'Being Unemployed For So Long, I Was Kind Of Going Crazy'

Betsy Andrews, 54, is a newly hired substitute teacher at the Seattle Public Schools district.

I got laid off from my high school teaching job in June 2012. I've been between jobs before and I started looking for other teaching jobs even before I was laid off but I was surprised I could not find a job.

I got some interviews but didn't get the job. I have a lot of experience and education which puts me relatively high up on the salary schedule. I'm also 54, which I mention that because I'm reading about all of these people like me who are fairly well educated, especially in their 50s, who can’t find a job.

I was getting unemployment, and as it got later in the fall I started going outside education to look for jobs in other fields. I felt like I have generally good connections. I've lived in Seattle a long time and know a lot of people. And still I could not find a job. I got job coaching. I did LinkedIn. I went down to the unemployment office. I applied for jobs I was clearly qualified for, jobs I was overqualified for and getting nothing.

I was doing big-time networking. This is not all just sending resumes out in space. If you don't have a job, employers are going to suspect why. My job loss was definitely due to budget cuts. But sometimes it raises suspicions. It's just that the job market is crummy.

I talked to a friend who works for the Seattle Public Schools district. She was telling me the year I was looking for jobs initially -- so that's fall of 2012 -- she was saying that their school hired three new teachers but they were directly out of college. I think some of that happens because connections are made. There's that and plus you can work new teachers 16 hours a day. Experienced teachers won't do that.

When I did job coaching with a company here in the Seattle area they said they get 100 to 200 resumes for every listing they post. They talk about how great Seattle is, like our employment is better. And I'd say that's a little bit true now, but I think it's worse for people who are older who have experience and are highly educated. I know several people, highly educated, in their 40s, late 40s, early 50s, maybe, and I definitely think there's age discrimination and I think people can figure that out by your resume.

Being unemployed for so long I was kind of going crazy. Then I heard of a program through a community college and Vigor Shipyards where they pay for people to go to school to learn shipyard welding because there's a shortage of shipyard welders. I was like, you know what, I'm not getting any place. I really want to work and it's a unique program. I can't not work. So I signed up for that and started that in January.

For me it would've been a step back at first in pay and everything but I also could see career potential. Then the Seattle Public Schools district called me for a job I probably applied for in October. I'm now on a full-teacher contract as a building designated substitute. I've been so lucky.

I am fortunate because I have amazingly supportive family and wonderfully supportive friends and those are the people who I care about and who know me and who know I'm not lazy or all of those stereotypes about people who are out of work. As a result, I feel like it's my job to stand up and describe how difficult it really is out there because there are so many people who can't out of fear of being criticized or shamed.

As told to Eugene Mulero.


Betsy's story is part of a Huffington Post series profiling Americans who work hard and yet still struggle to make ends meet. Learn more about other individuals' experiences here.

Have a similar story you'd like to share? Email us at workingpoor@huffingtonpost.com or give us a call at (408) 508-4833, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.



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