Columbia is the subject of in-depth profile by the New York Times, which visited The Capital City to detail “a snapshot of economic woe.”
Midway through the piece, the Times interviews Lori Harris, a 47-year-old looking for work. A year ago, she graduated with an associate degree in medical assisting but hasn’t found the job market to her liking.
Ms. Harris said she was offered one job, as a medical technician dispensing pills to patients, but the pay was $7.50 an hour, the Times reported.
“Forget it,” she told reporter Peter S. Goodman. “I was like, ‘Is it worth going to college? Did I waste my time?’”
Ms. Harris “wondered if her age explains the rejections. Or her Boston accent. Or the smell of her cigarette smoking.”
Sadly, Ms. Harris apparently took no economics courses while working toward her associate degree.
First, $7,50 an hour isn’t a great wage, but it’s still better than nothing. In an economic downturn such as the US is currently experiencing, employers usually hold the advantage. They can afford to be choosy in terms of who they hire and how much they pay because there is an abundance of job seekers.
In a year or so, when the economy inevitably turns around, it will likely be an employee’s market, where those looking for jobs will have more options to pick from, both in terms of the work they’re offered and how much they’ll receive as compensation.
Unfortunately, Ms. Harris is only hurting herself by choosing not to work rather than taking a wage that she feels is not commensurate with her abilities. A better course of action would be to take the $7.50-an-hour job while keeping an eye out for a better-paying position.
Even if she can’t find another job beyond the $7.50-an-hour opportunity, she’ll be able to pad her resume so that when the economy does turn around and more jobs are available, she’ll be a in a better position to command more money.
As to Ms. Harris’s questions about whether her age, Boston accent or the fact that she smells like cigarettes hurt her in her job quest, the answers are probably “no,” “no” and “quite possibly.”
An employer is not going to take it as a good omen that someone seeking a job in the medical industry reeks of cigarettes. If you can’t scrub yourself up enough to make a good impression during a job interview, what are you going to be like on the job?
Again, it’s a matter of economics. No matter the industry, if you have three applicants for a single position and two are clean but the third is a walking advertisement for Marlboro, that third applicant is going to have a tough row to hoe.