Laid off employees find ways to make it through tough times

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According to Alberta’s government, 63,500 jobs were lost this year, making this the hardest hitting downturn since 2009. The plunging oil prices have forced people out of work, leaving Albertans needing to find new jobs.

Instead of struggling to find work, one Albertan has turned a passion for home brewing into a job during the economic downturn.

Mason Pimm discovered his love for beer brewing while he worked at the Edmonton brewery Alley Kat. He said he was interested in the commercial side of brewing and wanted to learn more about the techniques and skills of the trade.

“I had a lot of frustration with the types of roles that were available to me on the market and I wanted to do something more,”said Pimm.

Life before the downturn 

A University of Alberta graduate, Pimm studied mechanical engineering in 2010 and worked with a consulting firm for a construction company for two years.

Thinking Albertas economy would remain unchanged, Pimm decided to take some time to himself to enjoy his wages and fix up his house, but he was in for a surprise when he returned to looking for work. After sending out resumé after resumé, Pimm was beginning to lose hope until a dinner with his parents changed his career paththey encouraged him to pursue any work, no matter the industryso long as it would make him happy.

“Until that point, I hadn’t even considered not doing an engineering job,”Pimm said. “That was sort of the turning point for me, and pushed me down a different path. I think that was a result of the decline of the economy— there just weren’t any good jobs available.”

Pimm1 bodyMason Pimm loves giving back to the community as managing partner and assistant brewer for local brewery Two Sergeants in Fort Saskatchewan.  Photo courtesy of Rick Rozan

Changing career paths

His new line of work in the brewery industry received mixed reactions from his coworkers and employees. Pimm is now managing partner and assistant brewer for the Fort Saskatchewan brewery Two Sergeants.

“I’ve just noticed my whole life has turned around and I just feel more comfortable and more happy with where I’m at,”he said. “I’m doing what I want to do, I’m doing what I’m passionate about.”

Emotional impact

Colleen Lucas, a University of Calgary graduate with a PhD in industrial and organizational psychology, has been with Calgary Career Counselling for two years. She acknowledges that every person deals with being terminated in a different way.

“I think the biggest impact for anyone when they first get laid off is shock,”she said. “Regardless of whether or not you realize it’s part of the economy or not, it’s still very hard not to take it personally.”

Lucas says there is a lot of anger and confusion in dealing with the loss of a job. Taking some time to reflect after being laid off, and allowing the opportunity to reflect on what someone wants out of a career is the advice Lucas gives.

Facing a job loss    

Corporate culture in Alberta has also left Dylan Keating without a job this last year after the infrastructure management company he had been working for was forced to make some changes. Following graduation from the University of Calgary in 2012 with a BSc in physics, Keating found this job working with data for water pipelines and bridges, and had kept it for almost three years.

At 24, Keating loved his line of work. He said his passion for facing a challenge head-on is part of the reason why he loves what he does. However, he wasn’t entirely happy with the particular position he was in at the time he was laid off, so he admits the grieving process of job loss also included some relief.

“This last year was pretty miserable. Getting laid off was sort of a blessing in disguise,”Keating said.

It took about a month for Keating to realize he didn’t have a job to go to when he woke up in the morning, but still considers himself lucky to now be able to spend his days doing something new that he enjoys as much or more as his former work.Keating2 bodyDylan Keating plays his lap steel guitar in his friend’s art studio in downtown Calgary, enjoying his days after being laid off from an infrastructure management company.Photo courtesy of  Suzanne Tetrault

A wakeup call

Since being laid off, Keating still goes to bed early and wakes up every morning at 8 a.m. to work in practicing his music and supporting local musicians.

His lap steel guitar takes him across Western Canada touring with musicians that require the roots music sound his instrument makes.

“I guess in order to not go crazy, you sort of need a routine, so I try to stay busy all the time.”

Touring Western Canada, he’s played with artists Tanner James, Justine Vandergrift, Sean Hamilton and many other local Calgary artists.

“Creatively, it’s been good. I have a lot more time to focus on my music.” 

Making anywhere from a few hundred dollars as a musician to playing house shows for free, Keating’s main source of income is from unemployment insurance. Though Keating loves to play music, he’s required to look for work as a receiver of the benefit.

“If there’s something I want to learn or figure out I get pretty obsessed with it,”he said. “That’s why the pedal steel’s been nice. It’s really complicated; it’s like a math problem on legs. There’s so much that you can learn and that’s why I like it.”

Keating plans to tour Western Canada with fellow musicians and has found his new focus over the next few years is to go to school in Montreal to get a master’s degree in physics.

Although some people might describe these difficult economic times as a depression, they have proven to shine a light on what truly makes people happy. Alberta’s disappointing job market pushed Mason Pimm into the craft beer market, loving what he does and being in a position where he is able to be more involved in the community. Meanwhile, Dylan Keating is searching for new options and pursuing his musical passion.

Thumbnail courtesy of Rick Rozan

The editor responsible for this article is Veronica Pocza, 

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