Inner Strength, Resilience and a Willingness to Stick it Out
Of the millions of jobs that disappeared during the Great Recession, one belonged to Linette Paterson.
It wasn’t exactly surprising when Seagate Technology announced a big layoff in December 2009.
From the inside, Lin had noticed the company becoming smaller and less prosperous each year.
Still, after 28 years at the same job, the layoff hit hard.
Lin had long struggled to manage a difficult life situation. In a previous job at a plastics factory she had developed severe lung problems after inhaling formaldehyde fumes. She also has osteoporosis, hypertension and high cholesterol, arthritis, asthma, and a mental health diagnosis – all of that on top of a home life that she says “isn’t exactly the wonderfulest thing.”
She’s a single mother who advocates, supports and cares for a 20-something daughter who has both a mental illness and physical disabilities. Together they live with Lin’s elderly mother, who struggles with her own depression, in rural Scott County.
When her job disappeared, after 28 years, it meant the loss of stability and control. Her work, and the income and benefits she earned, had been her lifeline. She recalls sitting in a class offered by DEED’s Dislocated Worker program and being struck by the reality of what it means to be unemployed.
“I had to get up and walk out, and sit down and bawl," she recalls. "That doesn’t happen very often. My job meant going to work, so that I could have one controlled issue in my life. And if I have that, then I can deal with that home life.”
Gretchen Ykema, a counselor at the VRS Shakopee office, remembers thinking, “Lin just wanted to crawl in a corner. She was feeling kind of lost.” But Gretchen also detected an inner strength and resilience in Lin: “She has a willingness to take the initiative and to stick it out, and that’s really cool.”
Together Lin and Gretchen began a job search. Lin believed that she couldn’t afford to be particularly choosey. Her immediate need was simply to find work of some kind, any kind, something that would provide an income and, if possible, health insurance benefits.
“I needed insurance," she says. "That was the biggest thing – needing a job and needing insurance.”
In December 2010, a year after she was laid off, Lin found a job in a packaged foods facility. The job addressed her immediate needs: an income and health benefits. And she’s held onto the job for more than a year, with assistance from the Minnesota Resource Center’s job retention program, “Staying on the Job.”
But she’s also actively looking for a different job – mainly because she doesn’t feel safe at her current job site. It’s a workplace that has a less-than-stellar safety record. She says, “I just don’t want to get hurt anymore.”
Lin and Gretchen are once again engaged in career research, and Lin says she’s confident that they’ll find the right position soon. “The big thing is the information,” Lin says. “We talk about everything, and that helps a lot. And the other thing: Gretchen always smiles. She’s a really neat and caring person. That really helps.”
Linette Paterson received services at the Scott County Shakopee office.