Careers Editor Valerie Jones offers personal experience of enduring through a lay-off and bouncing back at work.
Possibly one of the hardest things for an ambitious, 30-something who has worked consistently since the age of 16 to endure is the same thing hundreds of thousands of oil and gas workers have experienced as of late. And that, my friends, is a layoff.
I can’t say mine was unexpected. I worked at a startup company sprinkled with millennials and senior execs in their late thirties or early forties, free snacks and coffee in the break room, a video game console and endless in-office happy hours. My position was always as a writer, but every few months, the strategy changed. One quarter we were required to write several, shorter pieces per week and the next quarter, we were required to write four lengthy articles per month. If nothing else, writers are quite versatile.
The first cuts encompassed an entire team. The second round of layoffs included some of our writers. So my eyes were wide open.
When I was welcomed one morning with an email telling me to convene in the conference room, I knew what time it was. I mean, I saw the HR guy as I was coming in the office. So no surprises here.
I listened as they outlined our separation package and explained how long the continuation of our medical benefits would last. I didn’t really feel angry, embarrassed or isolated. The room was full. This round of cuts included people from several different departments. I wasn’t singled out. Still, knowing that some of my colleagues had families to care for, mortgages, etc. did tug at my heart strings. I thought my realism – with a hint of optimism – would get me through this transition.
As we newly unemployed workers were hurried out of the building (I made them let me in the kitchen to get my TV dinner – yeah, that was coming with me!), it didn’t really hit me until the receptionist, who I’d developed quite a good relationship with, ran up and hugged me with tears streaming down her face.
“I’m so sorry!” she said.
I assured her it was fine, I’d be fine, it wasn’t her fault and vowed to keep in touch. Then we all went out for drinks – at 10 in the morning.
I was unemployed for a total of three months, and to be honest, it was maddening. I spent about a month in my hometown staying with my parents to cut down on bills, depleted my savings because unemployment pay wasn’t enough to cover all of my expenses and scoured job boards daily looking for positions in my field.
As I mentioned previously, I’ve always worked. So I didn’t know what to do with myself every day. There’s only so many happy hours you can go to. Plus, all my friends were busy during the day – at their jobs. I’ll admit the first week was pretty cool. Almost felt like a vacation of sorts. You relax, regroup and figure out what your next move will be. And then reality set in.
Here’s a few tips I learned that helped me during my transition:
While three months may seem like a very short time compared to many oil and gas workers who have been searching for jobs for months, the tips I learned can help at any stage in the job search. For fear of sounding like a broken record, I won’t say that the industry will eventually recover. I will say that though you can’t control the industry – how it ebbs or flows – you can control your actions after a layoff and how you approach the job search. So do what you can to position yourself to come out of the downturn a winner.
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