Job Gap Study Write Up (Of my 2012-2014 experiences for the Alliance for a Just Society)

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Shawn Levesque
Lewiston, Maine
​I graduated with a degree that I hoped would lead to work doing administrative work for non-profits. I worked as security personnel at a hospital while I pursued my degree and became disenchanted with the field after seeing the corruption and abuse that occurred by hospital administrators. Changing my career trajectory entirely, I worked as a part time librarian until I learned about opportunities to teach English as a second language, which led to me accepting a position in northern China. The job was a great experience, however I chose to return home to help my family care for my ailing father and attend to mounting debt back home, and as a consequence, I had to accept a position as a car-washer to help make ends meet.
​I watched what I thought was an opportunity for advancement in a growing local marketing firm turn into unemployment as the managerial position folded. Facing my remaining $17,000 of student debt without a job, at the age of 36, I moved back in with my mother just to have a place to live. To decrease the financial burden I imposed on my mom, I applied for and began to receive food stamp benefits while I continued to search for jobs.
​After eight months of searching for and being rejected from a wide range of jobs from marketing to working as a janitor, and subsequently recovering from time spent in psychiatric care due to the stress, I finally found work with the State of Maine with the Maine Conservation Corps, where I will work to maintain the trail ways of Maine’s state park system. While the pay is very modest, my room and food expenses will be covered as part of my pay and I do not mind living simply, and as part of my job, my outstanding student loans will enter forbearance and Maine will assist me in paying them down while I work. If I hadn’t been fortunate enough to find this job with these specific benefits, I know I would still be living with my mother to help lower costs.
​I can’t imagine what I would have done if my mom hadn’t been willing to take me back in. Bill collectors don’t stop demanding payment just because you’re down on your luck. I tried to follow the “correct” life path as best as I could, and it still took a lot of perseverance, support and luck for me to “only” be an unemployed graduate living at home for eight months. I have no idea what people who aren’t as fortunate as I am would do if placed in a similar situation. Its not possible to afford to live on your own here on the minimum wage, even without any sort of loan debt. Our safety net system needs to be improved both here in Maine and nationwide. Without my mother being willing to take me in, there is no way I would have been able to make it back onto my feet.

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