The Rights Stuff

The Hague's Last Yugoslavian Fugitive Gets Nabbed

| Thu Jul. 21, 2011 8:45 PM PDT

Last week when I was talking to Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, he said, "Guess how many fugitives ICTY has?" ICTY is what cool people call the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. "ICTY has 161 indicted criminals. Guess how many of them are fugitives." I didn't know. "One! It took a long time, but there is one remaining fugitive."

Well, not anymore.

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Farewell, Ohio

| Fri Jul. 15, 2011 7:50 AM PDT

It's the end of Assignment: Ohio, the month I spent in my home state living with a family wrapped up in the drama of Governor Kasich's new middle-class-unfriendly budget and the fight for collective bargaining.

It was an eventful month. First, the husband of the family got laid off from his state job. Then he got un-laid off. In between, my sister taught me how to benefit from Cleveland's housing crash, a cat named Barack Obama taught me some valuable life lessons, and a visit to a career-counseling office taught me I am basically unemployable in a recession. I found one good Ohio job and one really, really awful job. The only growth industry I found in the state was war.

Shortly before I left Columbus, I met with Kathleen Clyde, Democratic state representative for Ohio's 68th district. She urged me not to leave. "You should move back to Ohio," she told me. "We need people to stay here, and to come here." Last year, Ohio's population grew just 1.6 percent. Nationally, population growth was 9.7 percent. Cleveland's population is the same as it was in 1900. In the last 10 years, Ohio lost 600,000 jobs in the private sector, mostly manufacturing.

At 32, Clyde is the youngest woman in the legislature. When she talks about young people, she uses the first-person plural. When she was talking about "us," young Ohioans, she sounded the most energized. We're getting really engaged. We're going to have to get engaged, if we want to make this the kind of place we want to live.

It's not for nothing the state adopted the tourism slogan "The Heart of It All": In the 2012 elections, Clyde pointed out, "Ohio's gonna be at the epicenter again. We gotta reelect Obama and [Democratic senator] Sherrod Brown. We will be important in the presidential election. This is a battleground state." At the moment, Democrats have lost a lot of battles within the state. Drilling in state parks. Giveaways to big businesses. Heavy restrictions on abortion access. Allowing guns in bars. "It really feels like Ohio's at an important crossroads," Clyde lamented, "and we're headed in the wrong direction."

One of my friends summarized my reporting from Ohio as all "unicorns and rainbows." I suspect he was being sarcastic. While the state of the state is dire, I'll end this with a video of my personal hope for Ohio's future: A Columbus-born gay-pride baby who's a fast learner and isn't afraid to try to eat a grown-up's face. Go get 'em, Jocelyn. (And Go Bucks!)

A Visit to the Warehouse of Soul-Crushing Sadness

| Tue Jul. 12, 2011 3:00 AM PDT

Editors' note: Mac is spending a month in her home state of Ohio, reporting on the Wisconsin-style showdown involving Republican Gov. John Kasich, public employees, unions, teachers, students, and struggling middle-class families.

Last week, when my ex-girlfriend asked me if I'd ever been in a warehouse before, I shot her the most withering scowl I could muster. "Don't talk to me like I'm fancy-pants," I said as I followed her into the site she manages. "You know I worked for a moving company for five years." But within five minutes, it was clear I had never been in a warehouse like this before.

This is a warehouse where people ship stuff for big online companies that you've definitely heard of. The company, which I won't name, provides staffing for a nationwide logistics contractor that handles getting those Internet purchases from their origin—usually Chinese factories—to your doorstep. I won't name my ex so she doesn't get in trouble. Let's call her Susie. 

She kicked off my visit with a tour around the warehouse floor. First stop: Workers standing at tables, taking items out of a bulk box and putting them into different boxes with shipping labels on them. And that's...pretty much it. For efficiency purposes, every step of every process has been broken down and separated out so that almost everyone does the exact same motion over and over. The people at the next stop are standing at tables and putting labels on boxes, over and over. Sweating.

"It's hot in here," I said. It was like 90 degrees outside. "Don't you guys have air conditioning?"

"We do, but it's controlled by the big guys in the suits." Susie said everybody wears hats and coats during the winter because it's freezing inside.

The workers are all temps. It's been six months since the company graduated someone from temp to employee status.

"That job sucks," she said when we passed by the loading docks. A semi was backed up to the open door. A guy was standing inside it catching taped-up, ready-to-ship boxes off the conveyor belt and stacking them in the truck bed. "There's no circulation in there," Susie said, shaking her head.

"How much do these people make?"

About $9 an hour. When I said that wasn't very much—when I worked at the moving-company warehouse starting in 1998, I made $10 an hour—she replied, "For them it is. They have no jobs." Also, it's 50 cents an hour more than the people on the previous shift make. In a state with 8.6 percent unemployment, fierce competition for limited job openings, and a minimum wage of $7.25, you could do a lot worse.

Technically, these workers are all temps. They're hired as temps by the warehouse company, which is contracted to handle temporary staffing by a logistics company. If they make it 90 days, they have the opportunity to become full-blown employees of the logistics company, which means benefits and an extra dollar an hour. It's been six months since the logistics company graduated someone here from temp to employee status. At one of the other locations Susie manages, no one has been hired as a real employee for two years. One of the workers in this warehouse has been a temp for a year and a half.

After we walked past workers stuffing inflated plastic air pockets in boxes and a guy continuously taping shut the bottom of just-made boxes, we went to Susie's office. "Hold on, I gotta fire somebody real quick," she said, picking up the phone. She called a guy who'd been working for her for two months. She was sorry, she told him, but she had to let him go because one of the supervisors had caught him talking on the floor. The man, who she guessed is in his late 40s or early 50s, protested that he had only asked a new guy where he was from. That's just not the culture, Susie told him. You know the rules. The logistics company sets them, and she has no choice but to enforce them.

Indeed, it does say in the new-temp handout that there is no talking allowed on the warehouse floor. Also, there are no cell phones allowed. Like a high school teacher, Susie had a pile of phones she'd confiscated in a plastic bowl on her desk. Two sick days are allotted per year, and they must be excused; after that, the temp is terminated, doctor's note or no. Every temp is allowed one 30-minute break per day, and it must be taken in the break room. Every temp is required to have an ID badge. The cost of this badge is deducted from the temp's first paycheck, and is more than an hour's worth of wages.

I hadn't even finished the orientation document when Susie picked up the phone and got instructions from another supervisor that I could tell were bad news for another guy. "You're not really about to fire somebody else, are you?" I asked.

"Yeah."

“Somebody did studies and spreadsheets and crunched those numbers and figured out that the cheapest way to get that job done is to treat people like that.”

"You just fired somebody less than 10 minutes ago."

"Yeah, but he's been taking too many breaks."

"Are you kidding? Is anybody going to ask him why he's taking breaks? Maybe he's sick."

"No, they said he's been doing it all week. He's a bigger dude, so they think he's doing it"—the breakroom and the bathroom are in the heavily air conditioned part of the warehouse where the guys in the suits have offices—"because it's too hot for him on the floor." Susie called him and fired him for "excessive" breaks, though she pointed out to me that she didn't actually have to give him a reason.

A few days later, I had breakfast with someone who coincidentally works with the CEOs of logistics companies. Telling him about the conditions and the sterility and the mind-numbing sadness of the warehouse made him almost too bummed to eat his oatmeal. "Somebody did studies and spreadsheets and crunched those numbers," he said, "and figured out that the cheapest way to get that job done is to treat people like that." Which is important, he explained, because "the profit margins on those contracts are razor thin." Of course. A lot of the Internet retailers' merchandise is nearly worthless—ice princess star-shaped ice cube trays, cheap sunglasses, anthropomorphic stuffed bacon toys—and is sold for nearly nothing, often with free or reduced-price shipping.

Susie told me it's pretty dispiriting to act as though her workers are as disposable as the products they're shipping. But that's just the way it is, she said. The logistics clients aren't interested in spending money on a better or more sustainable work culture. Nor do they need to. There are 100 people employed in the warehouse I visited, and Susie could fire every one of them today without costing her bosses a dime of lost profits. She has applications from hundreds of people ready to take the job.

Life After the Death of Collective Bargaining

| Wed Jul. 6, 2011 3:00 AM PDT

Editors' note: Mac is spending a month in her home state of Ohio, reporting on the Wisconsin-style showdown involving Republican Gov. John Kasich, public employees, unions, teachers, students, and struggling middle-class families.

It's always something in Ohio. Last week, it became legal to bring concealed weapons into bars. A labor protest shut down a busy street in downtown Columbus. And the hotly contested, penny-pinching budget was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich.

For the friends I've been staying with, the impending budget has been wreaking havoc on domestic tranquility. First, Anthony got laid off because the budget was slated to cut so much from his employer, the Ohio Consumers' Counsel. Then, the family got the news that the OCC cut wasn't going to be quite as bad as anticipated. So now, though many of his coworkers are still out of a job, Anthony's is safe. The concern has shifted mostly onto Erin, a public school teacher.

Here's what's troublesome for her in the budget: a requirement that schools receiving federal Race to the Top grants ditch their longstanding experience- and education-based pay system in favor of an alternative, like merit-based pay. Erin's school is a Race to the Top school. While she signed on to her job with the impression that her future salary level would be guaranteed by a predetermined schedule, this provision means cash-strapped school administrators could decide that, based on some as-yet-to-be-determined criteria, her salary should be $10,000 or $20,000 less than it currently is. Normally, Erin's union could likely prevent any arbitrary salary changes or advocate on her behalf. But the Ohio legislature recently passed Senate Bill 5, a Wisconsin-y anti-collective-bargaining law that will render her union effectively powerless.

That was the subject of last week's protest. Almost as soon as SB 5 passed, opponents started gathering signatures to get a repeal measure on the November ballot. Last Wednesday, huge crowds gathered in downtown Columbus to march to the secretary of state's office and deliver those signatures. Shirts and flags identified them as firefighters, transit workers, teachers, electricians, bikers, state troopers; residents of Columbus, Cleveland, Findlay, Toledo; members of the SEIU, UAW, AFL-CIO. There was a professional drumline. There was the mayor, whom Erin nearly ran down with her unwieldy stroller when she veered toward him to shake his hand.

The organizers needed about 230,000 to get the SB 5 repeal on the ballot. They got 1,298,301. "We can't guarantee anything," said a spokeswoman for We Are Ohio, the campaign driving the effort, "but we're confident with the amount of signatures we've collected that we have a lot of support on our side."

Erin hopes they're right. She's nervous about it, though. So is Lindsey, another gal who lived in our dorm when we all went to Ohio State 10 years ago. Lindsey teaches middle-school English in rural Logan, about an hour outside Columbus. She stopped by for a visit the other day, bringing one of her kids, her two-month-old, to meet Erin's eleven-month-old. Most of the talk that wasn't about breast-feeding was about SB 5. Though Lindsey doesn't teach at a Race to the Top school, under the new legislation her district can opt out of its established pay schedule. And with union protections in jeopardy, she's not taking any chances.

"My husband wants to buy a new couch," she said. But—she cocked her head and winced hard—she doesn't want to take any money out of their savings until the repeal passes (or not) this fall. "We don't know what's gonna happen."

Front page image by ProgressOhio/Flickr

"I don't have to put my child in pageants now."

| Thu Jun. 30, 2011 10:38 AM PDT

Editors' note: Mac is spending a month in her home state of Ohio, reporting on the Wisconsin-style showdown involving Republican Governor John Kasich, public employees, unions, teachers, students, and struggling middle-class families.

Meet Erin Rodriguez, the 31-year-old I've been living with in Ohio this month. Her husband, a state employee, got laid off the week before last, the source of a lot of worry around the couple's newly purchased first home, as well as the source of a sad running joke that their 11-month-old is going to have to enter beauty pageants to earn money. Erin got some news yesterday. I'll just let her tell you.

 

 

My Sister The Squatter

| Tue Jun. 28, 2011 3:00 AM PDT

Editors' note: Mac is spending a month in her home state of Ohio, reporting on the Wisconsin-style showdown involving Republican Governor John Kasich, public employees, unions, teachers, students, and struggling middle-class families.

When I called my sister Jessica on Friday afternoon, she told me to look for the rusted-out couch frame on the front porch; I couldn't find her house, which I'd never been to before. And by "her house," I mean a house that has been foreclosed on and abandoned and in which she squats with three other people.

"There's not much to see," she said of the spacious two-story after she let me in the back door. The previous owners ripped up the kitchen walls for remodeling. In lieu of furniture, the family room has piles of discarded crap along the walls and in the corners. Upstairs in the bedrooms there are mattresses from the attic on the floor, marker on the walls (NIETZSCHE SUCKS), clothes hanging from a pull-up bar jerry-rigged out of wood and bolted to the ceiling. One of the downstairs rooms has a couch in it, and that's where my sister's boyfriend, Randall, was sitting.

This house used to belong to his parents. They bought it 10 years ago. Now, though it's big and has nice (albeit filthy) wood floors, it's valued at $40,000, which is less than they still owed on it, so they packed up and moved out last year. By that time, Randall had been looking for jobs as a line cook for months with no luck. Some of the positions he applied for had 150 other applicants. Eventually he gave up on the prospect of using his skills and shot for low-paying jobs like being a dishwasher. He applied all over town, but gave up on that, too, shortly after he asked the person in charge of hiring for a $7-an-hour job if they'd gotten a lot of applicants and the guy said, "Oh yeah. Seventy."

Jess and Randall, 35 and 33 respectively, have been living here since September. During the day, she puts on a nice white shirt and serves people $20 appetizers at a restaurant in Shaker Heights, one of the wealthiest Cleveland suburbs and once the wealthiest city in the country. At night, she goes back home a few miles away to Cleveland Cleveland, to a neighborhood she calls "the 'hood." Crime statistics seem to support this description; Cleveland's currently ranked one of the most dangerous cities in America.

While we were sitting around chatting, the back door slammed and footsteps approached. "Is someone HERE?" my sister asked, and between the squatting and the state of the neighborhood there's so much edge in her voice that I instinctively braced myself and we both started to get to our feet. There's a pet pit bull in the house, but he's a pussycat. A 23-year-old unemployed buff Navy vet who was discharged for depression and anxiety also lives here in the house, but he was very, very high. Anyway, it was just Randall's sister stopping by to say hello. "Do you want to see my gun?" my sister asked me, and she took me upstairs to show me where she keeps it in her room and explains she's got fucking throwing knives in her car.

Before this, they were renting half of a duplex at a pretty reasonable $400 a month. But Randall's been out of work for a long time now, and there's not much point in paying rent when this house is just standing here empty. It's something of a trend to occupy abandoned homes in the post-housing-crash world, and Randall's kind of a pro at this point. His grandmother also lost her house a little while back. She was disabled—when she worked at an auto plant in her 30s, a piece of sheet metal that flew off a rack sliced off both her feet; she took out a mortgage on her paid-for house after her husband died; she couldn't keep up with the payments and had to leave. When it was foreclosed on and empty, Randall moved in.

For the bulk of the time I spent at my sister's, she and Randall and the vet all talked about getting out of town, moving somewhere where there might be opportunities—West, Oregon. But they imagine they could probably get away with inhabiting this place for quite a while. "They probably won't get around to coming and throwing anybody out for a long time," says Randall, who knows from experience. "At the rate houses foreclose around here, they can't keep up."

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"Recessions don't affect people like me."

| Fri Jun. 24, 2011 12:52 PM PDT

Editors' note: Mac is spending a month in her home state of Ohio, reporting on the Wisconsin-style showdown involving Republican Governor John Kasich, public employees, unions, teachers, students, and struggling middle-class families.

"So, why is it that you're here?" one of my father's coworkers, Mike, asked me. We were in the backseat of his boss James' Lexus. My dad was in the front. Together, the three of them account for three of the Lexuses (Lexi?) in the office parking lot.

"Because you guys are the only people I know here without any job- or financial-security concerns," I said.

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"You don't know the right kind of people."

Over lunch at a Thai restaurant, James explained why business is so steady at their firm, which companies hire to find them the managers and VPs and CEOs they need. "We work with people in the $100,000-plus range," James told me. The average salary of a person they place is $130,000, but they can deal in much "bigger fish," as my father calls them; right now, for example, he's been tapped by a company to find them the right candidate for a position that pays $600,000. Last year he placed someone who made $1.4 million annually, and another who made $1.5 mil. "The unemployment rate for people who make $100,000-plus is only 4 percent," James said. That never changes much. So over the last few years, while the economy's been...troublesome for a lot of other types of businesses, profits at the firm have been steady.

"Do you guys have unlimited capacity to absorb more employees? The market would support that, and support their being successful?"

"Oh yes," James said.

Their firm is part of a global group with 4,400 employees. James keeps his firm to 22, because his preference is a smaller, closer working environment. Mike is the star of the whole damn global show, the highest grosser. He generally bills more than a million dollars. Last year, my dad only billed $630,000. Though he admits he would probably make more if he worked more than 12 hours a week.

He wasn't always this fancy! About 15 minutes after I graduated from college, he got fired from his position at the head of a company; our overmortgaged, overfinanced house and cars all had to go back to the banks and dealerships that rightfully owned them. Both my parents were unemployed and effectively homeless for a while. And way before that, in order to get to that, he'd worked his way up from being a day-laborer at a moving company. After lunch, he was talking about how shortly before I was born, he made $10 an hour.

"You did not make $10 an hour," I said. That's the same wage that a lot of moving companies pay now, I offered as proof that he was wrong.

"Exactly," he said. "That's the problem. The cost of living has gone way up, but wages have just been"—and here he made a box in the air with his hands and sort of a Tupperware-closing sound with his mouth—"locked in." In 1980, when the value of $100 was the equivalent of $274 today, he got his first management job at a Cleveland business with a high-school diploma for $28,000 a year. In 2007, I got my first magazine job with a master's degree for $27,000.

My dad's been at the firm since 2003; he got into the people-who-make-more-than-$100,000-a-year, unemployment-resistant job world just in time. Everybody at the office is totally in love with super-supportive James, and they have a room where you can take naps, and they put plaques with your face etched in bronze all over the walls when you've billed for the firm a million, and two million, four million dollars. "Recessions," my dad often says, "don't affect people like me."

Advice to Self: Don't Quit Your Day Job

| Thu Jun. 23, 2011 11:15 AM PDT

Editors' note: Mac is spending a month in her home state of Ohio, reporting on the Wisconsin-style showdown involving Republican Governor John Kasich, public employees, unions, teachers, students, and struggling middle-class families.  

Let's just dispense with the most disheartening things I heard yesterday from a career adviser: It's much harder to find a job now than it was when I graduated from Ohio State University 10 years ago. Several years ago, most of the people coming to this Continuing Education Department were alumni who had careers but wanted new ones; now it's mostly people who got laid off. Because the job market is so saturated with applicants, employers can be more demanding and picky. It's important to find a job that you're happy in because you'll spend most of your life doing that, though admittedly everyone, even people who love their jobs, would prefer to not work.

I met Jeff Robek the other day at career-exploration workshop, one of many programs the Columbus Metropolitan Library has been offering since its librarians started getting overwhelmed with requests for job-search assistance in 2008. I made an appointment to talk with Robek, and while I was at it, I got myself job-counseled.

After all, it would be statistically surprising to no one if I got laid off. In that event, Robek would be a good person to talk to, because I'd probably have to move back to Ohio from San Francisco. I'd need the cost of living decrease, since I'd probably stay unemployed for a while: Before the econapocalypse, the general rule was that it took one month of job searching for every $10,000 in annual salary earned. Nobody's crunched a new stat for the new order yet, but Robek says that, anecdotally, what used to take three to six months often now takes six to twelve. He adds, "Or even longer sometimes!"

And um, I was an English major. "Overall, it's harder to find students employment in their field" in the last couple of years, says Stephanie Ford, director of OSU's College of Arts and Sciences Career Services. Not as many employers are participating in job fairs; those that do consistently cancel. The 64,000-student OSU graduates many, many people with the same academic qualifications as me every year. Now that so many people from the skilled workforce are getting laid off or downsized, new grads have to compete with them. "It's a double whammy" for graduating seniors, Ford says. "They're competing with a more talented applicant pool, and there are fewer jobs to compete for."

OSU students are therefore being advised to step up their game by doing internships, building rock-solid resumes before graduation, and mastering professional communications so they can email and interview like pros right out of the gate. Ford agrees with Robek that it is "more of a challenge" to find jobs now than when I graduated, no matter how crazy your qualifications. I invite anyone who doubts this to browse the resumes of Mother Jones' most recent crop of interns, who between the seven of them speak Russian, Farsi, Dari, Arabic, Italian, French, Spanish, and Hebrew and have worked at places like PBS' Frontline (two of them), NPR, NBC, New York Press, the Miami HeraldWashington Monthly, The Nation, Sierra, the ACLU, the FTC, and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

Fairly recently, Robek advised a local alum who was a journalist about my age. He had worked in the field for years, but had lost his job due to cutbacks. He searched and searched for work. Committed to staying a reporter, in the end he moved to DC and took an unpaid internship. "If the field you're working in has no opportunities, it might be time to find something else you're passionate about," Robek said.

"My...'skills' as a journalist are awfully...specific," I told him. "It's hard for me to imagine how they might transfer over to a different and lucrative career."

He nodded and said, "Yeah."

Alright, fuck it. After reading my editors' special report on the "do more, earn less" economy, I announced that I'm moving to France anyway. I should probably get a complementary career for my impending new life. "I want to be a farmer and make cheese," I told Robek. (A career-compatibility test names skills I do not have—like mechanical competence—as good fits for this. But I'm totally a match for the corresponding values: Tradition. Practicality. Common sense!)

In the case of a career switch, the first thing Robek counseled me to do is gather a lot of information: What do farmers really do? What's it really like? I'd need to interview some. When I told Robek I'm way ahead of him—I worked on farms for several months in my early 20s—he said I should still get an update on the state of the field, then figure out what to do to break into it. Look on Monster, stalk LinkedIn, try to get in on the ground level. In this employer's market, where bosses know what they want and can demand exactly that, I have to be able to give it to them. Which in this instance—and in many of Robek's clients' instances—will probably involve going back to school, so it's a good thing I bothered getting a master's degree. In writing.

By the time I'm done with all that, perhaps the economy will have turned around. Robek is starting to see signs of progress. In the last six months, some of those people who already have careers but are just looking to switch are feeling secure enough to come back to his office. A year ago, he was lucky to have 80 job postings on the Buckeye Job Board. "Right now, there are 200."

Speaking of Buckeyes, my temporary landlord/roommate Anthony, was one, too, and he has just been informed that he's lost his job. "Rejected by the Ohio State University!" he said when he opened his laptop after getting home from work tonight. "They just sent me a letter." He'd applied for a position that he has years of direct experience with, but clearly a lot of other people did, too. He didn't make it to the interview phase at his alma mater.

Plus: For much more on our "work more, earn less" economy, including the jobless recovery, see our current package on The Great Speedup.

Ohio Dispatch: Can My Friend Get a Job Interview?

| Wed Jun. 22, 2011 9:34 AM PDT

Editors' note: Mac is spending a month in her home state of Ohio, reporting on the Wisconsin-style showdown involving Republican Governor John Kasich, public employees, unions, teachers, students, and struggling middle-class families.  

Last week was Erin's 31st birthday. When I asked her what her husband, Anthony, got her, she said, "Not a damn thing, I'd imagine, since we might be about to be a single-income family." She was wrong: Like on Mother's Day, he came home armed with presents.

The next day, Anthony called. His employer, the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, which is slated to have its finances reduced by as much as half in Governor John Kasich's budget, had given him notice. His job ends on June 30.

"What are we gonna do, monkey?" Erin asked their toddler, Jocelyn, as she sank to the floor, sighing. "I'm going to have to start entering you in pageants." Her face brightened a little when she turned to me. "I watched Toddlers & Tiaras for the first time today. I don't know why I haven't done that. Except that it smacks of child abuse."

Jeff Robek has some better advice. Yesterday, I watched the Ohio State University career advisor deliver a whole PowerPoint deck full of advice on career exploration. He was talking to a conference room in the downtown Columbus Metropolitan Library, which invited him as part of its Job Help Center. Staff and volunteers help job-seekers with everything from the very basics—email training, online-application navigating—to workshops for professionals. CML's website is the second most-visited in the whole county. Within the site, the Job Help Center page is the most-visited page. (It's not clear how those services will be affected after the new budget passes, since libraries are also in line for a big cut.)

"A lot of the people I'm working with have been laid off or find their field is shrinking," Robek told the assembled audience. The other big demographic? "I work with a lot of older job-seekers. Fifty-plus, sixty-plus." (OSU career advising is available not just to alumni but to anyone in the community.) Robek—who is perfectly Midwestern, with khakis and friendliness and neat hair—taught me the term "encore career," which appears to be a euphemism for "professionals who are old but can't afford to retire." He pointed us toward a lot of websites that list jobs, that allow you to research possible careers, and that have stats about jobs, like which ones are supposedly in a growth period. "With the job market as tight as it is right now, employers are picky," he cautioned.

The fact that it's a hirer's market is stunting Anthony's job search. He had an interview on Friday, his first one so far, though he's got years of experience and has been applying for dozens of jobs, for weeks. He was fortunate to make it into those who got interviewed out of the 150 who applied, but he's still up against 11 other contenders. He wore a purple shirt, to stand out, and because he doesn't like to be "bland." Though he has his fingers crossed, he's not counting on that position.

At night, after work, he was still working on his communications portfolio and putting in more applications. According to Robek, the odds aren't awesome; his last slide said that only 14 percent of people land a position through advertised jobs. Seventy percent of jobs come from networking, 11 percent through staffing agencies, and 5 percent through sending resumes. "I'm making a portfolio so I can use it on interviews," Anthony said with a toothy smile as he picked up a piece of it Jocelyn had thrown on the floor. "If I ever get one."

Plus: For much more on our "work more, earn less" economy, including the jobless recovery, see our current package on The Great Speedup.