After the layoff: A personal journey through unemployment
Editor's note: Sean Baker of South Portland has a personal perspective on unemployment: his career in broadcasting came to a sudden halt in February when he was laid off by a Portland radio station. He's writing about the experience in this series for The Forecaster.
For many of us, news about widespread job losses began as a nationwide story, its epicenter seemingly far from Maine.
But eventually, the shock-waves from the nation's – and soon after, the world's – ballooning economic troubles began reverberating throughout New England. And before long, each of us knew someone who had lost a job: a co-worker, a close friend, the cashier at the corner store, maybe even a family member or two.
"Will I be next?" I often wondered.
On Friday, Feb. 27, I got my answer: My long-time radio job disappeared, ending my 20-year career in broadcasting.
Stunned? You bet.
Confused? Not really.
The broadcast industry, like many others, is undergoing a major restructuring and jobs are being cut in spades. As a result, I'm now sharing one of my generation's most profound, life-changing experiences with thousands of Mainers and millions of Americans. It's a story that will change and evolve for years, touching each of our lives in one way or another.
It's been my lifelong dream to become a writer, so I thought, why not write about my experiences grappling with unemployment? How do you cope with the shock of losing your job? How do handle your emotions? What steps do you take to stay motivated during your job search?
Then I wondered if other people who have lost their jobs feel just like me, wishing that they, too, could hear from someone else sharing this experience? While I'm far from alone in this mess, I certainly felt like it when I got the news.
The psychological blow blindsided me. "Oh my God, I've just lost my job!" I kept telling myself. "What are Ali (my wife) and I going to do? We've got a 2-year-old at home and a baby on the way in June! We've got bills to pay and food to buy! How will we manage? Where am I going to find another job, let alone a job that pays the salary I was earning? Will we have to move? Or, God forbid, move in with our parents?"
The questions just kept coming and coming, faster and faster, like body blows from an unseen opponent. Before I could respond, my boss – his face etched with a look of deep regret and sadness – looked me in the eye and reluctantly delivered the knockout punch.
"I need you to give me your office keys, your parking pass and gather your personal items," he said.
"When?" I asked.
"Now," he replied. "I've got to personally escort you from the office, out of the building and out of the parking garage to the street."
There was no getting up. I was down for the count. Just like that, the bout was over and I was being carried out of the ring.
Here I was being ushered out of the company I loved, stripped of doing what I loved, and being forced to suddenly say good-bye to my career. The emotional pain of that encounter stayed with me long after my drive home.
Along the way, my wife called.
I told her what happened, and she was devastated. We both were.
"What are we going to do?" Ali said, her voice breaking.
"We'll figure something out," I said, trying to convince her and myself.
Dazed and confused, I plopped down on my couch and lay still, staring at the ceiling.
"I'm unemployed," I thought. "I have no job."
Next: The full-time search for a full-time job.