Getting laid off is always difficult but for agency employees hit with lay offs now, the job search can feel impossible. It’s more competitive than ever as about 40% of agency employees are searching for a new job, per Digiday research. At the same time, there are fewer open jobs as many agencies have hiring freezes in place to mitigate fall out from coronavirus losses.
In the latest edition of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor, we hear from an associate creative director on an H-1B visa who was recently laid off from an independent creative agency about her job search and how being an immigrant adds to the stress.
The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
You were laid off recently due to coronavirus. What has your job search been like?
It’s been very difficult. I’ve had loads of interviews with great places only to get to the end of each call and have them be like, “We’d really love to hire you but we’re just not hiring right now.” Even with recruiters, they don’t set you up straight away and say they aren’t hiring right now. Some agencies do say they aren’t hiring and that there’s no budget. Overall, the job prospects for those people who’ve been laid off, and there are lots of them, are really terrifying. It’s bleak. It’s like a desert.
Does it feel more competitive than ever?
Yes. Absolutely. I’m confident in my experience and what I’ve done but even getting through the door is difficult when so many places are saying, “As you can imagine with Covid-19 we’re not hiring right now.”
Why are agencies interviewing people if they’re not hiring? Seems like a waste of time.
When I was laid off from my agency I saw job postings for a different office so I asked to apply for those open positions but they said they were fake job postings. Apparently it’s to show clients that we’re doing well. They also use the postings to get people to interview, show interest and then put them on the books so that later on they can recruit from that pool without having to hire recruiters and pay them. I’ve heard of multiple agencies doing that, using job postings to tell clients that they’re fine or doing well when they’re really not. It’s all fake.
That seems like it would make it more difficult for people who are laid off right now to find legitimate opportunities to apply for.
It does. You’re putting hours into applications and speaking with people and reaching out to people to hopefully get a leg up only to find out the job posting isn’t legitimate. It’s crazy.
You’re also on a Visa. How does that factor into your current job search?
Europe in general is not taking people back. Australia and New Zealand are also not accepting flights from the U.S., so that makes it difficult for anyone. Agencies make cuts and don’t think about the impact it has on people. They say, “You’ve got awards, you’ll be fine” or “You’ve got a great book, you’ll be fine.” But when you’re on a job search in a time crunch you may as well have none of those things.
It’s so stressful when you’ve got 60-days to find a new job and submit a whole new Visa transfer application to a new agency. It takes weeks to go through the interview process in the first place. And then if your Visa transfer application is rejected you have 10-days from the rejection date to leave the country. Also, if you overstay you’re not allowed to come back. Agencies should really protect immigrants.
I had a contract with them that said I had to stay with them for a year otherwise I would have to repay my relocation fee. But they didn’t give me a contract that protected me from being laid off or anything like that. Most people don’t check those things when they move abroad.
Even though we’re in a pandemic and entering a recession, there haven’t been any adjustments to the time constraints to get a new job?
No. Immigration is immigration. Obviously, you’re here legitimately but you have to prove once again that you’re legitimate. And now you’re up against people who are from the same country, same state who have been laid off. For immigrants, everything is put into flux. You look around at your home and you go, how am I going to pack all of this up? It’s even worse for immigrants who’ve moved their whole families and [they’re the sole provider.]
What do you wish bosses would think about when laying people off?
It’s not as simple as saying, “Here’s your pitiful severance.” Laying off an immigrant impacts them, their children, their partners, their whole life. Bosses cannot go, “They’ll be fine, their book is great, they’ve got loads of work and they’re well known.” All of that means nothing when it comes down to it. We’re here to earn the country money with what we do and we’re doing that.