November 22, 2011
Still unemployed: Out of luck but not out of hope
(Page 2 - Previous Page)
From the corner office to Crate & Barrel
When I talked with Annette Klein in 2009, she was certain success was just around the corner. She had been looking for a job for a few years, and she was thinking about starting a business.
“I’ll have made $1 million by next year at this time, and have a house with a backyard so we can get a dog,” she told me then.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way.
Klein (not her real name, to protect her privacy) was laid off as a vice president at a large entertainment conglomerate in 2005, and after taking a couple of years to raise her toddler, she started looking for work again in 2007. Her timing couldn’t have been worse.
Last year, Klein, who is in her 50s, marched her resume into about 15 retailers and landed a job as a salesperson at Crate & Barrel in Beverly Hills. She worked five- to seven-hour shifts a few days a week, on her feet the whole time, earning $9.50 an hour.
“Some customers were really nice, and some were awful. It’s hard to curb your tongue when someone treats you with disrespect, especially at my age, and at my place in life, and where I’ve been and what I’ve worked for,” Klein said.
The Crate & Barrel job ended when the store wanted her to work more hours, and she physically couldn’t handle it. So now she is back to looking for a job. In the past four years, she’s tried multilevel marketing sales of products such as Arbonne and Isagenix. She networks and pulls on connections, and she has thought about hiring an executive head-hunter firm — but that would have cost her $8,000 up front, with no guarantees.
So, for now, she keeps pounding the pavement, looking for work in the entertainment industry and meanwhile applying for any jobs she can think of — including as a nanny, in sales or as a personal or administrative assistant.
For some of these she is seen as overqualified, for others she doesn’t have the right experience. Her age doesn’t help, she said.
“I know with every inch of my body and bone and heart and soul, that I’ve done whatever I can. I’ve talked to people; I’ve used connections; I’ve done everything. I have every ounce of confidence that I can look you straight in the eye and say I have done everything possible,” she said.
While Klein has had to cut back, she is nevertheless not in dire financial straits, and said she has never feared she would end up in the streets.
She has a small early retirement payout from the entertainment company where she worked for 20 years, and child support from her ex-husband to raise their 8-year-old daughter. She used up a 401(k) to pay bills for the first few years, then burned through most of her inheritance from her father. Her mother died last December, and that fund is now paying her bills, including health insurance.
Two years ago, she received a $1,500 cash grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and a $4,000 loan from Jewish Free Loan of Los Angeles, which she is now paying off at $100 a month.
Nevertheless, her circumstances have taken a toll. Her relationship with her brother and sister, who live in New York, has broken down over the inheritance money, leaving her feeling bereft of family connection. Last summer, she had surgery to alleviate a collapsing jaw, which she said was stress related.
But she works to keep her spirits and her energy up, doing meditation and yoga, exercising and volunteering at her daughter’s school.
Klein and her daughter moved from a Los Angeles apartment to one in Beverly Hills, where she pays $700 a month less. Temple Emanuel, where her daughter goes to school, has been generous and supportive of her in all ways, she said.
She prides herself that her daughter has not had to feel the brunt of her financial stress.
“The one thing I never did was take it out on [my daughter] or let on to her that there are any problems. By the grace of God, she has everything she wants — a good school, a nice home. So she doesn’t have a big house with a swimming pool like her friends have. She is dying for a dog, and we’re going to have it, because I’m going to start making money, and I’ll get us a home with a backyard so she can go run and play with her doggy,” Klein said.
And Klein still considers herself lucky.
“I try to change anything in my life from a negative to a positive. Losing a six-figure salary is a negative. But I got to bring my daughter up. I was here for her — and these are tender years.”