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Employment in Uncertain Times: Mine & Yours

Posted on January 24, 2010 at 9:14 AM

Subject: What jobs do people need done and how can you identify secure options for yourself?

Angle: Let's look at how Norway handles new ventures, as well as important jobs that need doing, despite hard times.

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"I should talk about under-employment," she thought sarcastically. That's me. I've been under-employed in Norway since my arrival, something I never thought would happen, of course. Many other innvandrer (in-wanderers, that is, immigrants) find themselves in the same boat, despite being highly employable at upper professional levels. They also call us 'utlendinger' (foreigners, aliens). Despite my own sorry history of trying to be more fully employed in Norway, or perhaps as a result of it, I share an urgent sense of empathy with those in the U.S. and, yes, even in Norway, who find themselves suddenly under-employed or out-of-work despite their best efforts and their determination to succeed.

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So what is there to do? I shall tell you what I did, and what others suggest. First, I applied for hundreds of jobs in Norway. (Bad idea:? age discrimination was still legal here.) I then applied for a few dozen more in Europe and the U.S., hoping to work from Norway, that is. I simultaneously took Norwegian lessons for almost one year. At that point, I gave up my daily applications (good idea) and tried to use networking and other avenues. After 2-3 years, I had garnered a bit of contract work, and my law school loans had gone into default, racking up capitalized interest at an obscene rate, and making all my own personal loan sharks froth in the rough waters of my economic drowning.

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On the bright side, I re-created myself in Norway from a career perspective, beginning after a few short months of sorting out where foods were on the grocery shelves, which stores carried what, and what those funny street signs mean that appear inside circles. I began editing texts on contract, and began teaching English on contract. This included substitute teaching as well as some small continuing education classes, teaching English. Luckily, in addition to being an American attorney, I was also a certified English teacher at the secondary level, and had college-level teaching experience. I also rented a small space with my small income and went back to creating art. I held several exhibitions and have sold some paintings and jewelry. A few years in, I also returned to school ? to finish an old Master's degree in English, resulting in my being hired on contract to teach at a Norwegian business college. I maintain my law license as active, which is not as cheap nor as easy as it might sound, but which affords me a small annual salary providing attorney-related services. I also took an interest in alternative health therapies and took the courses to provide related services, which I do now in my spare time. Sound ideal? Sorry, I would never be able to support myself with this scenario, absent my husband's steady income. Which leads me to the point that I must, in the next year or so, 'cut bait or switch,' as they say: that is, pull up my Norwegian income or go back to the U.S. to manage to do that there. Not a pretty scene. Besides, I now owe some sharks the approximate value of Norway's gross national product in re-capitalized interest, added to already capitalized interest that buried my original unpaid balance years ago. Still, I can't help feeling like I was the first to go through this recession, so it's comforting to see so many others joining me . . . as our student loan providers drag us all to the bottom of the un-bankruptable ocean-floor that is our 'economic lives.' But enough of these suicidal thoughts,? Virginia Woolf.

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Are you ready, spiritually-broken attorneys, writers, and other mantra-maddened job groups? Here is your deliverance: The jobs that Norwegians feel are the most meaningful jobs to be done for the society ("Norges viktigste," Dagbladet, 14. april, 2009, 13.) What? You weren't thinking in this direction? Oh, you were thinking of yourself? To begin with, you have to think with more collective goals in mind, alright? Starting there, here is the new important you:

1. Nurse

2. Teacher

3. Doctor

4. Police

5. Engineer

6. Hand worker (carpenter, plumber, electrician)

7. Case worker (in the public sector)

8. Attorney

9. Shop worker

10. Journalist

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Not exciting?? Not that there are a lot of jobs for print journalists or attorneys these days in the general economy. However, this list should help you put your 'society-glasses' on, as Norwegians might say.

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Recent projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on the top ten fastest-growing occupations follow:

- Home health aides

--Network systems and data communications analysts

- Medical assistants

- Physician assistants

- Computer software engineers

- Physical therapist assistants

- Dental hygienists

- Computer software engineers

- Dental assistants

- Personal and home care aides

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Mmm, some of these sound suspiciously similar to the 'important jobs' Norwegians value. What? You don't want to wash people's feet ? or teeth ? for a living? Many of them don't, either.? Or visit them in their homes to help them . . . eat? Yet, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, "many jobs in real estate and finance, for instance, are likely gone forever. And those in retail and leisure may be slow to return if consumers are reluctant to spend." ("Many lost jobs in U.S. will never come back," Sudeep Reddy, The Outlook, WSJ, Oct. 5, 2009.)

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I have an alternative suggestion, which may not differ markedly from portions of the previous list. Look around you, locally. Who needs help? Who needs a product? a service? an opportunity? Identify who helps persons who have that need to answer that need. If it is an agency, find out how to serve them. If it is a franchise, find out how to get one. If it is a license, find out how to acquire it. Stick with local issues ? you'll be making non-Walmart differences. After all, if you're lucky, you'll have profits that you can plow a portion of back into the community, the sort of thing we used to do in America. Also, join with others who are organized for business purposes in your community. The social network aspects of such work can help you and others identify and address detailed needs, not just help each other.

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Whatever you do, don't go to law school. Now, goodbye, it's time for me to enjoy my weekly hour-off. Let's see, what else could I do to make money? I wish you lots of luck, energy, enthusiasm and dedication.?

Categories: International Miscellaneous, Political Jargon