Bringing the Economy Home

Jobless In Idaho: Landing A Career After Two Years On The Hunt

Justy Thomas graduated from Boise State University in 2011. In May 2013, she landed a permanent job in her degree field.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact Idaho

Justy Thomas graduated from Boise State University in 2011. In May 2013, she landed a permanent job in her degree field.

Two years, several temporary jobs, 15 interviews, and countless applications later, Justy Thomas has landed a permanent job. “I feel blessed I have a stable job,” she says. Thomas is now working in the human resources department of a local utility company.

We first introduced you to Justy Thomas in November 2011. She’s been part of our Jobless In Idaho series, a reporting project that tracked out-of-work Idahoans on their paths to finding careers.

As we reported back in 2011, Thomas was a month away from graduating from Boise State University with a degree in human resources and business management. Thomas decided to go to school after she was laid off in 2007 from her job in the mortgage industry.

“I wanted to do a reset. I wanted to change my career,” Thomas said in 2011. Then, Thomas said all the jobs she was looking at required something she didn’t have — a degree. “The job requirements didn’t say ‘or experience.’ They wouldn’t even look at, or consider me, unless I had a four-year degree.”

Here's Thomas on graduation day, December 2011.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact

Here's Thomas on graduation day, December 2011.

So, at 38-years-old, she got that degree. When we spoke on graduation day in December 2011, Thomas was bursting with pride. She didn’t take a traditional path through the education system. Instead, she got pregnant as a teenager, dropped out of high school, got her GED, and joined the workforce. College wasn’t an option then.

When we first met in 2011, Idaho’s unemployment rate was 7.9 percent. There were at least 70,000 Idahoans out of work who wanted full-time jobs. The recovery was — and still is — slow and nerve wracking. For Thomas, the prospect of finding meaningful employment was very much an unknown.

A few weeks before her graduation date, Thomas said, “I wonder if I had gone back to work these last four years, and just pulled up my bootstraps and started at that ground floor again, and worked my way up, would I be satisfied? I certainly would be in less debt.”

After graduation, Thomas started the job hunt. By May 2012 she was working as a temp through a local staffing agency. Through the agency, Thomas worked for a handful of companies for short periods of time. The staffing agency hired her as a permanent job recruiter, but it wasn’t her dream job.

A few months later, one of the companies Thomas had temped for called to say they had a full-time, permanent job opening — and they wanted her. “I was tickled pink,” she says.

Just last month, Thomas made the move to the utility company she says could be the place she retires from. “It was a roller coaster ride,” says Thomas, “But, I feel like I’ve finally arrived.”


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