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Young And Recessioned: Katie Spicer, Looking To Stuff Envelopes

The Big Recession may have hit the rest of America harder than it has Houston, but that doesn't mean we're not feeling the effects. Especially the youngest people in the job market -- whether it's twentysomethings trying to start their dreamed-of career or teens looking to begin making money on their own, a lot of people are finding themselves having to settle for less or fight harder then they imagined to get a leg up. In the bi-weekly series Young & Recessioned, we'll be talking to those on the front lines, about the frustrations and, too, about strategies that have worked and might help others.

Today's installment features Katie Spicer, a 21-year-old University of South Carolina grad -- she graduated Summa Cum Laude in three and a half years -- who works a part-time retail job.

Originally I wanted to do business, which was a big mistake, and [South Carolina] has a really good business school. In the application process I found out they have a great scholarship for out-of-state students that's given by Bob McNair. Once I received the scholarship, I got a full ride and housing there for all four years. I enrolled in the Honors College, which has separate requirements in addition to your major. I majored in public relations and minored in French.

I'd always been told that there will always be jobs available for people as smart as you. That's just not true. The day I realized that, I think I had a nervous breakdown. You work so hard, but everything everyone's always told me just isn't true. I had an internship, a job for three years and great references, and [employers] wouldn't even call me back for an interview.

I work my retail job part-time. I think I would kill myself if I had to do it full-time. I make less than $9 an hour, and it's complete crap. I know you're supposed to pretend to like your employer but I can't even lie anymore.

I have to live at home. Since I finished school in three and a half years, my parents said I have a semester as a free pass almost. Especially since they didn't have to pay for me to go to school.

My parents wouldn't believe me when I told them that no one would hire me. But I was applying for two or three jobs a day. Every time I looked, it would be so upsetting that I just stopped. Every once in awhile, my parents would blow up on me, and they still do and accuse me of not wanting a job. That's no fun. I think we're all just getting frustrated.

I was looking for jobs all over the country. I was primarily focused on Houston or Texas, or the North/South Carolina area. Once I ran out of options, I made a list of ten cities I thought I could live in, and I looked for anything and everything there. This past month, I got lucky and found an [unpaid] internship and volunteer position at a museum and a performing arts center in Houston.

At my internship and volunteer job, I see people who are so motivated and enjoy their job and are doing something with a purpose. Then I go to my retail job, and it's like, 'What are we doing? We're selling jeans.' I went to college for three and a half years so I could sell pants to people.

I hate going to work and feeling angry, but sometimes I'm just so mad. I don't know how much longer I can take it.

The worst day at my retail job was after they eliminated our assistant manager position, and right before she left I found out that I made the least amount of money in the store. Eighteen-year-olds, who this is their first job, are making more money than I am. Then they changed my hours without telling me, so I told a co-worker that I was going to be late and to tell our manager to suck it. I think she did.

My ideal situation now is for someone at the museum or the place where I'm interning at to go on maternity leave. I love both those places, and if I could get an entry level job at any kind of arts-centered place, that would be great. Even stuffing envelopes for a museum is infinitely better than working at the mall.

Got a tale to tell about being Young & Recessioned? E-mail Paul Knight at paul.knight@houstonpress.com.


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