The Journey Back

May 30, 2014 will mark the one year anniversary of my layoff. This day ended a nearly five-year run with a Seattle company where I served as the Client Services Manager. I managed all aspects of client support from the most basic inquiries to building a seven-figure business pipeline channel with Enterprise clients. I did analysis for multiple clients, advising them on best practices and clarifying multiple data points on a daily basis in regards to the reports they purchased. I handled all issues regarding payment, invoicing, refunds and charge backs. In Short I wore many, many hats. Each day offered unique challenges within a very niche industry. the company itself offered countless perks, a great salary and benefits package. You definitely went there to work. It was, for the majority of the time extremely rewarding and allowed me to build a very successful and stable lifestyle.

On the day of the layoff it was pretty obvious that something was up when I arrived and parked. There were to many cars in the lot and I’m not stupid. I braced myself as I entered the building and sure enough I was laid off. I was very fortunate to have been provided with a generous severance package. This would make a huge in difference in the months to follow. I also was able to receive unemployment benefits once things had settled down. Needless to say it wasn’t the worst layoff a person could go through. In fact, let’s just call it a blessing in disguise.

Although I did take some time off during my tenure at Company X, I rarely vacationed. I did take a couple of weeks post layoff to just let the dust settle and to decompress some. After all I had spent nearly every day of the last five years working. It took some getting used to. I was able to reflect some on what I wanted to do going forward and I knew I still had a strong passion to help people. I decided that I would use the time to get some personal projects done on my home but at the same time actively seek a new position in the ‘online client services/start up’ realm which I had just came from. I applied for my unemployment and began my job search requirement. I applied for good position but they were all sort of what I considered ‘starting over’ jobs. Same industry, just back to the beginning. Some weeks I went on many interviews, others not so much. Although the majority of these jobs would have been acceptable I just wasn’t feeling the same enthusiasm for the industry as I had over the previous fifteen years. I burned through my 26 weeks and even received two weeks of EIU. Although no weekly benefit was paid I still had to log my work searches and interviews should Congress pass legislation to restore emergency unemployment insurance(EUI) benefits. That was another ten weeks after December 22. I was almost glad when my unemployment ran out so that I wouldn’t have to interview anymore. It felt like a racket!

It should probably be noted that the severance, in addition to the unemployment I received helped keep me afloat into January. However with no emergency unemployment extension things did get tight. It was then that I had to make a decision. Continue to interview in the industry I had been working in or start looking into a new career. Let me say that once I began to research what I could qualify for in regards to benefits for training I knew that was the route I would take.

One thing that mention is that as a single individual with no dependents(technically). I did qualify for food assistance while not getting EUI. I wasn’t ashamed about it and it really helped for the two months I needed it. Also, it was really easy. The verification process was painless and I received my EBT card the same day as my appointment. Most applications can be done online through the WA State Department of Social and Health Services or any number of non-profit sights. The applications from these third-party sites are submitted to the WA DSHS. Once my benefits were restored it was pretty easy to cancel them to stay in compliance with DSHS rules.

This is a great segue into how I was able to transition back into school. I was in the last weeks of my job search and I was searching in the Health Care for CSR jobs. I came across the Pharmacy Technician position. With the exception of the required Certification I had all of the qualifications. This fit with my desire to help people but in a more rewarding way. I immediately did a search for Pharmacy Technician schools in the Puget sound and found three of them. North Seattle CC, Edmonds CC and Renton Technical College. When I was on the EdCC website searching for cost information and program requirements, I found a link for retraining. I answered the questions as to whether or not I met the criteria. I then submitted their interest form and received a call the next day. I scheduled an appointment to attend the next orientation and went to see how I could benefit.

At the orientation, each attendee received a packet of information which provided step by step detail on how to apply for and benefit from the program. The presentation was led by one of the extremely helpful staff of the Career Action Center whom I would rely on for getting the answers to my many questions. We also were introduced to the WA ESD representative who spoke about Commissioner Approved Training(CAT). By getting approved through this lengthy process (I can talk more about it in a later post) I was able to get my remaining unemployment benefit restored while attending school.

I left this orientation feeling as though this was doable and spent the next two or three weeks getting my application for retraining and CAT finished and submitted. This included setting up appointments at EdCC for guidance counseling, as well as advising on the approval processes for these programs. I also ordered my transcripts from the previous colleges I attended and began the admission process for Spring Term 2014. I had qualified for the retraining program and would receive assistance with tuition and registration. With great relief I also was approved for CAT and would receive unemployment insurance benefits while attending school. Oh you will also need to complete the financial aid application or FAFSA for worker retraining and EdCC if you plan on Pell grants or loans.

With a little bit of effort and determination to gain a new career I was now enrolled into to school for Spring 2014. I did have a few weeks until school actually started so in my next post I’ll talk about the excitement, nervousness and preparation for going back to school after 15 years.

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