Man choosing doors

Unemployed?

County offers job search suport, hiring events

By Susan Skog

In July—about five months into the novel coronavirus fallout—more than 12,200 people in Larimer County were unemployed and over 228,200 left the workforce across Colorado. Many of these job losses were sudden, unexpected, and devastating.

“I’ve worked with many finding themselves in this position for the first time,” says Sara Robertson, senior career consultant for Larimer County Economic and Workforce Development (LCEWD). “Some have been with the same company for 20 years. Others enjoyed their small business culture. Many are service industry workers who loved their work, customers, and culture.”

Robertson’s office helps clients assess their job status, skills, and prospects. And LCEWD staff supports job seekers with employment counseling, job search strategies, and virtual classes, from resume writing to job interviewing. “We also host virtual hiring events at which businesses connect with prospective employees.”

But Robertson and her colleagues also work to provide unemployed individuals with much-needed equilibrium, knowing that sudden job loss evokes a “perfect storm” of stress and anxiety. “They may be grieving, in shock, surprised, angry, and stressed from the sudden loss of both financial stability and their sense of self. I try to reassure them that these emotions are normal. But I also see some experience great courage and joy as they find new job success,” Robertson says.

One recent client, we’ll call him Ben, suddenly lost a small-business job he loved. He managed to get enrolled online for unemployment benefits, but panicked when they suddenly stopped. “Ben was really struggling to get in touch with anyone to resolve the situation and was terrified he would no longer be able to afford his house payments. He thought he might become homeless. It was heartbreaking.”

Robertson used her office’s direct hotline to the state unemployment office to resume Ben’s unemployment benefits. “He was overjoyed and able to stay in housing for at least another month, which gave him breathing room with his job search.”

If you are dealing with an unexpected and sudden job loss, here are some tips that Robertson recommends:

  • First, take a moment to process all you’re going through. “That can be hard, but it helps to slow down and take a moment for yourself before you move forward. This is a very stressful time, and you can’t make good decisions from a ‘fight-or-flight mode.’ ”
  • Evaluate the state of your finances and what you need.
  • Identify your availability for unemployment benefits and apply at colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/unemployment. “Have patience because a lot of people are trying to access the online unemployment site.” Read about your eligibility and advocate for yourself, if needed. “It can be confusing and a little convoluted if you’ve never applied before.”
  • Return to the unemployment site, as required, every week or every other week to request payment.
  • If needed, explore ‘stopgap’ positions to earn immediate income. “I see a lot of creative problem-solving as people find solutions that work for them. Some work seasonal retail jobs as they look for a longer-term position.”
  • Examine new career paths. “We help identify which job sectors are shrinking, static, or emerging. During the pandemic, some have found jobs in health care for the first time.”

To contact Larimer County Economic and Workforce Development: larimer.org/ewd | 970-498-6600