Laid-off Calgarians band together for support

As thousands of people search for jobs in Calgary, many of them have banded together to support each other through the downturn.

Group meetings offer chance to process emotions

Peter Butler and Vickie Despins were both laid off in Calgary last year. ((CBC))

Thousands of Albertans who were gainfully employed just a year ago are out of work.

The unemployment rate is the highest the province has seen since 1995.

And yet in all the stories we hear about the downturn, we often lose sight of the people that are at the heart of the matter, people like Vickie Despins or Peter Butler. 

The pair belong to a group called Laid Off Calgary, which hosts weekly meetings for those who have been impacted by the downturn.

Connecting with others

Organizer Bianca Sinclair said she put together the group to give people a place to process their emotions.

"It's a different kind of skill set that we're tapping into," she told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"I know there's services and places out there for building your resume, for job search and networking, but this kind of group setting is a place where people can process their feelings and connect to other on a deeper, personal way that they're perhaps not able to with friends or family."

When Despins lost her job in telecommunications last November, she and her career counsellor figured she'd find a new job within two months.

Five months and 29 applications later, Despins is still seeking work.

She came across the group when she was at an "all-time low." 

"I went for interviews, I got all the way to the meet-and-greet and tour, thought for sure I had this particular job, and it didn't come through," she recalled.  

"I was so stressed at that time I don't even remember how I found this group."

Following the heart

Despins said the group has given her a new sense of "get up and go."

She used to work in the legacy side of telecommunications and said her expertise is becoming obsolete. So she's trying to find a silver lining from the layoff and is considering completely changing her line of work to seniors' advocacy.

"I only basically have 15 years of work left so I might as well do what comes to the heart," she said.

"I think it's a good opportunity for anyone if they're capable of doing it."

Butler agrees. He was laid off last May, and though he's had a few interviews, he has yet to find a new gig. 

"I certainly want to get away from being a number in a big company and start my own business, even a small business, helping people out," he said.

Although he's optimistic, Butler said it's difficult out there. 

"I've had a few interviews, and the frustrating side of it is that once you have an interview you don't always hear back from the companies," he said.

"I'm in a totally new world."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener


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