The economy’s not just in a downturn. It’s in transition. The rules of the game are changing, industries are transforming, and many jobs don’t feel so secure anymore. This spring, WPLN’s Kim Green is collecting stories of Tennesseans who are learning to survive and adapt to an uncertain marketplace, and an economy in flux.
Two years ago, Ann Jetton lost her job with a contractor that serves mortgage companies. She’d been working at one company or another for more than 36 years. Her first job was cleaning houses with her mother during summer breaks. In high school, she worked at Steak ‘n’ Shake.
At her latest job, Jetton scanned mortgages into a computer system—for about five years. She enjoyed the work. “This was gonna be my job until I retired, I felt,” says Jetton. “So yeah, it was very devastating for the first week.”
A Tenuous Safety Net
Jetton doesn’t like relying on unemployment checks to get by. “Who does?” she says. “But at the same time, I’m appreciative that I have it because it’s helping me get to the next place.”
She’s learned to squeeze every penny out of those checks by keeping her expenses low and sharing some bills with her 36-year-old daughter, who lives with her. But those checks may soon stop coming. Jetton is one of 28,000 Tennesseans whose extended unemployment benefits are about to run out.
Work That Serves Others
Nevertheless, Jetton isn’t worried. Her faith sustains her, and she says she’s spent these two years re-evaluating what’s important to her, and making a new life plan.
“God blessed me to be a giver,” she explains. She’s drawn to neglected creatures—her yard teems with stray dogs she’s adopted, and she often takes care of an older lady who suffers from dementia. “This lady has worked all her life,” says Jetton. “She deserves to have somebody to look after her who really does care.”
That’s exactly the kind of job Jetton is looking for when she does re-enter the workforce—something she finds meaningful. She dreams of opening a help center for children in need, and finding work as a home care provider. “I want to give back to people who are forgotten, like the elderly or the kids that need help,” says Jetton. “Because I was one of those kids.”
Despite her situation, Jetton radiates tranquility, and a certainty that she will come through this difficult time. “God is always telling me ‘Fear not, fear not,'” she says. “So when you’re in that place, and it’s a scary place, you have to dig deep and know that you’ve made it all these years.
“If I lose everything tomorrow,” she adds, “I’ll still be me.”
*Note: Since this interview, Ann Jetton has begun realizing her plan: she’s found work as an in-home caregiver for the elderly.