August 19, 2022

Bucks: Readers Respond to Juggling Jobs

Sally Ryan for The New York TimesRoger Fierro working with Lynne McDaniel on marketing for her shop in Chicago.

The volume of responses inspired by the article on job juggling that ran on the cover of Sunday Business suggests that the four twentysomethings profiled — Roger Fierro, Mia Branco, Louise Gassman and Maureen McCarty — are just some of the many people working multiple jobs these days. The article garnered 174 published comments, and others listed their jobs on Twitter with the hashtag #myjobs.

project manager, marketing consultant, curator, art dealer, fundraiser/events for a @girlsrockbos, waitress, drummer, resource #myjobsless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

@nytimesbusiness #myjobs Pet sitter,dog walker,royalty reporting, website testing, and *almost* anything else people will pay me for. 3 it!less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Several commenters pointed out that job juggling isn’t just for the young — many in their 40s, 50s and 60s are working multiple jobs. At a time when they are raising children or thought they would have been in the twilight years of their career, they had hoped to lighten their career burdens, but those plans were scuttled when the economy soured. “I was laid off. I now work selling wine, I blanket horses, I also freelance as a medical writer,” wrote Elizabeth Zima. “I cannot pay my bills and will shortly declare bankruptcy…. This is not fun.”

Other commenters were critical of the individuals profiled in the story for their degree choice. “Where is the acknowledgement that liberal studies will NOT provide one with a living?” asked one. Another implored college students to: “Major where the jobs are. Major where the jobs are. Why is this so hard to grasp?” One commenter, who recently graduated from an engineering program, pointed out that the average starting salaries for almost every degree are available online.

Dismissing the value of a liberal arts education, however, is not entirely fair. While a degree in international studies, history or journalism might not monetize as quickly as a degree in, say, computer science or engineering, a liberal arts degree is supposed to teach some of the critical thinking, reasoning and writing skills that are the bread and butter of the new knowledge economy.

And advice to simply follow the big salaries might be misplaced. There are a lot of people who majored “where the jobs are” — and now have $200,000 in law school or business school debt and can’t get hired. Yes, the people profiled in the article are living on the edge financially, but they are figuring out, albeit slowly, how to parlay their college degrees into earnings.

The story also unearthed some intergenerational tension. Many older commenters were disdainful that Ms. Gassman was wearing expensive boots and that many in her cohort aspire to take a vacation or live in a nice neighborhood. As one commenter put it, “I hope they will someday realize just how lucky they are.”

Finally, a number of the commenters asked, “Why should I feel bad for these people?” In 2011, many young people are forging their way outside of the confines of corporate America in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The real news is that in these conditions, they’re not doing such a bad job after all.

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