Help! My life is stuck in a rut

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By: D. Sharon Pruitt - CC BY 2.0
By: D. Sharon PruittCC BY 2.0
My husband and I are happily married with two dogs. He works as a full time security guard, and I’ve spent the larger part of the last three years unemployed or working minimum wage jobs.

We feel like our life is stuck in a never ending rut of my student loan repayment and unemployment. (I apply for ten jobs a day just to do something, but I always hear that I’m either not qualified, overqualified, or my credit is too poor).

We are desperate to move into our own place but it never seems possible; we live with my dad and he is beyond driving us insane. He wants us gone as well, but we are barely staying above water as is.

Has anyone else ever been stuck like this? How did you find a way out, even a place to start? -Ducky

Comments on Help! My life is stuck in a rut

  1. This is almost exactly my story. I graduated from college three years ago and have faced either unemployment or low wage jobs. My fiancee and I have lived with my parents across the country for a year, his mom for a year and a half, and now we are finally living in our own place (only because my fiance had decided to become a teacher and got a job in an area with a low standard of living). During these three years I’ve worked mostly waitress jobs, which I don’t have to tell anyone that have suffered through them, are absolutely soul-sucking. My latest job lasted three days before they “let me go” (basically I needed a weekend off and they wouldn’t let me have it, so they fired me. Logical, I know). After that I spiraled down into a depression and have only recently started to get out of it.

    My saving grace has been making my own work: my Etsy shop and a holiday craft show that I went crazy preparing for and ended up paying out big time. Endlessly applying to jobs can be extremely defeating as it puts all the power into someone else’s hands. Making my products, refining my shop, and learning about how to run a business has really kept me going. I still am applying for jobs, but I’m focusing on what I can control. I’ve started to go to free business workshops at the local community college. It has been really good for me to focus on something that I can actively work on. It has taken me a solid year to get my business to this point (not an impressive point, but it brings in enough money to cover my costs, so that’s something). I also briefly started to write a cooking e-book but haven’t had the time for it recently, and put up flyers for a pet sitting business that didn’t get any hits. The important thing is to keep on trying different things and not get discouraged when those things don’t work (as hard as that is). Recently I’ve decided to go back to school to get a degree in massage therapy, then to get certified as a Restorative Exercise Specialist. Having this goal has built a ladder for me to get out of my own rut.

    The best advice I can give (advice that I am trying to follow myself) is to get out of the house and interact with people. Staying at the house all the time has really taken a toll on my psyche. Getting out and attending free workshops, volunteering, going out with my fiancee’s coworkers, and attending club meetings are great inexpensive ways to make connections. These connections are just as important as applying to jobs. Nowadays it seems that the best way to get a job is to know someone that knows someone. It also will open up your life to different ideas and opportunities.

    Hang in there.

  2. Have you thought about applying at the college or university you graduated from? I did a post-grad in HR at a local college and then got hired 3 years later after terrible minimum wage jobs/unemployment to work as an admin assistant. I doubt I would have been hired if I wasn’t a graduate of that school. Also, don’t be afraid to take maternity/parental leave/contract positions- it’s a great way to ‘get in’ somewhere.

  3. Also something to consider — it is better to be underemployed than unemployed. It seems like you might have a degree (guessing from the loan payments thing) but if the job market isn’t working for you, i would suggest trying something simple (even mcdonalds if you have to) for a little while until something better opens up. money is money and it could help you guys be able to move out faster.

  4. Super random and very Hollywood- but what if you traveled to the big city and started a dog- walking thing? Depending on what your dad’s yard is like, you could charge to have dogs come over and run around.

  5. I’m in that position right now, actually. I lost my job more than a year ago and I am graduating college in two months. My fiance and I live in a little apartment and I drive 30 miles to school everyday so all the money he makes goes straight into our gas tank and other bills. I feel like I’ve applied every where I can think of, but I keep getting the same responses: “You don’t have the experience we need.” “You’re overqualified.” and so on. I know how you feel!

    I really hope things get better for you!

    • I wish i could say it has gotten better.. some things have improved a bit, i got a part time job but not in my field and it doesn’t pay well but it beats nothing, we have set a budget and are struggling to keep too it. Both our cars have sucked up are savings and a bunch of medical bill that we weren’t expecting have left us in the red. I got screwed at tax time none of the 3 jobs i worked last year took enough taxes out so i owed the federal government money.

      Its hard to stay afloat in this ocean when all you have is love and a card board box.

      My advice to people in a similar position is to be open to moving to where the jobs are. I’ve built my life in a tiny town with no job market. it makes the struggle harder.

  6. When I became unemployed in 2008 (newly pregnant at that and after working for 18 years straight), I ended up working for a commercial cleaning service at night after being nearly a year and a half unemployed. Not super great, but it worked out to mainly avoid the cost of daycare by working opposite shifts with my BF. In order to maintain a flexible schedule (due to said child and wanting to make more $), I started taking on residential cleaning jobs on my own (with a $10 vacuum I got off of Craigslist) while phasing out the janitorial gig. It also gave me the benefit of working for myself and setting my own schedule with very low start up and advertising costs (free website, Vistaprint cards, Kinko’s/Uline tri-cut doorhangers in bags, Craigslist).

    Cleaning is not as super simple as it sounds though. You do have to learn/research techniques and products so as not to damage surfaces with chemicals (even vinegar…it IS an acid that should not be used on marble, granite, unsealed stone). Microfiber, Magic Erasers, and non-scratch blue scrub sponges CAN scratch with pressure and if misused on smooth stainless or high gloss surfaces, believe you me. Many people think also that just because you’ve wiped it, you’ve actually CLEANED it and that’s not always the case (there is dwell time, sanitization/disinfection time, and technique to consider). Sometimes people don’t consider looking for and taking down cobwebs, cleaning baseboards, or behind small counter appliances and such. Heavy soap scum, rust, and mineral stains can be doozies, too. There are a lot of cleaning groups on LinkedIn and YouTube videos I learned SO much from along the way (like clean from top-to-bottom, left-to-right, back-to-front & make the bed 1st, folding towels like they do at the high-end places, toilet paper V’s kept in place with a pretty sticker, etc). Cleaning IS quite physical and does wear on your body as well (get kneepads!), but, again, the freedom of being your own boss can’t be beat. Depending on your geographical location, your attention to detail, customer focus, trust & personality factor, you can make anywhere from (rockbottom) $10 an hour to $25 hr (or more) as a sought-after independent cleaner. You also get tips and holiday bonuses from nice clients. If I had the time I probably could have opened an Ebay store with client castoffs & extras. You can also diversify your services (once people get to know, like, and refer you) and build on providing organizing, pet, basic home staging, packing/unpacking for moves & errand service (basically personal assisting depending on your skills). I did so in the beginning while still working my janitorial gig for filler work and eventually phasing it out as I added more cleaning clients. You can also upsell add-on cleanings for inside ovens and fridges. With cleaning you can also specialize in just doing 1x deep/spring and or vacant home cleaning for move-ins/outs or real estate sale turnovers (as I did at one point, more high dollar in one shot, but labor intensive & longer hours). Beware new/post-construction/remodel cleanings as they take a whole lot longer and entail dealing with extraneous people like builders and multiple contractors in 1 place. Be mindful if you have allergies as well as some people smoke, have pets, and plants you may not acclimate to.

    After some hard learning experiences, I came to learn my personal production rates so as not to bite more than I can chew and stress myself about completing a job (particularly initial cleanings and hourly cleanings). There are cleaners out there who can zoom through a house and supposedly be detailed about it, but that’s not me and will never be me. So I offered ‘niche’ whole home DETAILED (make it look like a magazine) flat rate cleanings for residences up to 1500 sq. ft. only (charging .08-.10 a sq. ft. for biweekly cleanings depending if I or the client provided the tools/supplies and if they had a lot of people or pets in the household, about 2 cents less or so for weekly). The other option was priority hourly rate cleanings where clients tailored the rooms and tasks according to their budgeted hours completing as much on the list until the hours were up. I’m lucky to have never really had a-hole clients, but will never deal with a difficult one anyway. You come to learn how to filter PIA’s or people with unreasonably high expectations (like the ones who say a 3K home should only take a ‘few hours’ because, in THEIR estimation, “it’s not that dirty”….HA!). My personal production rates for biweekly cleanings runs 200 sq. ft. per hour on AVERAGE for biweekly DETAILED service (225 if I was amped on caffeine and ‘zooming’) for a lived-in home. Weekly cleanings go faster, obviously. I am definitely a ‘slow’ cleaner and normal industry standards for residential is about 500 s/f per hour. But, you know, I hear so much from clients about them firing “professional” team cleaning services or other solo cleaners because of the rushing and lack of detail. I did once clean a nearly 4K s/f home as a favor to a client for his parents who were the only 2 living there and most of the rooms were not really lived in (so just a super quick dust, vac, and toilet swish in those areas). The parents were generally clean and not super particular so that house was done in an unreal (and not really satisfactory to ME) 6 hours, but, whatever, they were OK with it and my client gave me specific directives on what to touch/do. I only serviced 15 miles +/- from my homebase (surrounding townships were fairly close) and 30+/- miles for 1x / real estate-type cleanings (since those were higher dollar). I say all of this just to give anyone who’s interested in giving residential cleaning a whirl reference points. It may not be fancy work, but it’s honest work, and I once met a professional corporate lady who complimented me on my little business as that was how she put herself through college.

    One thing I learned from cleaning houses was that I loved grassroots marketing! So if you’re not into cleaning, look into helping micro or small businesses grow and give credibility to their businesses as a Digital Marketing Specialist. If you can read, have good spelling, and have common sense, you CAN build a website for, say, a lawn service where the owner is too busy working to do the backend marketing work. “Content Marketing” (Google the term along with Google Authorship) is huge and is part and parcel of digital marketing. If you’re a good writer, creating blogs, articles, or white papers (useful, original content) is currently essential to ranking on Google. There is a great LinkedIn group for content marketing discussions/help. Social media marketing, geodirectory set up, video marketing (2 mins or less YouTube videos) is also a part of digital marketing. You can expand into learning more about SEO/optimizing websites on the back/front end, Schema, SEM/Search Engine Marketing, email marketing (newsletters, etc. via Constant Contact or Mail Chimp), setting up PPC ads (pay-per-click…Adwords, etc). There are podcasts (check out SEOPlumber & SEO Dojo) and YouTube videos (Matt Cutts & more) and other internet sources to learn more about all of these areas. You can pretty much do all of this from home, cafe, library, etc., too, in the dead of night or not. The goal for many small businesses (I think service-based ones are the easiest to help) is to rank on Google page 1. Helpful non-digital research to be explored is EDDM for small businesses (a more economical variation of direct mail offered by USPS). I am currently making moves to do more at-home digital marketing work and phase out the cleaning as I get older and more decrepit (pushing 40 here). 🙂 I thought about expanding my cleaning service into teams, but came to realize I have little interest in managing employees and worrying about quality control with a 4 y/o to raise up now and really wanting the schedule flexibility. Well, hope all of this helps someone out there & excuse any typos!

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