hope . help . gratitude

Zachary was unexpectedly affected by the pandemic

Back in March, my world was turned upside down. During the peak of the covid-19 pandemic, the company I was working for had to make the difficult choice of eliminating my position. I worked for a dental equipment manufacturing company as an engineer, a job I was proud of because I do not have a degree, so it took a lot of work to get to where I was. The week before this happened, I had taken a week off for my 24th birthday. When I returned, I was surprised to see the vice president had flown across the country to visit our branch. I was not the first person the company ever had to let go, so I knew their M.O. I knew someone was going to be fired and deep down, I knew that person was going to be me. An hour before the day was over, my boss came into my office and asked me to come to the conference room. As I entered, the vice president was waiting for me. That is when it happened. They informed me that given the circumstances of what was happening in the world, the company needed to eliminate my position. They delivered the news very gently and I could pick up on the sympathy in their tones and facial expressions. I was devastated. I had spent years working my way into a position where (for someone without a college degree) I was making great money. So, I knew instantly that getting a job to match that income, especially during a time where my state’s stay at home orders were very strict, was going to be near impossible. Fortunately, I was given a very generous severance package. 

With the severance pay and my savings, I was able to get by for a little bit, but with no income coming in, that money did not last long. The next few months to come were very difficult. I relied on the positive relationships I had built with the leasing agents in my building and various other bill collectors to postpone payments. Ironically, that is where a pandemic actually helped in a way. Everyone was much more flexible and forgiving given the circumstances. However, those bills then started stacking up on each other and my bank account was looking very low. I had attempted to collect unemployment, but with the overwhelming number of claims being filed by others in similar positions to mine, it would take months before I would see a penny. At one point, I had to go hat in hand and make the awkward phone call many young adults have had to make, asking the parents for money. My parents are some of the most generous people on the planet, but it was definitely uncomfortable being in that situation for both them and me, especially since it is a risky situation to be in because a situation mixing family and money can certainly jeopardize relationships. Fortunately, that was not the case in my situation. My parents were able to help with some of my rent, so I was at least able to keep a roof over my head. Still, I had utilities, internet, phone bills, car insurance, debt, and other bills that I was now two to three months behind on. Fortunately, around the time where the people I owed money to could no longer allow me to postpone payments, I had finally received unemployment along with the stimulus package from the government.

Now all that remained was the most important part, finding a new job. I knew I was going to have to overcome the challenge of dealing with pandemic restrictions as interviews would be a challenge as well as trying to find jobs that were even hiring as many companies have taken financial hits this year. Normally, I found my jobs by networking in person, but since that was no longer an option, I had to turn to job websites like LinkedIn and Indeed. The problem with these websites is, they make it hard to find a job for several reasons, when you apply, you are just another name in a long list of other desperate candidates looking to replace their loss of income and you typically have to apply for dozens and dozens of jobs to even get one reply back to maybe get an interview. While online networking in the job market can certainly be a powerful ally, when you have so many unemployed people and so many companies unable to hire with the incredible amount of profit loss due to shutdowns and quarantine, it makes finding a job very difficult. Struggling to find opportunity in person, struggling to find one online, both of these challenges have proven to be an incredible stumbling block for me. Fortunately, I have been able to utilize websites like UpWork and Fiverr to offer my skills and talents as a freelancer to at least bring some money in, but of course, that can only help so much. Now that states are starting to lift some covid restrictions and are starting to open back up, that does make it more possible to engage in face to face applications and interviews, but while people are allowed to be out in public, many companies, especially smaller ones are still struggling to recover from their losses, just as many people such as myself, are still struggling to recover from their loss of income. While I have managed to pick myself up from what seemed like a black hole of debt and overdue bills, I am still not out of the woods yet. I am slowly but surely starting to work myself into a better financial state and remain hopeful that when this whole pandemic mess is all over, I will find the right opportunity and get back on my feet for good.

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