Home > World > Christine Lias: Getting Fired Is A Great Opportunity To Serve Your Community

Christine Lias: Getting Fired Is A Great Opportunity To Serve Your Community

June 25th, 2009, 05:06 pm admin Leave a comment Go to comments

It was the most humiliating moment of my life. But a blessing in disguise.

Back in February 2008, I was working in production for a marketing firm in Marin, California. The company was arranged in “teams,” with about 20 members working for individual clients. Just the day before that one particular day, one of my team-mates sent an e-mail to the group commending my work on our project. I felt good about my efforts, my co-workers and my place within the company. But everything changed very rapidly the following day at about 4 p.m. when I got a call to come upstairs to the Human Resources office. I had no idea that I was going to lose my job at that moment, along with a handful of others.

On the drive home to San Francisco, I remember feeling a mixture of emotions. There was this glorious sunset to the west across the Golden Gate Bridge, and I felt a release of all the tension, all the late nights working 10, 12, 14 hours on deadline, all gone. Deep down, I knew that I did not like working in marketing and advertising. But I also felt a sense of anger and confusion, wanting to know why I was let go and not my colleague sitting next to me. When I got home, I called my mother and my father. I opened my laptop computer and immediately got to work e-mailing people and figuring out what I was going to do next. The director of HR had given me a stack of pamphlets, and I set them aside for later.

At the time of losing my job, I was 30 years old and single. I was living in San Francisco in a small, fairly pricey studio apartment and had a stack of bills to pay. I was terrified on what to do. My job at the marketing firm was not my dream job, but it paid well and provided benefits. My background is in journalism, and I earned my BS in print journalism. I had worked at several Bay Area newspapers from 1999 to 2005. After my last newspaper was sold to the former Knight Ridder corporation, I took a transitional contract job at Kaiser Permanente that lasted just until the marketing firm. That’s why I was so proud to have the marketing gig I had. It was secure, or so I thought.

Right before I lost my job, I began to volunteer at a domestic violence nonprofit called La Casa de las Madres in San Francisco. This was an organization that I first heard about when I was working at Kaiser Permanente. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the regional Oakland Kaiser office that I worked in had booths dispensing literature at lunch. At that time, I was transitioning out of journalism and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life in 2007. I was considering law school as a possibility, and had an informational lunch with one of the Kaiser attorneys. She looked over my resume and suggested an internship or volunteering with a nonprofit, and suggested La Casa de las Madres as a possibility. It just so happened they were in the lobby of my work building, and I picked up some contact literature.

I maintained contact with La Casa, which requires 40 hours of volunteer training. When I lost my job in February 2008, I was in the middle of my training. After I became unemployed, I had more time to commit to volunteering. I began to do community outreach functions for La Casa, particularly during the workweek when the nonprofit had more difficulty finding other volunteers for calendar reasons. I also volunteered in the Women’s Shelter with cooking for 40 women and children, providing childcare at night, and also working the crisis hotline as needed.

It was through this experience that led me to gain an interest in nonprofits and the social service sector of San Francisco. Every time that I volunteered (I know this sounds corny and trite) but I felt as if I had a positive and applicable impact on someone. The corporate sector makes money, but the nonprofit sector is more interested in making an impact on the world and on people’s lives. The latter began to appeal to me more last year. I also had a transitional shift in the way I lived my life, and learning to make do with less. I never went to a soup kitchen or food bank, but being unemployed, you learn empathy just because your standard of living plummets. You can better understand what poor people are going through because you yourself have to cut those same corners as well.

Last fall, I decided to apply for the Master’s of Public Administration program at San Francisco State University. I had been thinking about a higher degree to accentuate my BS for several years. That week in fall 2008, was almost like a light switch for me. I had gone on three rounds of interviews for a job, and been turned down in the end, passed over for someone with more experience. I was over my boyfriend John’s house, when I made the decision (and I had been weighing the MPA program at San Francisco State, along with several other universities) to apply. I then took the time to round up the necessary transcripts, letters, my letter, etc., and sent them off to the department.

When the chairwoman called me on my cell phone several weeks later to congratulate me, my legs started to shake. “You’re going to get a letter in the mail in a few days. I wanted to let you know that you’ve been accepted into the department. Congratulations!” she said.
Acceptance into the program is a positive in my life and a roadmap for the next few years.

More on Layoffs

Categories: World Tags: , , , , , ,
  1. No comments yet.