A recession story: Down, but not out.
I thought I was being called into my editor’s office because I’d been mean to my new computer. In one week, it had eaten six of my entertainment pages. Poof! Gone.
I’d shouted something like “Gosh-darn it all!” when the little bomb icon appeared on my screen. That’s when the big boss man asked me to follow him.
It was nine days before Christmas, and I had an insane amount of work to do, putting together issues of The Kingston Whig-Standard’s entertainment magazine. I didn’t have time for a 9 am meeting or a scolding. But what I got was time – 79 unemployed days of it.
Sun Media, like other media companies – along with car makers, retailers, and many other employers – was going through a tough time, I was told, and 600 employees were being cut from the company. I was just one of the many.
I’d started at the newspaper when I was a 22-year-old Queen’s student. I had been elected editor of The Journal for the 1999-2000 school year, and that meant I got an internship at The Whig. The paper then hired me, and over the next seven years I‘d been, in turn, a music columnist, reporter and features editor. Now, I was laid off.
As I stomped out of the building, I turned to the boss. I wasn’t leaving quietly. “And to think that just three days ago, you had me hosting the city’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony with Santa Claus in minus 18 Celsius weather!” I snapped.
Yep. That showed ’em.
I was 31 years old, and the only thing I’d worked at since graduating was newspapers. Kingston has just one daily paper, and it had just given me the boot. Now what, I wondered?
Feeling a strange sense of desperate boldness just a few hours after being declared redundant, I fired off an e-mail to Kingston’s rock radio station, K-Rock 105.7. As The Whig’s features editor, it had been part of my job to go into the station and promote the newspaper on air a few minutes each week.
“Well, as a Christmastime treat, I was going to bring you guys a Starbucks on Friday morning,” I wrote, “but I’ve been laid off. So, obviously, I will no longer be able to come in and give you the scoop … However, I’m available to cover some vacation if you need a fill-in host.”
Turned out my instinct to write a letter was a good one. A few days later, even though I was feeling humiliated, I left my house and showed up at K-Rock to fill in for a host who was away for a couple of days.
Christine Fader, a career counselor at Queen’s and author of the new book Career Cupid: Your Guide to Landing and Loving Your Dream Job (Writing on Stone Press, 2009), says it’s OK to take a day or two to regroup after getting laid off, but she advises then it’s time to start living your life again and looking for employment.
“People have a tendency to barricade themselves in their houses with a box of Oreo cookies and season three through eight of M*A*S*H on DVD when something unforeseen such as a layoffs or recession happens in their working world,” she says, noting it’s not wise to search for jobs only on the Internet and apply by e-mail.
Seventy-nine days after getting laid off, K-Rock hired me to be a morning co-host even though I had just a few days of on-air experience.
While I was unemployed, everyone had the same inspirational message for me: When one door closes, another opens. Maybe. But with Canada’s unemployment rate hovering at more than seven per cent – up from a record low at the start of 2008, according to the latest Statistics Canada numbers – I had to fight for what I wanted: a new career.
“Most times, jobs don’t knock on the door (or the email in-box) and ask for a date. I guess they’re kinda shy,” Fader says, with a laugh.
In fact, only 20 per cent of jobs are advertised.
The other day, as I sat down at my new desk, I accidentally kicked the power bar that was under my chair. Poof! My screen turned black.
Had I saved my work?
Doesn’t matter. I can finish it later. I have tomorrow ....