You just started your career and, just like that, you’ve been laid off.
One of the first things I was told at my very first internship was that job security in the music industry is next to none and that my job could get taken away at any second. However, I’d say that is true for many industries in this economy.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that a lot of twentysomethings don’t expect to get laid off, unless you’re a teacher. Even then, I don’t know if it’s expected, but for some reason our society has accepted it more, despite how horrible that is. In what other profession is it okay to lay off your entire staff and hire them back…lay them off again…? Because more people seem to care about the salaries of athletes over education. Right.
It was May, and I came back from my lunch break with two new shirts I’d bought on a gift card, feeling all fancy and stuff, despite the very intense frizz flying from my head from the humid, rainy air. I remember this because I still find it somewhat funny at how accomplished I’d felt for a few minutes, only to be followed with the contrast of The Grand End All.
Strangely enough, I felt rather calm when I was told that our team was being let go. It was not until I stood at the bus stop in the rain, like some trite scene from an early 90s rom com…a box of my stuff, the bus driver shutting the door in my face and driving away…I felt Frazzled, Frizzy, and Frustrated. And Meg Ryan didn’t even show up!
Why am I posting this here? Brace yourself. You’re sitting down? Not drinking anything? Already been to the restroom? Good. Because if you’re working in the arts, you’re probably going to get laid off at some point. It seems to be the way the Test-Score-Judging-Non-Funded Cookie crumbles.
What! This isn’t news to you? It wasn’t to me, either. But hear me out. I hear a lot of “why me” out there, and I know I thought it, too. However, I felt a lot worse for my coworkers and friends who have lost their jobs and already have families to support, or moved a long distance for a job, only to lose it shortly after.
But that doesn’t mean that a twentysomething shouldn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t be anxious or worried about losing their job. Since I have been asked about it a lot lately, I thought I’d write out some helpful things I learned, or had to come to terms with.
Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer!
Like I said, I realize that my situation was not the worst that it could be. I don’t have a family, I’m lucky to have been able to save, and I’m grateful that I found temp work fast. I know that many people are in this situation, and I have seen many of my family and friends lose their jobs repeatedly. However, I learned a lot from others and interacted with many helpful people, so why not share with you? I also think this could open a lot of discussion!
Many of my friends and family chimed in to tell me not to feel bad about filing for unemployment. I did feel guilty at first when I thought about it, but why? That’s what it’s there for. Not to abuse it, of course, but to use it when needed. I did anticipate it taking forever to file on the phone, but the woman I spoke to was actually really patient and helpful. Heck, you can always Skype in your call if you know you’re going to be put on hold. I chose the option for them to call you back when they’re ready to talk to you. Works swell. I washed many dishes in the meantime. You KNOW that’s time well spent!
The Why Me Factor
Everything is relative, and while you know it could be worse, it’s only natural to feel frustrated.
Not more than a few weeks after losing my job, I was notified that I must attend a workshop about job seeking in order to keep my unemployment benefits- that I could lose them if I didn’t attend. I felt sudden fury over the fact that within a week of filing for unemployment I happened to be randomly chosen for this prize.
I had to reschedule my first ‘career workshop’ session due to a health issue-more on that later-and then when the day came I decided to bike to the Employment & Training Resources office. Not only did my bike chain break on my glide down the street (not a soft landing), there was a No Beverages rule at the office…as in, no coffee. That hurt more than the human trebuchet (aka Farah with the broken bike).
The nerd in me was excited to be back in a class, though I knew a lot of the information. I have to say, a lot of the other individuals in the room where my age, so it was nice to see that I wasn’t the only one!
I feel that a lot of people would try and joke about the whole situation. Yeah, right, why do I have to be here? But if you want someone to review your resume and cover letter, need to print some materials, want to learn a computer skill…you can actually do all that at an employment resource center! Just don’t bring your coffee. You’ll have to chug it like I did and then pray to the bladder gods for a while.
Health Insurance-Do Research!
I was immediately worried about health coverage and knew that COBRA would be costly for me. I looked into a ton of options and called a lot of people with questions. http://gethuman.com/ was my friend.
However, following up-just like job applications-was essential. The enrollment for the insurance plan I was able to go on had expired by the time my form was filed, though I had sent it in on time. Technically, I was covered as of the first of the month for when I had enrolled, but I had no information on file since the form had, supposedly, been left on someone’s desk…or something of the sort. I could wait, right?
Wrong! As with all convenient things, I started experiencing appendicitis-like pains. I was lucky to get a blood test the day before my previous insurance expired, but by the time I was in the waiting room for a CAT scan, I was still without a new insurance ID. I was told that my CAT scan would not be authorized without one. I called some more people, and the awesome staff at Brigham and Women’s made some phone calls as well. We ended up getting through to someone who could scrounge up my information. And I was on my way to drinking some mocha flavored barium sulfate. Yum!
Moral of the story-be persistent! It’s your health! There are answers!
Networking-Seems Obvious, No?
Yes, yes it does. LinkedIn? Sure. At first, I felt embarrassed about letting people know that I had been laid off. But I kept hearing advice to let everyone know when you are looking for a job. So I did. I’d try to connect with people at companies I was interested in. Most people were very helpful, but some will blatantly ignore you. Everyone has their reasons. I also kept receiving offers from LinkedIn for a free Job Seeker trial account, which was great. Beware, though. I found that there are people out there who approach LinkedIn as a dating site. Not cool.
By the time I was talking to the guy at the pizza place about who he knew in the media industry…wait, let’s back up. Don’t underestimate who may know who. The guy at the pizza place is awesome. He offered to keep my business cards at the counter, since there are a few production companies in my neighborhood. Networking! Woo!
Anyway, by that time my previous coworkers found out that I’d lost my job. And my friend and previous coworker said, “hey, I have some audio work…”
I am over-the-moon-grateful that I was able to get full time temp work while continuing my job search. Amazing. But it took getting over my embarrassment of being laid off.
Short Lived Items on Your Resume
I lost my job less than a year from when I started. I was definitely worried about how this would look on my resume. Even when I explained my situation in a cover letter, recruiters and HR personnel always asked me. Honesty is the best policy!
I don’t think there was a day where I was bored and out of work. I was constantly looking for work, or refreshing job search pages that would display the same five jobs. I did end up catching up on all the shows I never watched but wanted to, aka reliving the 90s. I was also catching up on paperwork type things that I’d never had a few hours to sit down and focus on. For instance, finally finding a human to speak with about the fact that one of the credit agencies had mixed myself with my twin sister, therefore creating more than a few problems. Also getting my medical history back-medical records had gone digital and, woops! Same deal. Merged with my sister and became one person. I see a trend. In the future, Skynet is going to think one of us is a typo.
But beware! I did notice that some people took this as a ‘Wow, you have free time now! Party!’, when in fact I am thinking, ‘I have free time now, and no work, time to get frugal’. Even more frugal. Let’s go out for some ice water with lemon. Sounds like a party!
Is That On Sale?
My Aunt Stephanie made me well versed on coupons. I’m not one of the coupon fanatics who buys more than is necessary, but I will say that I have ordered online and not even paid shipping, and have been able to knock at least twenty dollars off of a CVS trip. I was, however, told that I reached a coupon limit at Target once. Kind of embarrassing. But also sort of felt like I’d reached the ends of the Earth.
Simply following your favorite places on Facebook or Twitter gets an in with all sorts of discounts. I definitely didn’t eat out much while out of work, but one of my favorite diners would send everyone on their email list a monthly special. I pretty much biked everywhere instead of taking public transit. And thanks to Stephanie’s coupons, again, I had stocked up on some stuff beforehand.
At this point, you’re probably imagining my apartment looks like that basement shelter in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. It’s not.
I’m not sure what else to say at the moment, but I hope some of this is helpful. I’m sure I’ll think of more later today. I was very hesitant to post this, as there are so many advice type articles posted by young people, who I’m sure individuals may view skeptically. I’m only 26, I certainly don’t know nearly enough compared to my parents! There is so much more to learn. And in this age of social media, some of the advice out there can get condescending, or just end up as a list of gifs. I hope to at least start a discussion here.
What has your experience been? Do you have any advice? And why do you still want to remain in the arts industry, when it seems to always be getting cut?