All the cool kids have been laid off at least once. It’s true. Journalists are among the coolest of kids and in any newsroom of any media outlet of any size, a significant part of the staff will have experienced at least one layoff.
I remember one former journalism school prof crowing that you weren’t a real journalist unless you’d been fired at least once by the Mother Corp. (the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., to the uninitiated, and he’d been fired by it several times). Times have changed, and apparently being serially pink-slipped by the ubiquitous CBC doesn’t have quite the cachet that it used to. Now you earn your stripes by surviving layoffs.
The first time I was laid off I almost didn’t survive. Well, no, that’s overstating it, but news that I’d lost my job came a day or so after I’d returned from vacation, when I’d learned my life was going to change dramatically in other ways, and I dealt with it by curling up in a ball in a corner. I functioned, enough to pay attention when I was offered another job a few thousand miles away, and enough to pack and move (though I rented to the moving van two days before we were supposed to leave, to give you some indication of the molasses my brain was swimming through) and it took me months to get myself together. But that time it was personal — my union thought so, and so did I, though both of us failed to prove it — and it was just me.
This time, half of my office was laid off. Pain shared is pain lessened, in many ways. Except that now, of course, a whole lot of people with my skills — some (I’ll reluctantly admit) more talented than I — are hitting a shrinking job market at the same time as me, and that’s a frightening thing. Except that I’m not really frightened. I’m a strictly glass-half-empty kind of person yet I’ve got this curious optimism I’ll make it all work. Everyone tells me I’m doing all the right things and I have some confidence it’s going to pay off — even though four weeks after our layoff only one person of the 25 originals has found a job, and even though a lot of my former colleagues have already started earning money freelancing and I’ve managed just one assignment.
This blog is part of trying to make it all work. I started it to talk about my experience with being laid off, and also to explore some of the issues facing the modern job-seeker and the modern workforce. And maybe I’ll get a job out of it. Or maybe I’ll be employed before I get very far and will have to drop the project. Until then, let’s talk about what it feels like to be unemployed and how we go about changing that.