When I emigrated with my sons to the USA in 2003, my experience in international trade and fluency in Portuguese were not enough to secure a position with an import-export company. My older son, with a Brazilian associate degree in computer programming, did not fair well either.
We joined thousands of job seekers at job fairs in Los Angeles. Flash interviews with company representatives at the various booths brought no success.
Some months later, learning about vacancies at a retail store opening in West Hollywood, we joined a line with over 2,000 people in Plummer Park. Over two hours elapsed before our turn came to enter the Community Center building where the job interviews were held. We first had to complete application forms, followed by an interview, and then a written test about integrity and work attitudes. A short film presentation about the corporation ended the day’s events.
I got a position but my son did not.
Since 2008, the global financial crisis has opened the eyes of Americans to a new reality. Looking for a job has become a nightmare. In March 2012, 12.7 million people were out of work. Over five million of them were unemployed for four months and more. Consider their plight of finding a job when there were only 3.5 million job openings in February. Discouraged, 865,000 people have stopped looking for work. (Figures published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2012.)
Lz, my Brazilian-American friend, did not give up. During a recent phone conversation, she told me: “Rose, we do what we gotta do.”
Lz is a fashion consultant. We met about two years ago when she opened a boutique in my neighborhood. I loved her taste in clothing and accessories. Her boutique was a joy to explore. But business was slow. Efforts to boost sales did not yield results. It saddened me when she had to close her business.
About six months after closing her boutique, Lz called me with good news. After failing to find work, she was in training to become a tourist guide. She was ecstatic about going on her first trial tour in Los Angeles with a group of Brazilian tourists.
Lz has re-invented herself. Accepting the new challenge entailed moving to Palm Desert in Riverside County, a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, where her employer is located. She and her husband left their home of thirty years. Their son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters remain in Los Angeles.
In a tough economy, competition for jobs is fierce. First-time job seekers compete with older and experienced candidates. Workers without the required qualifications and skills will be left behind. Job seekers must be prepared to learn new skills or re-locate. (A young neighbor, unemployed for almost a year, finally got a job in the US Virgin Islands. His girlfriend left her job to join him.)
Today, I am pursuing a new career as a writer and novelist. Every profession has its challenges. As Lz reminded me: We do what we gotta do.