One of the inescapable realities of the tragic fallout from the coronavirus is the number of workers who are going to lose their jobs. In fact it’s already started. McMenamins announced last week that it had closed its 60 or so establishments in Oregon and Washington, meaning that 3,000 people are now out of work.
Sadly, that’s just a precursor for the tidal wave of layoffs that is coming our way. Economists estimate that the unemployment rate in Oregon could hit 20%, which equates to 500,000 Oregonians out of work. By comparison, the highest rate of unemployment during the Great Depression was 25%, in 1933.
I don’t know much about much, but I do know a little about getting laid off.
I was laid off in 2017 by my former newspaper in Florida, after 17 years with the company. I had survived about a half-dozen previous rounds of layoffs there, but getting the ax caught me completely by surprise.
I had fully expected to work a few more years there then retire. It took me 2 ½ years to find another job — here at The News-Review — during which I drained all my savings and finally had to sell my house.
Here is what I learned from that difficult journey:
Try not to panic. Yes, your life has been turned upside down and may never be the same. Things are about to get really hard. But you’re still the same person you were before getting laid off. The sun still shines, there still are rainbows, and life is still a gift.
Take some time to regroup, to heal, to think. But not too long. You have to get back on that horse.
It’s natural and OK to want to spend some time alone. But again, not too much time. Don’t isolate yourself. It’s critical to adjoin with family and friends, to circulate socially, to get back in the game. Sharing your plight with people won’t be easy but it is necessary to begin to heal.
Be practical about your finances. Cut your expenses as much as possible. Try not to dip into your retirement savings. No more expensive meals out or bottles of wine. Take a job if you can find one, even if it’s temporary and /or parttime, to bring in income. Also, assuming your layoff is associated with the coronavirus, there will be financial help available from a variety of sources. Avail yourself to as much of that assistance as you can. You’re entitled to it.
Figure out your health insurance situation, especially if you’re older, like me. Consider yourself lucky to live in Oregon. The Oregon Health Plan is comprehensive and virtually free. In Florida I got on a program called COBRA that cost me $620 a month, for 18 months. You do the math.
Once you’re ready to work again — repeat, don’t wait too long to get there — let the world know you’re looking. Again, it might not be easy and require some swallowing of pride, but word-of-mouth and social networking is the best way to find work. Know that whoever hires you will be lucky to have you.
Take care of yourself. One silver lining in getting laid off is you will finally have some time to do the things you couldn’t while working. Get healthy. Go for walks, exercise, eat better. Read some books. Go to matinee movies.
Most importantly, don’t take this temporary setback personally. You didn’t do anything wrong. Remind yourself that your former job does not define you; it was just a part of who you are.
Getting laid off was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, but I got through it. You will too. Have faith, stay positive and update your resume.