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Bake Or Break, Part 5: Laid-Off Employees Look For New Jobs, Opportunities

This article is more than 10 years old.

By Meghna Chakrabarti (WBUR)

Over the past several months, WBUR has been following the story of Boston-based Dancing Deer Baking Company and how it's faring in this economy. Dancing Deer moved to larger, more modern manufacturing facilities late last year. But the company fell short of its holiday sales goals. That led to changes. Primarily, layoffs. In January, the company laid off 10 of its 100 employees, fairly significant for a company of that size. Dancing Deer CEO Trish Karter describes whom she had to let go.

TRISH KARTER: The pain of that was really borne by the educated and professional staff, which runs the administration, marketing, sales and operations.

It's been about a month and a half since then, so we thought it was time to check in with some of the people who'd actually lost their jobs, beginning with one of Dancing Deer's former wholesale sales associates, Glen Harnish.

GLEN HARNISH: People ask me about unemployment and how it's going, and people always express their condolences.

Which puzzles Harnish. Because it's not like anyone died, he says. In fact, he's never felt more alive.

HARNISH: I make this joke that people always say college is the best years of your life. If unemployment was an institution like college, in 20 years if unemployment called me during their annual fund drive and said, 'Listen, will you give?' I would give generously, because I really believe in this time period. And, it's exciting.

But it's not as if he has a ton of money right now. Harnish, who's 29, lives in Jamaica Plain with his girlfriend. She has a corporate career and loves it, he says. Harnish works odd jobs, reconnects with old contacts, researches job listings. But, he says what really gets him out of bed isn't the search for work. It's his new passion: Writing his dream screenplay fulltime.

HARNISH: To people who aren't writers, aren't artists, they'd say, 'Why would you waste your time over there on the margins? The money is to be made here.' But I find that the more the money goes, the less the creativity goes. That was one thing that was special about Dancing Deer was that it manages to do both.

So, yes, Harnish does miss working at Dancing Deer. But he says the company, in laying him off, has given him a bigger gift.

HARNISH: This feels like the permission slip to go out now and say, 'Listen, if you want to take some feedback from the universe that maybe you weren't as passionate about what you were doing.' It's an opportunity to think about it, and not just jump back in to what you had been doing.

Sustained self-reflection works for this young philosopher. He's unencumbered by a mortgage or family. But, for a young parent, it's different.

DORIS O’KEEFE: With us, with a growing family, I have to have a great job, I have to have great potential to make sure I support these kids.

This is Doris O'Keefe. She used to be Dancing Deer's corporate sales department. She lives in a small two-bedroom home in Braintree. For the past month and a half, after getting her two children dressed and off to school, O'Keefe spends all day, every day, selling herself.

O’KEEFE: I spend about six to eight hours on the computer, looking for jobs, calling past contacts and just making networking appointments.

And writing cover letters, polishing her resume, doing informational interviews. It all adds up to 40 hours a week looking for work. O'Keefe says it's starting to feel like she's applied for more jobs than she can count.

O’KEEFE: I'm looking at how many? Over 100 something resumes. And I've only got two potential call backs and then after phone screens we decided that either it was not a fit or something that I was really geared for.

That's because she says she's geared towards doing good. It's one of the reasons O'Keefe enjoyed working for Dancing Deer.

O’KEEFE: I was at Dancing Deer because it was a company that made me happy, I loved the philanthropic side of it. You know, my next option is, I want to make sure that it's a job where I know my sales skills, my marketing skills would go and help a bigger cause.

For now, the family's getting by on O'Keefe's husband's income and benefits. He's a restaurant manager, and O'Keefe says having his health insurance saved their five-year-old daughter's life when a ruptured appendix put her in Children's Hospital for several weeks earlier this year.

O’KEEFE: Thank goodness! We would never have been able to pay the initial bill and, you know, it's scary and I hope that the cafe that he's at does really well, because I would not know what to do if they were going to cut back.

However, like Glen Harnish, who's hopeful he'll launch a new writing career, Doris O'Keefe says she's hopeful she'll find a new job.

O’KEEFE: I'm very optimistic, just because I have a strong team and support system behind me. And we are always the type of people that see a glass half full.

This program aired on March 24, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Meghna Chakrabarti Twitter Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.


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