Sunday, July 19, 2009

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 ...

Layoffs are a humbling experience. I’ve been through two within three months.

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.

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At 7/19/09, 10:20 PM, Anonymous laidoffguy said...

This person is probably in the same position as a lot of people. However I believe they have the right attitude about work. Don't give up until you find it.

After being laid off for 4 months, I'm working 3 1/2 hours away from home in another state during the week on a contract position. If it turns into a full time position, then we'd have to consider it. At least I am glad I am working.

At 7/20/09, 2:03 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Job loss...Been there. Done that. Yep, still 'there'. My heart goes out to those still getting pinked.

For me, losing my job was one of those defining moments in life. I knew I had a choice: I could choose to lose my way (my mind) or rise to the challenge and follow what my Spirit tells me to do, always remembering that I am more than a statistic on the news.

I'll share with you what I was told the day I got "set free" (laid off) from my job: "This is a new chapter in your life. WRITE ONE HELL OF A CHAPTER!" And I did just that! Will you?

So if you just need a break from the doom and gloom, let me send you a FREE book strings attached, really!

Sign up now:

Yes, times are tough, but it doesn't mean that we can't still give back to one another. This is simply my way...

take care,
Louise Lewis, author
No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You!

At 7/26/09, 11:22 PM, Anonymous Timesobserver said...

Sadly, this story touched a nerve with me. I too have been without a job for far too long.

I love being a journalist, especially being a "newspaper man." I climbed the journalism food chain and I was doing well when unexpected events forced me out of the business.

I have been out of work for too long and I'm too embarrassed to say for how long. I know the industry is getting hit hard, especially in my area where newspapers are laying people off left and right every few months. I quickly learned that because of the poor economy, even if I’m qualified for a job in another state and I’m a strong candidate, no newspaper or company has the budget right now to move me and my family.

However, I recently went back to school to learn about Web site development. I knew before I graduated college that is where newspapers were heading, but I guess I was too eager to leave school not to take the subject up. I went in last September and this past May I finished up with a Web development certificate. But as I studied hard and lowered my client intake (I’m a freelance editor), I watched in horror as the industry crashed even more.

So I’m hoping things will finally look up for me and my family. Being without a job is no joy. We are considering moving to the West Coast and try our luck there. It’s risky but where I’m located, there are no jobs, much less journalism jobs, to be found.

Thank you again for this column. I hope things are doing well for your friend and it has certainly given me a bit of hope.

At 7/26/09, 11:26 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Best of luck to you. My thoughts will be with you.

Not sure what Web developer involves right now (feel free to contact me by e-mail; I'd like to know more because we're looking at some curriculum changes here), but I have been told that if you don't have PHP and MySQL skills, it's probably a good thing to get them (assuming WebDev already includes Java, CSS, etc).


At 7/27/09, 11:46 PM, Anonymous Timesobserver said...

Hello Doug,

I just sent that e-mail to you. I'm sorry it was a little late, but I've been a bit busy. I'm sure you understand.

Take care,


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