In 1998, Bill Weisler was graduating from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, and employers were fighting over him and offering him good money.
He had quit school, worked for a few years, gotten married and had a child before deciding "to quit the poor life" and complete his degree. He landed his dream job designing satellites for Motorola’s Iridium wireless phone system, and earning a $47,000 salary plus a $3,000 signing bonus.
That time seems so long ago for Weisler, who was laid off from Motorola in early 2001 after surviving several rounds of layoffs. The layoff came just after his wife, Michelle, was hospitalized, and then gave birth prematurely to their third child, daughter Devon.
As the family’s financial struggles continued, their house then burned to the ground in August 2002. The family wasn’t home at the time, but their cat was killed in the fire. Because of insurance, the couple was able to rebuild their home.
But to this day, Bill Weisler has been unable to find work, despite submitting 30 to 50 applications and/or resumes weekly and pushing for interviews.
"When I went back to engineering school in 1995, I did it because I was working as a secretary for the county and I felt that becoming an engineer was a fairly secure environment," he said. "I knew it wasn’t guaranteed . . . but never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would be unemployed a year and a half and still looking, and doing everything I can to find a job."
In addition to engineering, Bill Weisler has been applying for jobs in the airline industry, as well as in retail and government at the federal, state and local levels.
Each day, he checks help wanted ads in the newspaper and on the Internet.
He said most of his former co-w o rke rs at Motorola remain unemployed like him. There are no jobs for engineers out there, he said.
"I know one person in particular, a friend of mine, who has not even had an interview and he is currently driving a school bus for a school district," Bill Weisler said.
The Weislers were doing well before the layoff.
Unlike other engineers earning good salaries, Bill and Michelle Weisler decided to be frugal with their money and didn’t buy a high-dollar home.
But the job did allow certain perks.
For example, when the couple’s second child, Bryce, was born, Michelle Weisler was able to quit her job at America West Airlines and become a full-time mom.
"When all of this started going and he got laid off, after about the first six months or so, it became obvious for me to try and do something," Michelle Weisler said. "I’m back with America West now. With me working, at least there’s some income."
Since losing his job, Bill Weisler went back to school and earned a master’s degree in business.
After trying unsuccessfully month after month to land a job in engineering, he now hoped his master’s in business will make him more attractive to employers in other industries.
"I thought getting my master’s would enhance it and it hasn’t enhanced anything," he said.
Bill Weisler has been able to land odd jobs here and there to bring in a few bucks each month, but those are beginning to evaporate, too.
"Things have gradually been getting tougher and tougher," he said. "A lot of the insurance money that is supposed to be going to replace things (lost in the fire) has been going to pay the mortgage. Just a couple of weeks ago, we were three months behind on our mortgage. But we submitted enough receipts to the insurance company that we got enough money to just catch us up on those three months."
The Weislers have relied on friends and family to help them make ends meet, and so far there’s always been just enough money to continue getting by.
"Right now I’m at the position where I really don’t feel hopeful about much," Bill Weisler said. "Until the next thing comes along to give me a little hope, I just sit back and say well, I look to God to provide and make sure things get taken care of, and luckily things have so far."
Michelle Weisler describes the family’s ongoing crisis as "an interesting experience."
"I can certainly say that I think I’ve aged about 10 years in two years," she said.