A friend of mine got laid off just as a new report found 467,000 people got pink slips last month. That puts our national unemployment rate at 9.5 percent, a 26-year high. I talked to my friend Leah, an engineer in Los Angeles, about filing for unemployment, coping with unexpected emotions, and visiting Yosemite. Disclosure: I changed her name to protect her privacy.
What was your initial reaction when your boss told you you were getting laid off?
I sat there for a full minute, quiet, with all these things going through my head…I felt shocked and angry and betrayed and then just confused. I think I finally said “I don’t understand.”
What didn’t you understand?
I didn’t understand why because to everyone’s knowledge in the office we were safe. We had plenty of work. But I found out (in my bosses office) that a big project or two had just recently gone on hold indefinitely. Which totally messed up everything. So they had to make some changes.
Have you ever been laid off before?
How are you coping, two weeks after?
Now I feel fine, comfortable. The first three days were tough. I felt sad but I felt relieved.
Why were you relieved?
In a way I had been somewhat frustrated with the way things were going at the office, personnel-wise, project-wise, and I had had some thoughts about doing something different. But no specific thoughts. I wasn’t searching for anything. The relief was now I can think about these other things in more detail.
Did you see it coming?
I remember about two or three weeks before I got laid off that 25 people in a company in San Francisco that was one of our clients got laid off. I remember being surprised, thinking “Wow I really can’t take this all for granted anymore. I don’t think it really sank in because one of those emotions that went through my head, that still does, is that I felt really foolish thinking that my history with the company and the fact that my project was strong was keeping me safe. My project still is going. It has a source of funding. I felt foolish for linking those things. I took it for granted even after telling myself that I shouldn’t.
How prepared financially were you for something like this?
I have some savings that could probably get me through a couple months so I’m not panicking yet.
Financially, have you done anything different since getting laid off?
I’ve been eating out less, drinking less, making choices that I don’t have to spend as much money. Looking back on my expenses, at least 50 percent were eating out.
Are you cutting out a few things entirely or making reductions across the board?
I will probably cut down across the board and not on anyone thing. I’ll put off big purchases that I otherwise would have gone ahead and done. For example I want a new pair of running shoes. But that’s like $100 give or take so when I got laid off, I said I can live without a new pair of running shoes.
Has your attitude about the recession changed since getting laid off?
I’m definitely more interested in unemployment benefits news and economic stimulus package news because now it actually does affect me or could affect me. I never really paid attention to that before, not for lack of interest but for lack of time.
What are you most concerned about?
To be honest I haven’t started to think very far in the future yet because I am really relived to just be able to live in the moment and relax. It’s summer and I know that I have a little bit of a cushion to take a month to just breathe.
What are you least concerned about?
I’m actually not real concerned about not ever being able to get another job because I feel the market will improve, it may just be a matter of time. I have certain knowledge and strengths and excellent referrals. My bosses have said they would be more than happy to help me out with any references. We left on very good friendly terms.
Do you still have health care?
Yes I got a severance package through the end of July and then I have to figure out COBRA.
What is your plan for the next 6 months?
I haven’t thought more than a month and a half out. I’ve got two weeks until a triathlon race and then I’m going to take about 2 weeks to travel through California, visit friends, go through Yosemite, go through Mammoth. I’ll fly back to New York, go see my parents.
Anything else you want to add?
I did file for unemployment. Haven’t heard anything back. It was easy to file online but I haven’t heard anything. It takes a while.
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