Unemployed then and now

If you’re one of the millions of unemployed women in this country, while it may be of little comfort, I’ve been in your shoes.

In fact, I’m walking in your shoes right now — again.

Twenty-seven years ago this month, I was laid off from a television station in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

As a reporter (Sundra Thompson back then) for WATE-Channel 6, I covered all kinds of news including a mudslide in Kentucky, a visit to town by President Reagan, and the 1982 World’s Fair.

For two and half years, I did live shots from news scenes; sat through endless school board meetings; and shared feature stories about interesting people in East Tennessee.

All that ended in January 1984, when management told a half dozen or so of us that our services were no longer needed. http://ktownradio.blogspot.com/2008_05_01_archive.html

Fast-forward to January 11, 2011.  That’s when the Richmond Times-Dispatch management told me that my position as Senior Editor was eliminated.

For four years, I was part of the newsroom’s management team helping lead coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings, President Obama’s inauguration, Bob McDonnell’s campaign for governor, and much more. I helped the newspaper develop new content including the popular weekly column, “In My Shoes” and MetroBiz2Go, an e-newsletter with imbedded videos. http://www2.timesdispatch.com/staff/9196/

Before noon on the 11th, I was told that my position along with others in the newsroom and other departments was being eliminated due to budget issues.

But what a difference 27 years makes.

In 1984, within hours of losing our jobs, a gang of us gathered at our favorite bar at a downtown hotel. We were there for quite awhile. I recall before the night was over, one of the anchors who got canned along with me, played the piano while we all sang along.  Wonder where Lloyd Immel is these days?

Then I took my severance pay and headed on a road trip to California with my two best girlfriends. (That trip eventually involved losing a tiny Chihuahua in Los Angles, plans to save money by sleeping on the beach, and lots of bickering.  But that’s a story for another time.)

This time around within hours of getting the news about my position, I was in contact with family, friends, and some of the hundreds of people I’ve met over the past four years in Richmond.

I admit I did go to the downtown Marriott’s T-Miller’s Sports Bar and Grille but that was mainly to have lunch and make some phone calls in a warm place. Besides I wanted to use the certificate my new former boss had given me as a Christmas gift.

Trust me: there was no heavy drinking or singing at the piano bar this time around.

When I was 26 and fresh out of a job, I coped and commiserated in person with those close to me.  At 52, I did so mainly by cell phone, e-mail and Facebook.

So here’s some advice:  If you’ve lost your job, don’t be ashamed. Reach out to those close to you, to those you’ve networked with over the years.  Ask for their support. I bet you’ll be surprised. I have been.

The words of encouragement have poured in and made me realize this isn’t an obstacle, it’s an opportunity.

“With your creativity and forward thinking, I am sure there is another path for you to walk – even run – “in your shoes.” – Carla

“Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.  You are a treasure!”  — Mary

“Sorry you’ve got to deal with this, Sundra, but I know you’ll land on your feet.” – Marsha

Thanks friends! I will survive with help from you.

So how are you coping with your unemployment? What tips do you have for survival?  I’d love to hear from others of you who are in my shoes.


7 thoughts on “Unemployed then and now

  1. Denney Clements

    Nice piece, Sundra. Sorry to hear that this happened, even though the same thing happened to me back in 2009. You didn’t deserve it I’m sure, but that’s how it is with the corporate media these days. You’re right to counsel others in this situation that getting laid off should be no source of shame. Hope you and David are well. Cheers, dc

    • dionne

      Well it’s been years since I was unemployed but it was for 6 months. At that time a lot was going on in my life but I knew I had to go on. I started working when I was about ten years old little jobs I made up for myself. All I remember after giving up for about a month was I have always worked so I will again. I guess all I’m trying to say is Don’t give up , try some things you have always wanted to do. If all else fails you can still draw unemployment you put in now it’s time to get it back.

  2. Barbara Wren

    I couldn’t wait to get my pink slip. After 18 years I was ready for a break. Nothing sounds better than to be laid off just before summer and at the beach. Here is kinda how it went:
    Week one. I’m home, stayed up late, slept in. Waiting for my buyout check in the mail, signed up for unemployment (I actually got paid to stay home!). Lunch with the girl friends. So many projects to do around the house I’ve put off for 18 years. I LOVE the recession 🙂
    Week two. Watching all the late night shows now, favorite one is Craig Ferguson. Waited in a really long line at the unemployment office, went way past my nap time. The IRS took most of my buyout not leaving me enough money to do my projects. Lunch with the girls turned into a more job hunting bitch session. Skipped my shower and makeup.
    Week three. Craig Ferguson has had lame guests on all week. I cannot believe I stayed up late to watch this. Surely someone is on facebook at 2 a.m. Unemployment check is gonna take two weeks to start. Projects will still be there next week I really need to just clean the house. Car broke down, no money to fix, stranded at house, cannot get to lunch with girlfriends. PJ’s are now my work uniform.
    Week four. I never knew the garbage man comes at 4 a.m. on our street. Unemployment check is much smaller than anticipated, how am I supposed to shop on this? No car in two weeks to leave the house for even necessary things. Can’t afford to do the projects I wanted to do so I just moved my furniture around. Can’t remember my last bath.
    Week five. It’s so lonely sitting here in the middle of the night. QVC has me depressed and I’ve divorced all my late night TV hosts. Hubby says I can have the car today but he’s gone long before I get up. Girl friends are all finding something new to do and have disbanded. I now have energy to have sex but husband says I don’t smell like I used to.
    Week six. Late night TV has been replaced with Farmville. Husband now confiscates my measly few dollars I get from the state and we are still late on the bills if they even get paid. I have forgotten how to drive. I have no more girlfriends. I hate looking at my clean house because it’s the only thing I do anymore. Finally changed out of my PJ’s to find none of my clothes fit anymore.
    Week seven. New job hunt is on!

  3. jscorley99@aol.com

    Saundra, Barbara W told me to check this out. A similar thing happened to me. As a journalist all I wanted to do was newspaper. In my late–very late–50s I wondered what I could do. Then I discovered there is a world full of business people who can’t write a sentence and need help. I am now, at 60, embracing a new career in a new state and thinking what a great thing this is. There is a certain freedom in change and starting over. I do not make as much money but I have regular hours. My boss is younger than my oldest son and the same age as my middle son–27–but I am learning new things and learning to appreciate snow and those of the Northern persuasion. The old saying from the 70s–Go With The Flow–is my new motto. My husband, retired, is along for the ride and one son has moved home to hang with Mom and Dad. It’s all good and you will find you way–and you will be better for it.
    Judy Corley–a Southerner in New Jersey

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