 2009, was quite possibly one of the worst days of my life.  It was the day I was fired from Opex Corporation (Opex), which is a manufacturer of mail processing equipment where I served for over six years.  Embarrassment and shame were just two of a rainbow of emotions I experienced on that fall day.

I had been through a lot at Opex.  I was promoted on three separate occasions, received solid raises, and even won an award for best costume during a Halloween contest (I was Rocky from Rocky IV).  I went through a divorce that felt like I was prying a square peg from a round hole, and then worked with my ex’s family for over three years post separation; they were also employed at Opex.

As my world came crashing down, another challenge lay smack in my face: a recession.  Facing this challenge, my first step in beginning a new chapter in my life was to file an unemployment claim.  Opex did not contest this and both parties agreed on the events that had occurred.  The reality was difficult for me to come to grips with: I was not going to be successful as a technical writer.  For me, sitting down at a desk all day reading and writing is like sitting in a trailer in May for in-school suspension.

With a polished resume critiqued by the staff at Rutgers-Camden’s Career Center, and with a Psychology degree near the top, I scoured the job market.  I searched for anything that would pay my bills; something that I could be successful in.

I am sad to say that interviews were as frequent as seeing the Eagles win a super bowl, but The Gap in Center-City, Philadelphia finally called me to interview for a loss prevention position.  As far as I knew, the interview went well.  I received a call back and was told that the Gap was having a hiring freeze.  This seemed to be, and still is, a theme across American corporations.

A company from Berlin, N.J. also called about a purchasing position I had applied for.  The owner was impressed by something on my resume.  Sadly, an interview did not follow, and I was in the same predicament as I was on October 29.

Months passed by as I was collecting unemployment.  No jobs.  This was, as I believe you can imagine, nerve racking.  I thought to myself, “What the hell am I going to do?”  I finally made a decision to return to my alma mater, Rutgers-Camden, in pursuit of a Math degree.  Then I would pursue a Masters in Math to teach at the community college level.

I sit here a few days into the fall semester.  I’m excited to come back to the school where a C and D high school student turned his academic career around.  Being on unemployment was not a dead end.  It was the beginning of a journey including opportunity and self-discovery.  I learned to think about other avenues in life worth pursuing, like returning to college.  Coming back to school has invigorated hope in my career plans while also forcing me to fall back on my past successes in academia.  This semester, I will carry the largest bulk of credits I have ever undertaken.  Even with this new challenge, college gives me a sense of security and structure which are integral to my personal well-being.  I will study a new discipline and when I am finished, I will have the training and knowledge to be successful as a college math professor.  Thank you Rutgers-Camden.


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  1. Congratulations on continuing your education. You have choosen a solid field to pursue as you strive to further your acamdeic career. With the right attitude and such credentials to back you up from Rutgers, you can go far.

  2. Unfortunately, your story hits close to home with many graduates across the United States. I personally know many people who have earned a college degree in respectable fields and have been unsuccessful finding a job in this current job market. I can tell by reading your article that you do not allow adversity to define who you are and what you are capable of doing. Your positive attitude during this very difficult time shows that you are able to conquer any obstacle that comes your way. Going back to college to pursue a math degree will allow you to have many different options once you graduate. I wish you the best of luck during this very busy and challenging semester and encourage you to never lose your drive to be successful it will open up many opportunities for you.

  3. Your ambition shows strength. Your ability to put your recent struggles out there shows courage. I think it helps for people to know they are not alone and for others to hear the bitter truth about the obstacles many face.

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