Approximately one year ago, we had the good fortune of being laid off from our most recent employer of seven years. We say good fortune as the first time this happened to us, after seven years at our first employer (on September 10, 2001, which is a story for another day) it marked the beginning of what continues to be the greatest adventure of our lives.
Staying in one place is comfortable, one knows what to expect, what to do, more or less what the rules are. It is easy to see why many people get a job and then go on autopilot for 30 years. However, staying in one place is also dangerous in that one runs the risk of stagnating to the point that they unwittingly join the ranks of the walking dead.
Humans desire to be comfortable, but it is only to the extent that they are uncomfortable that there is any hope for them. Margie Warrell, writing at Forbes, sums up this sentiment well in her April 2013 article, Why Getting Comfortable with Discomfort is Crucial to Success.
If you have just been laid off, you are likely uncomfortable, which is good, because there is hope for you. There will be time for that hope to blossom and trust us, it will. However, if you have just been laid off from a long time employer, chances are that what you feel at the moment is intense discomfort laced with panic. This is normal, and should drive you to take decisive action.
What should that action be? As a public service here at The Mint, we are offering a series of steps that were applicable to our situation in Portland, Oregon, circa 2014. They may or may not be useful and/or accessible to you depending upon your situation, and are not to be taken as any manner of legal/financial/tax or any other sort of advice.
With that disclaimer out of the way, we hope to guide others and save them some time and confusion in navigating the system of public support available in the Willamette Valley.
One last caveat, the following list is comprised primarily of public resources. At this moment in time, faced with losing a primary source of income, it is unlikely that one’s political ideology will stand in the way of taking advantage of the resources available to them. If you find yourself struggling at all with this, be reminded that these public resources are absolutely necessary given the broken monetary system that we live in. Indeed, the use of debt as money and the economic distortions it causes every day is likely the indirect cause of your present circumstance. Acknowledging this fact should put to rest any hesitations about whether or not to apply for public assistance, not matter what your present circumstance.
- Unemployment Insurance: The first thing we recommend, unless you have a job that you will start within the next 5 days, is to file an unemployment claim against Oregon here: https://ssl8.emp.state.or.us/ocs4/index.cfm?u=F20141022A163756B40164586.0519&lang=E if you were working in Oregon and laid off (not fired with cause), you should have no problem qualifying. The reason not to delay this step is that you have the right to claim the first day you are out of work and have to wait a week before you can claim a week of benefits. They last for six months and are usually ~$500 per week on the high end as of this writing. Even if you were fired for cause, you may still qualify for unemployment insurance. Oregon is generous in this sense and many employers are paying for it in the form of an employment tax anyway and will encourage you to take it. Do not delay on this step! Call the same day you are dismissed, otherwise you are literally leaving money on the table.
The next two steps may or may not apply to one’s specific circumstance as they are income qualified programs which take into consideration other income sources that a household may have. If you and your household have no other income source, bear in mind that you are below many of the income thresholds as of the day you were laid off and are likely to qualify based on the current circumstance. This is important, because certain programs, such as SNAP, last for six months before you have to recertify income. At that point, you will be employed (we here at The Mint believe in you!), but in the meantime, you get a six month stipend.
2. SNAP (Food Stamps): They usually will give these within a week as they are considered essential. It is scaled on income and you qualify the minute your income drops below a certain level based on the number of people in your household. Below is the website to apply through if applicable: http://www.oregon.gov/dhs/assistance/pages/foodstamps/foodstamps.aspx
3. OHP (Obamacare): If you qualify for SNAP, you are likely to qualify for OHP, Oregon’s version of Medicaid, which is basically free health insurance thanks to Obamacare. The website is here: http://www.oregon.gov/oha/healthplan/pages/apply.aspx
In some cases, enrolling in SNAP will automatically qualify you for coverage, which is nice, because by this time, you may be getting sick of pulling together all of your personal data and submitting it to a government agency that will no doubt be hacked. This step is important as, once qualified, you will not have to pay COBRA or a private health insurance. The coverage may not be great, and, depending upon how much you use your health insurance, it may be best to stick with the current provider, but if all you need is peace of mind on this front, it will save a chunk of change.
4. Housing Assistance: Depending upon your housing situation, there may be rent or mortgage assistance which you now, overnight, have become eligible for. They can be a pain to apply and take a while to kick in (if they do at all), but may be worth it if they do. Here is a list of resources in Oregon: http://www.oregon.gov/dhs/assistance/Pages/housing.aspx
The above four steps are “defensive,” now for the job search, or “offensive” side, assuming you will be looking for a job, at least for the short term until your next movie deal comes through:
- Networking: There are a number of networking opportunities that any job seeker or small business owner would be wise to attend from time to time. Attending these events will not only give you something to do other than surf the internet for jobs, it will inevitably encourage you to see you are not alone. You may even be inspired. One of the best in Portland is Portland Connect, you can request an invite here: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Portland-Connect-36370/about They host a number of popular events and is a nice and efficient way to get to know some people who are there to mutually help each other. The group drives home an oddity that we have found to be true in Portland, that it is a town where you must network face-to-face. Portland Connect is a great place to do just that.
- Recruiters: If your profession is in such demand that it can support a recruiting industry, reach out to them, as they are literally in the business of finding you a job. In Finance and Accounting, which happens to be our industry, we recommend Robert Half. There are many others as that are industry specific. Find them, call them, they will help.
- As for internet job searching: For the most part, applying online, while giving a strange sense of accomplishment, is akin to sending a message in a bottle. Chances are it will never get read and, if it does, the chances of it reaching the intended recipient at the right time may be slim. It is always best to call someone at the company if possible to at least know you are not sending an “SOS to the world.” Nevertheless, there are some sites which tend to be more responsive than others. We seemed to have the most luck in terms of response from Craigslist posting, and Mac’s List: http://www.macslist.org/ which is specifically targeted towards non-profits, our present area of expertise. Idealist: http://www.idealist.org/ also has good leads in terms of non-profits. Generally speaking, we had little luck with large companies and wasted a lot of time on their sites applying, though it can be good practice.
- Friends and Family: Now is the time to reach out rather than retract. Theoretically, your friends and family are another set of eyes and ears on the ground and generally be willing to assist you in your plight if it is within their means. Reach out to the great brother and sisterhood of mankind, for we were made to help each other. Indeed, disinterested service to others is the sure path to happiness. Just remember to lend a hand when you are on the other side as well!
There are innumerable resources out there which may or may not apply to your situation. We provide those listed above as a public service, for they were pearls of wisdom that we had to grasp for mostly in the dark, if it sheds the light on someone else’s way as they walk the path of unemployment, the time spent compiling it has been well worth it.
Above all, stay encouraged! The US economy is going gangbusters and you have a place in it, it may require relocating, training, and generally becoming uncomfortable.
Get used to it, for you are now being asked to play a larger part of the long story of human progress. Embrace it.