February is almost over and this Saturday I am taking a much needed 4 day vacation to New Orleans. I started this month with a completely different life. It's strange to see what my life has changed into. Life right now is new and sort of scary but I know I am growing and learning many new lessons.
It all started with my new hair cut. At the beginning of the year I promised myself I could get a new hair cut once I lost 10 pounds. With 2 days left of January, I had reached my goal and booked an appointment. I chopped off 7 inches! I felt confident with the new do and a slightly slimmer waistline.
Fast forward to Ground Hog Day 2016. It started like any other. It was gray and slightly cold. I went into work and was planning on telling my boss that I needed to come in late the next Monday because I had a doctor's appointment. Our weekly meeting had been moved to the next day so I decided I would just bring it up then. I worked on a few infographics throughout the day, checked emails, and did the normal day to day things. Four o'clock came along and my boss came into my office. He closed the door and I knew something was wrong. He sat down and proceeded to tell me that the day I started they lost their biggest client. He was concerned that the business would suffer but he figured he could give it a few months to acquire new clients. Despite his optimism, he wasn't able to secure any new work and he would have to let me go. I was to pack my things and he would pay for a cab home. I wasn't to return to work the next day.
I had left a very secure job that I enjoyed at Groupon to take a chance and join the advertising world. I knew that things like this happened, especially at smaller shops, but I didn't think it would have happened only two and a half months after taking the job. I felt so naive for leaving. In hind sight, there were red flags but hind sight is 20/20. I cried all the way home. My friend Jordan came all the way over from the burbs and brought Twizzlers and Reeses. After not eating sweets for a whole month, I decided now was as good a time as ever to break my streak. My boyfriend Loren came over around 3am after he got off work. I cried all night. I had barely enough money to pay my bills for the next month. After that, I wasn't sure what I was going to do.
I obviously couldn't sleep that night. That night, I started grinding my teeth again— something that had stopped since I had left Groupon. As I tossed and turned I decided I wouldn't let this get me down. I would approach this situation like I would approach any design problem. I finally fell asleep and around 10am I woke up and got started.
I grabbed my work notebook and wrote at the top "Day One." I made a list of all the things I needed to do for that day. File my taxes, sell some stock, find a roommate, file for unemployment, reach out to families I babysit, reach out to freelance clients, apply to be a Postmate, reach out to my design network, apply to jobs. I went into full on warrior mode. Between taxes, odd jobs, and stocks, I was able to get enough cash to live off of for the next three months. If I could find a roommate it would get me to 5 months. I googled advice on what to do when you get laid off. One of the most helpful articles was something I found on Forbes. It talked about find confidence in yourself, settling down emotionally, and reach out to your network.
Obviously loosing your job is something one is embarrassed and insecure about but I decided that I needed to update my network of peers if I wanted to get any leads. After all, I found my last job through that network.
I am a member of SheSays Chicago. They are a creative group that focuses on strengthening women in the creative industry. One of the best resources this group offers is their Facebook page. People from all over the area post job listings, advice, and events to this page. It took some guts but I posted to the page to see if anyone had any leads.
This wonderful group of women offered so much support. Not only did they share their stories and sympathies, but they actually shared job leads. By the end of the week I had 4 interviews scheduled.
The day I got laid off, I got an email from Jessica at Wunderland Group. I have been contacted by recruiters before asking if I was interested in working with them. At 1:00pm on February 2, I wasn't at all interested and nearly responded to her saying so. However, I was busy and decided I would respond at a later time. Fast forward to 4:00, right after my boss had delivered the bad news, I emailed her and said I would be interested in talking with her.
The next day I talked with her over the phone. It was like any other phone call with a recruiter. I brushed it off and thought, yep, I'm never going to hear from them again. To my surprise, by the end of the day they had already sent me a job description for a junior art director position at United Airlines. After I said I was interested, I was scheduled for an interview the following Tuesday.
I'm interrupting the story here because at this point, I started to feel so incredibly grateful to all the people who had helped make a terrible situation not so terrible. Friends inviting me over for dinner, family listening to me vent, my brother paying me back for all the money I ever lent him, neighbors and peers who sent job leads, Loren for just holding me when I cried, and the man at Oshana & Sons Print Shop who printed my resumes for free! Thank you to all of those who were there when I needed it. Sometimes this city can be so incredibly lonely but it's instances like this that remind me that we are all here for each other. Friends or strangers, we're in this together.
I went to the interview and felt super good about it. I met Loren for lunch afterwards. During our lunch I got a call from my recruiter. They wanted to offer me the job. My recruiter was completely shocked because after all these years of working with this client, she has never seen them make such a fast decision. I still had 3 other interviews that week but out off all the companies, United was the interview I was the most excited about. I decided to be considerate of the other interviewees' time and cancel the other interviews.
After only 7 days of being unemployed I already had a job offer. It was the first time in a week that I could actually breathe. I would start the next Tuesday.
Now this is the interesting part. This job is a freelance job. United Airlines has a about a dozen designers and art directors, most of whom are freelancers (or permalancers, as they call them). This means that my contract is only good for a few months. The company can extend my contract or cancel it at anytime. So as someone who just lost a job, it's scary to dive into the freelance world where the risks of being unemployed becomes a whole lot more likely.
However, if I had never been laid off, I don't know if I would have even considered taking a freelance job. There's no health insurance. No paid time off. No stability. It's scary. But, when I signed on for my last job, I didn't qualify for health insurance until after 90 days. So I got my own insurance until I could qualify. Since I got laid off, I kept my insurance. So I didn't really need a job that offered insurance. I was able to find a really cool new insurance company that covers what I need and costs about $10 more than what I was paying for my insurance at Groupon. This company is called Harken Health and if you are searching for a good insurance company, I highly recommend them.
So while freelancing can be scary, it's also something I've always been interested in trying out. You tend to get paid more per hour. You have more flexibility. You can meet more people. You can work on more brands and projects within any kind of industry. I also feel like Wunderland and United are great companies to be working with as a new freelancer. Wunderland offers insurance, a 401k, bonuses, and freelancing resources to all their employed freelancers. United employs a lot of freelancers so I am growing my network by meeting these great people. Most freelance gigs only last as long as a certain project. At United, they have some employees that have been freelancing for them for over 5 years, hence permalancers. Doing a long term contract feels much safer than finding a short term gig.
I'm currently in my second week at the job and I'm really enjoying the people and the projects. I'm learning a ton and I'm starting to feel like I am back into a normal schedule. So now that I can finally breathe, I'm going to pack my bags and head down to NOLA!
Oh! And as if my life needed more change, my new roommate is moving in next week. I know I have a job but I thought that while I'm freelancing I should probably build up my savings so if I do loose a contract, I can have a nice safety net until I can find a new job. Also, it will be nice to have a new friend. She gets along with the cats so I'm taking that as a good sign.