Patricia Idema is a small town girl from northern Michigan. In early 2011, she was working as a cashier in a gas station in Spruce, Michigan. After graduating two years earlier from Albion college with a biology degree, she says she was beginning to feel hopeless that she would ever find the kind of work she dreamed about. “I was pretty dejected after two years of minimum wage.”The 25 year old Idema said.
Michigan’s unemployment rate just fell below 10 percent in November, it’s now at 9.8 percent. It is still higher than most states in the country. Unemployment numbers don’t capture how many people are working, like Idema did, at jobs that don’t quite meet their financial needs or their dreams of what kind of work they would like to do.
Idema says she say plenty of people down on their luck coming into the gas station every day. “To see people everyday who were so dejected and stuck. It was hard.”
Idema sent out about 20 resumes a week during her two year job search. In January, she sent one to a growing company downstate thinking nothing would come of it. But, “Within a week I had a new job.” she said. She started working on Valentine’s Day of this year as a mold spore analyst at a metro Detroit laboratory.
The company examines and tests air samples for mold spores. Building inspectors and residential mold testing companies looking for toxic mold are a big customers, and the company is expanding. “We joke that we’ll be the next Google and we’ll have a gym inside the lab,” says Idema. “It’s a pleasure to come to work everyday. I feel like it is such a lucky thing.”
Thrilled with her job and her new life, Idema says the change of pace has a lot to do with her happiness. “It’s like moving to the big city,” she says. “It’s not Detroit but it’s a big city compared to where I come from. There are things to do that aren’t available up north; it’s really a pleasure”
Idema sums up 2011 like this: “It was a good year for starting fresh with a new life.” Of 2012 she says, “I hope its a good year to grow personally, now that I’m settled.”
*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Inform our coverage by sharing your story.