One Year Ago Today

One year ago today my husband was laid off. This was waiting for him when he came home on November 18, 2015.

Here are the positives of the past year:

  • My husband had worked for this company for over 10 years, so he received a good severance package.
  • We were able to spend 37 days in our RV (a record for us) on vacation.
  • We were more able to be there for others, such as my mother-in-law, who needs assistance at times.
  • Bianca and Laid Off Calgary.
  • For both of us, as often happens when in a period of adversity, there’s been a time of extreme growth. Mostly this growth was all good, as:

You never know what you’re capable of, until you have to be capable of it.

There was much to learn, and much to do.

My Journey

I graduated with honours in 2014 from the University of Calgary with a Certificate in Professional Writing (PR and Marketing concentration). I’d been looking for work since, albeit somewhat languidly, as my husband was working. My love of, and natural affinity for, writing is such I have several passion projects on the go and have volunteered my writing and editing skills. Wanting, and now needing, to get paid for my skills, my husband’s layoff was the kick in the pants I needed to take looking for work seriously. I got my ass in gear.

I had to stop hiding my light under a bushel. Moreover, I had to stop thinking I didn’t even have a light to hide.

I had to learn to put on my big girl panties and suck up all my fears and insecurities.

I am super grateful for those  I’ve met along the way, and so thankful for the part-time writing contract I secured this fall, as well as other possibilities waiting in the wings.

Our Journey

We had to make ourselves climb out of our comfort zones, at times kicking and screaming. In some cases, we went way out of our comfort zone such as the time we were filmed for an appearance on the news, while in the midst of a photo shoot for

We had to learn how to network, how to develop an *elevator pitch, revamp our resumes countless times, study interview techniques, attend presentations, sell ourselves, get out there, and talk to strangers. I’m a shy extrovert, and my husband is an introvert, so meeting new people is difficult enough for us, never mind talking about ourselves and our accomplishments. Networking is a work-in-progress for both of us. We both had to learn to do what works for us. In the world of networking, one on one is more our style.

We had to learn to ride the emotional rollercoaster of job-hunting.  As our applications for positions were ignored,  we’ve had to remind ourselves, over and over again, of what we have to offer companies.  When interviews were granted for positions we were a strong fit for, yet the jobs went to someone else, the feeling of “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” emerged.

As someone mentioned the other day, in this economy, “there’s a lot of sellers, and not many buyers”, which makes it difficult to remain positive. “It’s not me, it’s the economy” soon became our mantra.

We had to be there for each other in countless ways to keep our relationship strong.

And our faith? Oh, our faith, to be honest, it’s been a challenge to trust that God’s got this.  He may have it, but He’s sure taking his time delivering it.

*My elevator pitch:

I am a self-starting, results-driven writing Ninja with a breadth of writing experience.
Put your idea in front of me and I’ll bring it to life.
I’m an excellent story-teller with the skills to creatively communicate
your ideas, product, business or service.

*My husband’s elevator pitch:

I am a Business Intelligence Specialist with 20 years experience in providing advanced problem-solving analysis, specializing in data analytics and data /system integration. I have the ability to break down complex data and/or system related issues by redefining them in ways that are solvable.

I am looking for an opportunity to help the business to improve their ability to manage their business processes.

This Isn’t Your Grandmother’s Job Search


I co-facilitated a “Laid Off Calgary” meeting recently. Here’s a link to one of the Event Brite listings which provides information on the meetings.

I’d prepared a hand out prior to the meeting, which was updated after the meeting to incorporate some tips raised during the group discussion. Sometimes family isn’t as helpful as we’d like them to be.  These tips may help.

  • Consider who you are talking with. A close family member whom you love dearly and see often may “merit” more response vs. a second cousin twice removed whom you only speak with once a year.
  • Handling unsolicited advice:
    • Here are some tips for what to say when offered unsolicited advice from can be adapted for the situation):
      • “It sounds like you have some ideas for this. That’s great. We need all the ideas we can get.”
      • “I’m going to try a few options to see what works best.”
      • “I can tell you want to help. I’m still working through this myself.”
      • “Thank you for always giving your advice, but there are things that I really want to figure out on my own. I like figuring things out and when I need help or advice I’ll be sure to ask.”
  • Alternatively, say something non-committal like “I’ll take that under advisement.” Or, “Thank you for your thoughts.” Or, “Thank you but I really just need someone to listen to me right now without advice.”
  • More tips: Have a script ready for times when family/friends are giving unsolicited advice, such as:
  • Consider giving your “elevator speech” to family/friends who suggest you apply for jobs other than that which you are qualified for and/or interested in.
  • If someone asks how goes the job search, and you don’t feel like talking about it, say “thanks for asking – it’s going as well as can be expected, but I really want to hear more about your ___(hobby, project, family).” (Change the subject). And/or say something like “I’m diligently pursuing all leads I feel I am qualified for and interested in. How are you?”
  • Educate them on the realities of job searching in today’s economy, for example, mention that nearly everything is done online and that unsolicited resumes (like unsolicited advice ;)) are not usually accepted.
  • In discussions with family, try to incorporate a positive of being laid off (while still acknowledging being laid off sucks). Positives could include spending more time with children, able to catch up on projects around the home, trying a new hobby, take a course, go for walks, etc.
  • Be aware of generational differences. “This isn’t your grandmother’s job search” – that generation may not have even had to go on interviews.
  • Be aware that family dynamics seem to rarely change and are established early on *i.e. the advice-giving brother will always be the advice-giving brother no matter what age/stage the both of you are at.
  • When family members don’t ask how things are going, a suggestion for opening up that sort of dialogue could be “I notice you seem to have a hard time talking about my layoff, and it’s important to me to be able to discuss this. I need some support and someone to listen.”
  • And finally, recognize they are trying to help, but just may have a not-so-great way of doing so.

Five Ways to Really Help Someone Who’s Been Laid Off

Downtown Chicago. Photo credit: my husband
Downtown Chicago. Photo credit: my husband

With the unemployment rate in Calgary hovering around 8.5%, lots of people are looking for work, including myself and my husband.  This is not a place either of us, at this time in our lives (we are in our 50’s) would have ever thought we’d find ourselves.

What’s said and done by family and friends, while well-meaning,  are often less than helpful.  Advice-giving, sending public job postings from various job search websites, not taking the time to really understand what type of job the person is looking for, or even what they do for a living, and saying things like “I don’t understand why he / she can’t find a job”, are all examples of things that don’t help.

Here are five things that might:

  1.  Take the person who’s been laid off out for coffee.  This is likely a treat they have cut back on to save money.  Being at home and unemployed is isolating.
  2. Ask the person exactly what they do for a living, what type of job they are looking for, and keep your ear to the ground for upcoming opportunities in your company – or other companies and people you are connected with –  before they are published on Workopolis, Indeed, or other job search websites.
  3. Give them a gift card for a movie or a restaurant.  Again, this is something that the one who’s laid off hasn’t been doing to save money.
  4. Think of any projects you have on the go at your home that you could hire your friend or family member to help with such as lawn care, snow removal, renovations, etc.
  5. Now that summer is here and the kids are out of school, child care to attend interviews, networking events, job fairs, etc. could be difficult to obtain and / or costly. If able to, offer to provide child care gratis so those seeking employment can attend important events.

I daresay any of the items on this list would make a real difference to your laid off friend or family member.  I know they would to us.