Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dealing With Job Loss

Within the past week two friends have asked for any help or leads I could provide in finding a new job. One was laid off many months ago but still hasn't found work. Another has been informed that he will soon be laid off because his operation is moving to another state. Both are middle-aged workers with deep experience in their respective fields. Each has been used to earning a good salary.

As I sat thinking about my friends' predicaments, my mind stepped back to the day after I was laid off from a professional level job. Per instructions in my severance package, I drove to a local unemployment office to attend an outplacement seminar. The gray skies and rain matched my mood.

As I entered the building and shook the wet from my jacket, I was directed to a room with about 60 chairs. Although I have a habit of sitting near the front at meetings, I chose an empty row about 2/3rds of the way back and sat down to wait for the meeting to start.

Within a few minutes more than half of the seats were occupied. I looked around at the seated men and women, most of whom seemed to be near my age or older. I saw more than a few brows knitted with worry.

One burly fellow nervously chewed on his pen while puzzling over the booklets and forms that had been distributed. One lady looked like she'd just been punched in the stomach. One man with a weathered face sat with his jaw clenched and his forearms solidly resting on his thighs as he intently stared at nothing. A couple nearby gazed blankly ahead with emotionless faces. None of the attendees looked happy. Most simply looked uncomfortable.

As presenters took turns providing information about options, available help, and what steps to follow, the interchange soon revealed that many in the room were manufacturing floor workers that had been laid off from a government contracting business whose contracts were drying up. It was clear that many had expected to spend their entire career with this employer.

The questions asked also showed that many of these folks were worried about life's new realities. For years they had been handsomely paid, but few had much in the way of savings. The likelihood of finding a job that paid anywhere near their accustomed wage was very low. Some had spent years doing government mandated jobs that had become obsolete in private industry. Some voiced concerns about finding a job while being past their prime. The sense of despair in the room was palpable.

I sat in my seat silently praying, "Dear Lord, please don't let me be like them." After a while, I felt the edge ease off my own gloom as I realized that in many ways I was not like them.

Yes, I was middle-aged, was used to a good salary, and was trying to find a job in a lousy economy. But I was blessed to work in a field for which there was unusually robust demand. It would be far easier for me to find a job. In fact, I would find a job. I just knew it. I also had a decent amount of savings set aside. And I had temporary employment in my field that would keep me busy until I secured a permanent job.

After these realizations, I silently thanked the Lord and prayed for those less fortunate souls seated around me. The skies were still gray as I walked from the building, but my spirits were lifted.

I would spend the next seven weeks making a second job out of finding a job, while still holding down a full-time job. I was in a fortuitous situation, but it was still quite stressful. I was gratified to get many interviews, but there were some discouraging times as job offers failed to materialize or were inadequate.

After a solid job offer came in, it was hard to switch out of job finding mode. It was only then that I realized how much I had hunkered down and worked at the task. Though I was filled with gratitude, for a couple of days it was difficult to accept the relief of knowing that my job search was over.

I don't know what has happened to the other people that were in the outplacement seminar with me that day. I would hope that they have found employment. But I know that many of them had fewer prospects than my friend that has been out of work for nearly two years.

Having been helped by others during my job search, I am eager to offer similar help where I can. Sometimes there isn't much one can do in a given situation. But I hope that my two friends soon find decent employment. It's tough to be out of work.

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