Jobless? Staying positive, connected is its own full-time job
Chicago Tribune (MCT) - Early in the morning, her two daughters still asleep, Cheryl Vervaet opened her laptop and checked her schedule.
"Buy marshmallows," she murmured, reading the screen.
Vervaet, 40, of Glen Ellyn, Ill., is a cheerful person. Her outgoing nature has served her well in her career as a recruiter, where schmoozing is essential to finding people for jobs and finding jobs for people. Networking is like breathing for her.
But now that she is unemployed, she is getting out of breath.
She has used every online job board, search engine and networking group she could find. Monster. CareerBuilder. LinkedIn. Facebook. Indeed.com. Simply Hired.
The sole source of her family's income _ her husband is the at-home parent for their daughters, ages 5 and 7 _ Vervaet has networked like crazy, an increasingly difficult task considering that "my contacts are all losing their jobs."
Whatever this morning's meeting of the Chicagoland HR Transition Group had to offer, Vervaet needed it. It had been a bad week. A few days earlier, a coveted job interview had been canceled. The interview would have to be rescheduled, she was told. She shouldn't call them; they would call her.
Vervaet didn't need a translation.
She had bought a new outfit and lipstick for the interview. She had gotten her hair and nails done.
Now she packed her tote bag for the networking meeting. Then after quick wake-up hugs in her daughters' princess-pink room, she grabbed a travel mug of coffee, kissed her husband and headed out the door.
When she was laid off, she told the outplacement counselor she expected to land a new job fast. Two months, max.
That was six months ago.
This is how a layoff happens.
Vervaet, a recruiter at PepsiCo for a year and a half, described it as her brother-in-law drove them both to the networking meeting; Phil Vervaet is a laid-off HR professional too.
First came the troubling financial numbers. Then came the cutbacks. No more bagels at breakfast meetings. No buying new office supplies. Hiring freezes.
"We were being told we were safe," Cheryl Vervaet said. "But the business I supported was on a hiring freeze. And I hire people. So what am I going to do?"
The day it happened, security was so tight at PepsiCo's downtown office that Vervaet was asked to show her ID three times. "The tension was so great you could feel a pin drop," she said.
At lunchtime, Vervaet took out the sandwich she had brought from home _ chopped veggies with hummus.
"The vice president walked by and said, 'I was reading this book and the author would be really proud of what you're eating,'" she said. "I thought he was making small talk."
"Then he said, 'Will you come with me?'"
It was done professionally. Her job had been eliminated, she was told, in what sounded like a script.
Someone from HR gave her a folder containing a 41-page severance agreement and a referral for outplacement. Her severance package was generous.
There were tissues on a table. Vervaet did not use them.
"I felt bad for them," she said. "I mean, that's a horrible job. You're basically a home-wrecker. You know their families, you know their kids. You know what they're going home to tell them."
She walked back to her desk and threw out her sandwich. She felt sick to her stomach. She hasn't been able to eat a veggie-and-hummus sandwich since.
Colleagues came by as she packed, weeping. "I was like, 'Please don't cry. I'm trying to be strong and you're killing me.'"
On the train home, Vervaet called every contact she had.
Vervaet sat at one end of a rectangle of tables, a yellow legal pad in front of her and leaned forward.
These were people who understood layoffs. Members of the Chicagoland HR Transition Group, meeting this morning in a Rolling Meadows office, are former human resources people. Around the room they went, each one telling of jobs they had applied for, companies they had targeted.
"I don't want to put it out there that we're all competing for the same jobs," one woman pointed out, "but we're all competing for the same jobs."
Still, tips and contact names were shared. The mood was friendly and occasionally lighthearted. When one networker invited people to buy from her Mary Kay business because "that lipstick can perk you up in this economy," there was laughter from the women and half-serious envy from men. One wondered aloud whether new golf clubs might have the same effect.
And Vervaet got the lift she needed. Between the list of people at the meeting and their suggestions of other networking groups, she got enough information that she decided she didn't need to go the library that afternoon to look up company executives to cold call.
But one thing had chilled her. One of the networkers, a recruiter like Vervaet, told the group that with so little hiring going on, he was planning to take a year off and do something else.
Back at her house, Vervaet sat at her computer and considered the cold question: Was it time to find another line of work?
"I want to do recruiting," she said. "It's what I do. It's what I love to do. I don't know that I'm ready to lie down and let the economy take it from me."
Her severance payments have ended. She thinks her unemployment benefits will run out this summer. Vervaet and her husband are good savers and careful spenders, but even so, next month they will start dipping into savings. Still, unemployment has delivered a few unexpected pleasures. Neighbors have been kind, bringing over treats and offering to baby-sit. Vervaet has time to have breakfast with her daughters and go on field trips.
"I just find myself being more grateful, like for someone holding the door open for me," she said.
At her computer, she sent a message to someone from the networking meeting.
"Hi, Brian," she typed. "Good to hear from you. Please keep me in mind if you are looking for a recruiter. Thanks, and enjoy your week."
© 2009, Chicago Tribune.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Marriage & Family News
- 'Gosnell exposed late-abortions for what they really are: relocated infanticide,' Franks says
- Surrogate-born children suffer from more emotional issues than other children
- While U.S. marriage rates are in 100-year low, rebound expected shortly
- Father Knows Best
- Healing the Father Wound
- Adoption Takes The Gold Medal In The Race For Parenthood
- WHAT? Breast screening 'doesn't cut deaths,' study says
- Is Chivalry Sexist or Respectful?
- Girls of Any Age Now Permitted Access to Potentially Deadly, Dangerous Plan B Contraceptives
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?