Report from the field - humbled by layoffs
A few months ago, one of my former students was going through a rough time. The person had been laid off twice and was going through those self-worth questions that become so common. At the time, I asked this former student to write about the experience for this blog, partly to help as therapy. I held onto it for a bit, and then it slipped into the e-mail abyss.
I found it again today and reread it, and I think it's worth posting as putting a human face on what has happened in our industry.
Only, to this story there is a happy ending - at least for now. The person has gotten another job at a newspaper. Both of us are keeping our fingers crossed ...
The first time was a shock. I moved back to my beloved hometown with my first management job in hand and stars in my eyes. This was the prime opportunity I had been looking for to come home and to move up a notch in the journalism food chain. I left a recently purchased home and friends I’d made in my five years elsewhere in the state. I was well aware of the state of the industry, but I was hoping that I’d maybe dodged a bullet.
Not so much: After eight months, I was laid off. Profitability was the reason I was given. Trust me, had I known they were considering cuts, I wouldn’t have bothered trying for a year and a half to get that job.
I was unemployed for two months – the longest I have ever gone without a job. I learned about unemployment insurance, and I watched helplessly as the governor decried the situation at the state’s unemployment commission. I thought to myself as I filled out my unemployment papers, "How am I going to feed my family? It’s not like jobs are falling off trees these days." Every day was the same old grind: Get up, search for jobs online, fix lunch, continue search for jobs, eat dinner and work on a newsletter I put out on the side. On Mondays the routine changed a little: I would apply for my unemployment. Otherwise, that’s what I did for the two months I wasn’t working.
Weeks went by; Thanksgiving and Christmas passed me by, and the days started running together. I talked to friends and mentors in the industry to let them know my status.
About that time I saw an opening for a job in Georgia. I jumped at the opportunity, and I got the job. I enjoyed getting back to work. But the industry's woes followed me. Nearly six weeks after I began working, I was laid off again. I’d just signed my benefits statement, and my spouse and I were looking at apartments.
Layoffs are part of the landscape for the foreseeable future. It’s a way of life now for me, and after two I’m starting to wonder about my worth as a worker. At 27, I’m living at home with my parent and spouse, but I have a four-year degree. There is something wrong with that picture. For work I have options. I can stay in the industry and try again because of my relative young age, or I can go back to school for something else and get out of the industry altogether.
I love journalism, and copy editing is all I have ever done since graduating. I was impressed enough with the field to try to do it for a living six years ago, and I wish that I could stay in it. I just don’t know if I can with the dire situation that we as a people are in right now. South Carolina is ranked third in the nation in unemployment, and judging by the number of people I saw while reapplying for my benefits, I think it’s safe to say we’re in a lot of trouble. I can’t speak for the newspapers in the state, but there aren’t jobs literally falling off trees in South Carolina.
Right now, I’m taking it day by day and putting my name out in the open to see what jobs I can scrounge together. With some luck I will be able to stay in my hometown, but I’m not opposed to moving. Rather, I’m opposed to remaining out of work.