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Laid Off, 2010 Edition

This article was written by in Career and Work. 29 comments.

Last Thursday I lost my job without any warning. The small web design agency I was working for lost a couple of big contracts and they decided they couldn’t afford to keep me on as their only full-time User Experience Designer. This is extremely frustrating, not only because I liked most of my co-workers and felt like I was doing good work a lot of the time, but mainly because I had just finished paying off my credit cards for the first time, ever.

I was just learning what it was like to walk around without worrying about paying all my bills on time. I was about to start seriously saving money and/or paying down loans faster than expected. I was going to be in a position to be more than a couple of months away from homelessness. I was stable, and I had plans. I have mentioned here on occasion that in addition to my own foolishness, something external always got in the way of my intention to be free of debt. Exhibit A: Jobs Go Away.

I’ve never worked for the same company for more than two years. Either I’d get bored, or move across the country, or the company would be acquired… okay, there was one time I was legitimately fired. The boss and I couldn’t agree on how to run that company. I was two months away from finally achieving this small milestone at the place that just let me go. It’s fortunate that in the web design industry, nobody seems to care much about longevity, but it’s personally annoying.

My brand new ex-employer sent me away with a one month severance package. Even just typing that phrase made me a little nauseated.

But the most frustrating thing of all is that in looking at our household budget, there aren’t many opportunities for cutting back. The only luxury item that we pay for monthly is lawn maintenance, which doesn’t happen in the Fall or Winter, anyway. At $10, Netflix is negligible, and the only other change I could make would be to sell one of the cars, which would seriously hamper my ability to pick up another job. From my experience buying and selling cars, I’m pretty sure that selling a 2006 Prius in favor of a cheaper car would somehow end up being more expensive.

Okay. Deep breath. All is not inevitably bleak. Two more paychecks should be enough to get us through the middle of October, and I’ll have eight hours a day during which to look for a new job. There are still jobs out there. I’ve been applying and talking with people and I have a lunch meeting set up with an old co-worker who knows I’m smart and good at what I do. Hopefully, we’ll both like what we hear and I’ll be able to pick up another paycheck before things start to deteriorate.

I’ve filed for unemployment, which I’ve never done before, even though I probably should have in previous situations. I’ve updated my résumé and online portfolio. I’m going to refresh my profile every morning and look for industry jobs in all the places I can find.

Aside from that, do you have any job search advice? I am seriously worried.

Published or updated September 13, 2010.

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About the author

Smithee formerly lived primarily on credit cards and the good will of his friends. He is a newbie to personal finance but quickly learning from his past mistakes. You can follow him on Twitter, where his user name is @SmitheeConsumer. View all articles by .

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

Sorry to hear this, Smithee. :(

I don’t really have any job search advice, as I’ve never been much of a career type. But you’ve certainly got a portfolio of great writing here at consumerism commentary that you could use to find more freelance writing gigs.

Not necessarily a long-term solution. But I’d guess 8 hours/day of job searching is difficult to do. 6 hours may be just as effective, plus 2 hours of writing, or something like that.

Unrelated note: Disqus’ open ID function appears not to be working for me. Trying twitter ID now. :-/

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avatar 2 Anonymous

Hey Smithee — do you have an email address? I have a whole slew of how-to-job-hunt stuff that I can send your way. First off, when you meet with your friend, you’re not necessarily looking for that person to have a job for you, or to find a job for you. You’re asking three questions: (1) Here is where I’m looking; do you know anyone there, and may I use your name? (2) Given my qualifications and experience, where else should I be looking; do you know anyone there and may I use your name? and finally (3) What are the needs of your organization that I might be able to fill?

Next, re-jigger your resume to be accomplishment-based, rather than title-based or task-based. I have ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of my resume that I could share with you if you like.

I am fidoknits 1 at g mail dot com (you know how to fix it — the numeral stays a numeral, though) if you want to reach me separately.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

Sorry to hear the bad news Smithee; I actually groaned when I read that you lost your job. Best of luck in getting back into the workforce quickly.

Look on the bright side – at least you don’t have a credit card payment anymore to worry about.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

Sorry to hear this, regardless of what I think of your political views.

Look on the bright side, you don’t have any more consumer debt. Which in retrospect is great you did this.

Small businesses, like the one you worked for, are getting crushed and it will get worse in 2011. This isn’t just from my own business experience, but what my customers (who are also small biz) are telling me. I wish you the best in finding a new job, though I suspect it will not be an easy road ahead.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

Another thing you should during your “time off” is figure out your best hobby – for instance, you write the blog – and think about the broader opportunities for making money. You could research and begin to write a book about money, or some other interest (or even fiction). Although you may not end up publishing the book (or more likely, you sell 20 copies when you do) it does give you some structured activity, and if you do decide to write on a topic similar to your blog, you have an instant audience that might be interested in purchasing it (incidentally, I don’t recommend giving up the blog even if you were to do this). It helps keep you focused, working towards supplemental income, and you are working on something you obviously enjoy.

If writing a book isn’t it, any hobby can be structured towards income potential, and thinking about it that way doesn’t in any way deter you from looking for work and accepting a full time job because frankly, most of us have to do both and you’ve been doing both for some time now.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

Sorry to hear the news. I really hope you can find a replacement job soon. You could try putting up a profile on LinkeIn. I use it and I have found it very effective for marketing myself. There is a job search area where you can see what positions are open. I have also found that companies contact me about jobs, even when I am not looking. I hope this helps even just a little bit. Good luck and let me know if you are ever interested in guest posting on my blog or getting guest posters on yours.

Miss T

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avatar 7 Anonymous

This is a blessing. You will look back on this and be glad. You will likely wind up with a better opportunity for work, better income, better security, etc.

But this is also an excellent reminder that being debt free is critical. I had the same thing happen. And that event constantly reminds me that debt is bad. It reinforces the notion of financial freedom. It reminds you that no job is secure and you plan accordingly. You save and save and spend wisely and then soon job isn’t as important. And it happend to me years ago and I still use it as motivation.

As far as finding a job, you will find one and likely soon. That is not the point. The point is this event can change your life for the better.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

My suggestion is to really utilize LinkedIn and use your Network contacts. Realize that you may go thru the 7 waves of job loss, especially as this came by surprise.

Don’t just post resumes on company websites. Do pick up the phone and do some research for places that you know you’d like to work at.

Good Luck. Look on the bright side – there always is one. You’ll be better off, in time.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

On the bright side, you’re better off now than last year, or the year before.

The only thing I can add is, try not to panic. Desperation will work agianst you in so many ways.

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avatar 10 Anonymous is a joke. try or Keep in touch with your old co workers. Unemployment agencies also has access to better employers than sometimes going on your own.

Hag out where other designers go. Find out where other agencies are located and have coffee or lunch nearby. Strike up conversations.

Congrats on paying off your credit cards!

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avatar 11 Anonymous

Smithee: So sorry to hear of the job loss, and so relieved that, as you note, you’re debt-free. That takes some of the pressure off.
I second everyone’s ideas about LinkedIn et al. If it’s kosher with Flexo, I’m going to post several links to my “Living With Less” column on MSN Money:
1. Freelancing opportunities (and not just writing/editing):
2. Moonlighting tips from the pros:
3. A financial fire drill (aka, basic budgeting/survival budget — this gives you a sense of control):
4. Basic services, part 1 (it probably won’t come to this, but it’s good to know what’s out there):
5. Basic services, part 2 (worst-case scenario — again, it probably won’t come to this):
You’re obviously intelligent and very employable. Sending positive thoughts your way (and towards all the folks on LinkedIn, too, to start a bidding war for your services!).

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avatar 12 Anonymous

Mate sorry to here.

1) The government offers a full 99 weeks of unemployment insurance now. Take advantage of that to the MAX! This is a HUGE safety net which should help a lot.

2) Instead of an article a week or two, you can probably write more here at CC, and find other freelance work out there. Flexo and I can ask around in the Yakezie network if you’d like.

3) What about government jobs? Those guys are paying themselves well and hiring like crazy!



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avatar 13 Anonymous

I couldn’t easily find any info about Smithee’s obligations so I’ve gotta ask. Where do you live? Do you own a house? Married? Kids?

I’m always highly suspicious when people say that there isn’t much room for cutting. It could certainly be the case, but I’d be interesting in hearing more about your situation, Smithee.

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avatar 14 Anonymous

Well, I followed that link in your article and that shed some more light on your situation. I’m going to be very honest with you right now, but I’ll try to explain it in a way that it doesn’t come across as an attack (because it’s not meant to be).

I have no sympathy for you.

Sounds harsh, I know. I’m sure you’ll tell me that you weren’t asking for any, anyway. Good, because pity gets you nowhere. Actions do, and the good thing is that it seems like you’re ready to act.

So, let me explain why I feel this way. I’m very much a geek like yourself and I understand the gadget temptations we face. But I have consistently resisted those temptations everyday. I had to watch as 15+ people at my job bought an iPhone and bragged to me while I sat there with my 3 year old generic phone. I had to sit there in silence as all my friends purchased shiny new cars while I continued driving my forgettably practical used car. And I had to look at the pictures of all the extravagant vacations my friends took while I just went to the park.

Living through those experiences everyday has been a constant struggle for me. I had to keep telling myself that I’m doing the right thing by saving for the future and living within my means. All the while people like yourself got to buy the things they wanted with little to no thought.

It’s those emotions that tear at me. A part of me definitely feels for your situation. It sucks. You lost your job through no fault of your own. Yet another part of me feels callous because I have worked so hard to prepare for those situations that I would never be in the spot you were in. It’s very conflicting, and this is the first time I’ve opened up about this, so I apologize if this is more than you can stand to hear.

It’s obvious that you made mistakes. You’ve admitted to them and that’s the first step toward moving forward. But don’t let others make you think that this will be easy. You dug a huge hole for yourself and you’re going to have to struggle to get out. I can see from a brief glance at some of your other posts how you’ve struggled to pay off your credit card debt. I’m sure that wasn’t easy.

What I’m trying to get at is that I have no sympathy for your past mistakes, but I have only hope and encouragement for your future. You’ve made mistakes in the past and some of them are coming back to bite you. But you’ve also recently made huge changes in your life for the better. You’ve turned around life with nothing but hard work and determination, and that is something that you can be proud of.

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avatar 15 Anonymous

Hate to hear that, Smithee! I’d echo a couple of the other comments about not sticking to an 8 hour/day schedule on job hunting. It can be extremely draining and discouraging if things don’t go well. You’ll also be in danger of depression if you don’t renew yourself, find motivation and encouragement, and have a strong support network – especially since this happened unexpectedly. I wish you the best as you search for another job!

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avatar 16 Anonymous

You’ve got people here that are pulling for you, myself included. When I come across any freelance offers, I will send them off to you.

In two weeks I will be laid off as well. So I understand your pain.
Keep yourself exercising and rest when you can to keep the stress at a minimum.

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avatar 17 Anonymous

So sorry to hear about the layoff. Today will be 3 months on “fun-employment” for me. Aside from the great advice already given, I would suggest checking out volunteering “jobs”. It keeps you busy, gets you out of the house, connects you with others, gives a sense of purpose & can sometimes provide you with a job lead (the old “not what you know, but who you know” type of thing). If a volunteer position isn’t posted somewhere, zero in on a small business, organization, non-profit or even local government & offer your talents. For example, my city is currently cutting hundreds of city jobs, including the police & fire departments (!), yet there is still work that desperately needs to be done. My local police department has a volunteer support team (provided the city fathers, who will likely be unemployed in November, didn’t eliminate the volunteer coordinator position).

And, of course, keep writing your blog! Best of luck!

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avatar 18 Anonymous

With your substantial experience both designing and writing for internet sites, you should be able to pick up some free lance work. When things were on the slow side I found part time work using Craig’s List. Though it wasn’t the kind of work I usually do, it was a good monetary fill in when needed.

Also I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard that people have lost jobs only to later find far better ones.

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avatar 19 Anonymous

Freelancing. And it depends on what you get from unemployment, but if taking a lesser job that you are capable of doing and don’t really hate is available, it is real income. Unless it is less than your unemployment or close to the same. I say that because I heard something on TV about unemployment paying more than jobs, and people were turning down available jobs at a time when there aren’t many available.

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avatar 20 Anonymous

Smithee, I’m so sorry you lost your job :( This economy is so scary and unpredictable. I definitely understand what you’re going through. I understand how frustrating it is. I’m sure you are, but be thankful about your accomplishment of paying your credit cards off. Just think of the situation you would’ve been in if this wasn’t the case. Also, be thankful you got a severance package; so many companies just don’t have resources to let their employees go with one.

The only advice I can give you is network to the point where you’re sick of it, pick up some freelance jobs while you’re looking for work, and stay optimistic. Graphic design is still a huge portion of marketing, so people are actively hiring.

In addition, I know a small boutique firm that may be able to help you out called Unicorn Press. E-mail me and I’ll put you in touch with the Studio Principal. Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

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avatar 21 Anonymous

Smithee I have followed your adventure for years. I am sorry to hear about the loss. Have you thought about free lancing web design?

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avatar 22 Anonymous

I’m sorry to hear about this Smithee, but I have a feeling you are going to be okay. Do you have any interest in self-employment? This might be the time to take the leap. Thank goodness you just paid off your credit cards. If you had to in a pinch you could use them and just make the minimum payments. I would definitely take a harder look at your expenses, I’d let go of Netflix, you can always get it back, and anything you possibly can as soon as you can. Thank goodness you have a severance package, I know one month isn’t very much but one of my coworkers was just let go today and was given vacation pay owed, but no severance pay at all. Be sure to let us know how it goes. Try to look at it as a great adventure, this might be the best thing that ever happened to you. Best of luck. Mrs. A

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avatar 23 Anonymous

Smithee, that really really sucks :(….. I have never been laid off so have no idea how it feels. Freelance may be an option to tide you through. I freelance but don’t need a lot of work as am not living in USA.

Really sorry to hear this news and good luck getting it all fixed.

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avatar 24 Smithee

Thanks for the support and help, everybody. I did manage to find some contract/freelance work, and it’s possible some old co-workers might be able to help me out with something more steady.

Networking with the former co-workers has actually been really good for my self-esteem.

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avatar 25 Anonymous

Smithee Get my email? I could use your help on a project.

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avatar 26 Anonymous

Ugh. Welcome to the land of unemployment, my friend.

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avatar 27 Anonymous

Sorry about the layoff, and now to the bright side.

1) Start a company. Start offering your services. Start with former employers, they already know you and might be happy to have a disposable hand. Advertise and ask through friends as well. You should have enough experience to prove your worth.
2) Meanwhile, you can still search for a job. You may find out though that at some point, you no longer need to.
3) If you cannot spend full 8 hours a day searching for a job, start a project. Create your own web pages. Volunteer for open source projects to get street cred. Start a project you can sell.

My husband was laid off six months ago when the startup he worked in ran out of money. It was not a tough call since in his profession (and with his reputation) he pretty much could have just picked any employer he liked. Instead, he focused on making his hobby company a full-time job, and he now says it was the best decision he ever made. He’s been able to start a new product as well with the money from consulting gigs – something that may pay off later on. So far he has needed no actual advertising, he has more than his hands full through past contacts alone.

If you have a company of your own just filling the unemployment gap, even if the projects are small, it still looks better towards potential employers. And gives room for negotiating salary.

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avatar 28 Anonymous

There is always room for cutting. Cable, internet, land line, going out to eat, buying unnecessary but fun items, etc. Get down to the basics. Shelter & utilities, food & gasoline. Don’t punish yourself but you’re not living large.
As for finding a new gig: go down to the library and pick up some career books. What Color is Your Parachute? 2010 (Guide for Career Changers and Job Seekers) is full of amazing, research-based and up to date information on securing a job in 2010., your state’s unemployment department’s job database (they all have different names), and loads of other websites have job boards you can use.
Once you have an updated general resume, use that to create targeted resumes for specific positions.
The advice about volunteering and getting involved and networking is VERY important. This is how most people land jobs. Most jobs are NOT posted externally. Be careful how you spend your time. Check out to find volunteer opportunities. Your computer skills are HIGHLY valuable to a nonprofit, school or church. You have the upper hand in deciding where and what kind of project you want to contribute. Put together a portfolio of your work – an online one and one on a USB.
Have you looked into consulting? Look into contracting/temp to hire/etc. Aerotek and VOLT are 2 national companies that come to mind, they recruit tech people for large corporations for direct hire or other positions.

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avatar 29 eric

I’m late but still sorry to hear aboout losing your job! I hope things work out for you. It’s really tough these days.

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