Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Laid off and Broke: One girl's tale of getting back on her feet

Last month I wrote about a good friend (and now ex-colleague) that I worked with, who was recently laid off from her marketing position after her role was "eliminated." She's always had a refreshingly hilarious way of looking at situations, so over Starbucks coffees last Saturday I talked her into writing a guest post about her adventures in being laid off and finding work in today's economy. Her perspective is priceless:

When Crystal asked me if I would “guest-blog” on her website about my wonderful fate of being laid off, I almost spilled my expensive Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte all over my lap. And that’s not a cheap drink, people, especially when you’re currently unemployed and living off of nothing. Well, not nothing, exactly. There are those paltry unemployment checks that are just beginning to trickle in. Yes, I am very grateful for those.

You see, the past month has been no picnic for me. I, like tens of thousands of other hard-working Americans, have been laid off. I’m about to share with you my frustrations and hardships of unemployment, the inevitable self-worth plunge and recovery, the different experiences (good and bad) that I’ve had while trying to get a new job, and how to prepare for a layoff.

For starters, I’d like to mention that once you hear the words “elimination” and “layoff,” your self-esteem and self-worth hits rock bottom … initially. Personally, I take my career success pretty seriously and the fact that my position was being “eliminated” brought forth feelings from junior high when I got cut or “eliminated” from the basketball team. After all, those feelings from the developmental stage NEVER leave you, EVER. But hey, my tennis uniform ended up being a lot hotter than the basketball team uniforms anyway.

So after the initial shock and tears of being jobless just 10 months into starting a job, reality begins to sink in. I have to find another job when the market is in the worst condition since the Great Depression and thousands of other people are being put out of work as well. This has to be someone’s idea of a sick joke. But it’s no joke, it’s harsh reality. Reality sucks, but with a great support system of family and friends, you realize that you can deal with this deck of cards, even if it’s the worst deck you’ve had in awhile.

The Big Job Hunt

I started the job hunt by posting my resume on Monster, Washington Post, the whole works. I searched/search Craig’s List and other various outlets multiple times a day. I spend my days staring at my computer screen with a cheap glass of wine, silently cursing the situation and developing carpal tunnel syndrome while plugging away at millions of emails to companies.

To take the job search to the next level, I started working the streets of DC. No it’s not what you think. I didn’t change my career path from marketing to prostitution. Instead, I dressed up as though I was going on a job interview, prepared envelopes with my resume, writing samples and references, and dropped off the envelopes to prospective employers. I figured that this would be a great way to stand apart from the crowd since most resumes are just emailed to HR departments.

So after I attempted seven resume drop-offs, I only got to meet one person who would be involved in the hiring process. All the other envelopes for job openings had to be left with the receptionists of companies. And I would like to add that the one person that I actually got to meet with for a few minutes was the biggest jerk I’ve ever met (well, one of the biggest).

First, he questioned if I had a political background (which would be reasonable if I wanted to work for a political organization, but this was not the case or requirement). Then he asked me what my political affiliation was. That was the icing on the cake. I suppose your company is not EOE, is it sir?

And then there was the brief stint with the staffing agency. These places are a huge mystery to me. They call you excited about your resume and potential job opportunities, invite you in, then say that the interview went really well and that there should be callbacks really soon … and then you hear nothing for weeks. The feelings of rejection resurface, again. Really? The bad experience with some of these places is that I would talk to a few different people, and none of them had the same story or knowledge of what the status was of the companies you were interviewing for. Awesome. Glad to know we’re working together here.

The Silver Lining

But it is what it is. Unemployment during bad economic conditions is a trying time on anyone, and it really just requires a lot of persistence, dedication and keeping a positive and knowing attitude that something will come up and work out. It just might not happen as fast as you think it should.

Which brings me to the “silver lining in the cloud.” Basically anyone that I have talked to that has been laid off, ALWAYS says that it worked out better for them in the long run. In other words, their layoff turned out to be a “blessing in disguise” and they found something even better for themselves at their next job.

I, too, believe in this. In fact, I honor the whole situation as a blessing in disguise. Sure, it’s quite the disguise, but things will get better. This, too, shall pass.

Lessons Learned

There are some very valuable lessons to be learned from losing your job. One of the top lessons is to MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EMERGENCY FUNDS SET ASIDE. I cannot stress how important this is. Especially during this market right now, it is so important to be prepared for a layoff, or maybe an unexpected baby. The options are endless. And seriously any amount helps. Whether its $200, $1,000 or more. You will need this money.

I thank my lucky stars that I had started to save for a rainy day (literally) a month or so before I was laid off. And thank goodness I never bought that $400 Coach bag that I had my eye on. Because let me tell you, those unemployment checks DO NOT even come close to what you were making while you had a job. Even with my emergency funds, I still have had to set aside my pride and receive some help financially. With my unemployment checks, I am bringing in about $900 LESS a month. This is of course better than nothing, but still doesn’t compare to the bacon that I was used to bringing home.

Nine hundred dollars is a LOT less money a month when you need to pay for rent, student loans, car, insurance, prescriptions, phone, and the whole nine yards.

Talk about a “brunette living on a budget” during a layoff! I think my Pumpkin Spice latte and lip gloss were the most excessive purchases that I had had in weeks. It sure does knock you off your feet. There was a night when I had to order water from the bar because I was without my man, and didn’t want to miss a friend’s birthday. It’s cool, though, I ended up looking very responsible anyway.

Well tomorrow’s another day and I’ll be working hard searching for jobs and preparing for an interview this week. Bring it on!

4 comments:

Samantha Easter said...

Great post! I was laid off last spring and it came out of the blue. I had an emergency fund but I tried not to use it, mainly because I ran out of checks for it. I tried my hand at being a full-time freelancer but it didn't go well, but luckily I only had to sweat for about 2 months before my summer job kicked in. Now I have a similar job that pays about 2.5 more. Talk about a silver lining. Good luck with your job hunt and I hope you enjoyed your latte!

Jackie said...

I too went through a layoff. It ended great - no more hour long commute each way and with a much clearer career path and my graduate degree will be paid for. Yay! But just a reminder since you mentioned student loans, when you are getting really desperate for money, most student loans can be put on hold due to hardship... Good luck!

Budget Mama said...

All the best of luck! I was laid off back in 2002. I know what you feel-it was tough (especially the unemployment chekds) but I have to say if I hadn't been laid off I wouldn't have found my new career path. Good luck on the job search (have you tried linked in? it's great for networking).

Revanche said...

Sorry to hear about another coworker being laid off. :( How's the job hunt going for your guest-post friend?

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