Unemployed and underemployed workers today already know the impact our economy has on their careers and finances. And it seems that unemployment and underemployment has hit our younger generation hardest. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of young adults ages 18 to 24 currently employed has been its lowest since the government began collecting data in 1948.
But this isn't the important takeaway.
This generation of young adults has a keen sense of optimism about their future, despite the financial hardships they face today, according to the same study. Among adults ages 18 to 34, 88 percent reported either having or earning enough money now or expecting they will in the future.
I propose we latch on to this optimism and turn it into an opportunity to change the state of unemployment. We've all read the how-tos on finding a job when unemployed, making yourself more marketable, and the importance of learning new skills and trades.
One lesson is missing from our unemployment toolbox: How can the unemployed and underemployed get involved in today's political landscape to impact the state of the job market and future legislation?
Check out five ways you can take action and initiate change in the political landscape:
1. Join local organizations and groups. Of adults who use the Internet during election periods, 56 percent are members of a civic or political group, compared to 36 percent of all adults. So if you're interested in connecting with community activists or local organizations, you will likely be in good company. If you're not sure where or how to get involved, try using MeetUp to find groups near you.
2. Volunteer in the industry in which you're seeking a job or for an issue you're passionate about. Volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door while you're unemployed and a great way to make an impact. Almost all political activist groups and nonprofits are seeking volunteers to help run their organizations (i.e., marketing, web design, media relations, event planner, donations, etc.). Pair your industry expertise with volunteer experience that can also impact legislation.
3. Create or sign petitions affecting unemployment in your state. This is a great way to take a stand on issues directly affecting your state's unemployment. Use websites such as SignOn.org or Change.org to search current petitions or create your own. If your petition is compelling and accurate, it is possible to generate interest and change. Take a look at this petition called "The 99ers need a Tier V added to Unemployment Benefits." It currently has almost 48,000 signatures. Think of the impact your petition could make if it identifies specific issues and solutions in your state.
4. Support and oppose bills currently in Congress. Another important avenue toward impacting unemployment is considering bills currently sitting in Congress. An easy way to do this is to use POPVOX, a nonpartisan website that verifies and aggregates communication with Congress. Using POPVOX, you can search through bills currently in Congress, read bill details and the state of opinion on the bill, and view organizations that endorse or oppose the bill. If there's a bill that strikes you, you can support or oppose it easily.
5. Contact your state representative directly. Contacting your state representative directly can make an impact, too. An easy way to do this is by signing up with icount.com, another nonpartisan website that facilitates conversation between you and elected officials. Register with your address, then click on CONNECTIONS to see a list of your elected officials with buttons to email them.
Whatever route of action you choose to take, a healthy democracy relies on your participation.
As a job seeker, share other strategies and resources you use to make an impact on the state of unemployment in the comment section below.