At Slate: When No One Else Will Hire You

Short piece with a bit of the personal thrown in for good measure about why starting a small business is actually a great idea for the unemployed. Read the whole thing at Slate.

Jacob Lefton learned the blacksmith’s trade in Europe. Restless, he’d left a low-paying job teaching gymnastics in Massachussetts* to travel to Ukraine for an annual blacksmith’s festival. Then he worked his way across the continent, honing his craft in various shops. In Europe, blacksmiths will take on and train journeymen in exchange for room and board. It’s taken more seriously as a profession than it is in the United States, where smithing tends to be seen as an idle pastime of retired engineers, or something confined to re-enactment villages.

The journeyman’s life would have suited Lefton, but he had something drawing him back home: student-loan debt. So in 2010, having returned stateside, he started his own blacksmith shop. “If I didn’t have loans to pay, I probably wouldn’t have started a business,” he admits. His federal loans are now in hardship deferment—he has one more year to build up his business before he has to start paying them back.

In short, Lefton became an entrepreneur out of necessity. And he’s not alone. With unemployment at 8.1 percent, and nearly half that number jobless for more than six months, the temptation to hire yourself when no one will hire you has rarely been stronger.

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