When Life Gives You Lemons…

Dawn Papandrea | January 11, 2010

Even though dismal government figures show that the unemployed are certainly not alone in their situation, being laid off has a way of making one feel pretty lonely in the world. That’s why a group of 16 laid-off advertising professionals banded together to create the inspirational documentary “Lemonade,” which spotlights the exciting new journeys these individuals took after they got their pink slips.

You’ve heard the old adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Enjoy the clip below and see how people are putting their words into action.

–Barbara Bellesi

This is third in CollegeSurfing.com Insider’s series, From Laid Off to Learning. To read more inspiring stories, check back here each Monday or subscribe now.

It’s not always easy to hit the ground running after a layoff, but for Myles Falvella, 58, of Pittsburgh, PA, it was his only option. With his retirement looming in another decade or so, Falvella wanted to find work in a field that would not only continue to pay the bills, but that would pose some interesting challenges for him as well.

Falvella, a former employee in the telecommunications industry, knew a layoff at his company would affect him eventually, so he had time to prepare for his next step, which was to go back to school to learn about alternative energy. After he received his pink slip, Falvella enrolled in the Solar Panel Installation & Maintenance Certification course at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). The 13-week course serves as an  introduction to photovoltaic (PV) systems and is offered at other schools throughout the state. It is part of the expanding CCAC Green Institute, which works to prepare students for environmentally-friendly careers.

“I really enjoy being on a leading-edge [regarding] what’s going on in alternative energy,” says Falvella. At CCAC, he is learning about PV panel installation and maintenance, but Falvella’s ultimate goal is to establish a business in the alternative industry with some of his like-minded friends. Falvella would like to work with residential customers, helping them to determine greener, more energy-efficient ways of living in their homes.

Falvella’s home state of Pennsylvania is a great place for his business ideas: the state is on the fast-track to becoming as environmentally friendly as it can. It currently offers solar power tax incentives to homeowners to the tune of a 65% tax credit, including 30% at the federal level. The reason Falvella returned to the classroom was less of a credential to add to his resume and more of a way to better understand a burgeoning industry.

“I think it helps to get a good handle on the overall opportunity,” Falvella says, noting that he’s not the only one there to gauge the opportunity. While many of his classmates are in the construction industry, working to take their experience to the next level in their current professions, there are other students who, like him, recognize a future in the alternative energy industry.

Going back to school was a logical choice for Falvella, and while he believes education can also help many others who have been laid off, he suggests that they first think long and hard about what it is that they want to study when they return to campus. Many people believe that a degree program is the only way to go, and while it is certainly one way to advance in one’s career, there is much to be said for taking a single class or enrolling in a non-degree certificate program.

Most importantly, Falvella believes that returning students should choose a discipline that will get them excited to begin a new phase in their professional lives.

“In my case, I took what I was comfortable with,” says Falvella of his choice to go “green” in his studies. “This course was dead-on with what I needed.”

~Barbara Bellesi

DO IT NOW: Read more of CollegeSurfing.com Insider’s series, From Laid Off to Learning.

Laid-Off Dad Finds Hope in Online Learning

Dawn Papandrea | December 7, 2009

This is second in CollegeSurfing.com Insider’s series, From Laid Off to Learning. To read more inspiring stories, check back here each Monday or subscribe now.

In a time when getting laid off is standard and job competition is stiff, what’s a person to do? You can look for a job and hope to get one, but that doesn’t always work out to your advantage. We have all heard stories of those who become dejected and unable to find their next move. Many end up feeling trapped.

Frank Vidal chose a different feeling for himself. After being laid off from a management job he had for 13 years, Vidal decided to make education a priority, and turn what could have become feelings of hopelessness into hopefulness. “I had lost my job at the end of July 2008 and and while searching for something new, noticed that every job I was interested in required a degree,” says Vidal. He had earned his GED in 1988 after dropping out of school a year earlier and never pursued higher education. “Going back was something I had wanted to do for a long time, but I always found an excuse not to.”

With time on his hands and ambition driving him, Vidal enrolled in SUNY Empire State College’s Center for Distance Learning. He is currently taking two classes while working a new job and managing a home life with his wife, two young daughters, and dog. Vidal, whose ultimate goals include working his way to the top in his field, expects to complete the 100 percent online program within five years.

Vidal feels that the time was right for his new journey. “The fact that I’m now an adult and care more about my family than I do myself is what motivates me,” he says. In that regard, Vidal explains, he is thankful for the lay off, since it ignited a passion for advancement and learning he had previously overlooked.

For those who have experienced a layoff, it’s important to keep your head high and go after what you want, says Vidal. “You will either get a negative response or no response for 95 percent of the jobs you apply to. There are going to be days that you don’t want to get out of bed and you think things will never get better, but they do if you keep working at trying to find a job.”

Before he landed his new job, school was what ultimately gave him a sense of purpose. “The state of the economy has changed the way most businesses operate and you have to make yourself more appealing to these companies,” he says. “It also gives you a mental break from the stress of being unemployed.”

Juggling academics with a full-time job and family is, of course, a challenge, says Vidal. But despite the sacrifices and hard work, he knows his path will be a lucrative one. Traditionally, job opportunities have been better for individuals who have at least a bachelor’s degree, and according to statistics, many salary increases are attributed to education level. “I hope to leverage my experience and degree to improve my position at my job.

“The best part of this whole thing is the satisfaction of knowing that I’m working toward getting my degree and that great things are ahead for my family and I.”

~Amanda Fornecker

DO IT NOW: Read more of CollegeSurfing.com Insider’s series, From Laid Off to Learning.

From Laid Off to Learning

Dawn Papandrea | November 30, 2009

If you were one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans laid off this past year, the ability to appreciate the fact that you’re in good company will only get you so far. Whether you saw the layoff coming or it hit you like a ton of bricks, you’ll need to take a proactive approach to returning to the Land of the Regular Paycheck.

After the initial shock of being laid off wears off, many people are getting up, brushing themselves off, and heading back to school. Why? Laid off or not, people enroll in a degree program for a variety of reasons: a better credential for their resume, a change of career, or simply a desire to learn something new.

Over the next few weeks, this blog will feature stories of individuals who found themselves suddenly without a job, so they made the big decision to back to college. Maybe you’ll relate to some of them. Or maybe you’re writing your own success story. Either way, you’ll find the inspiration and motivation you need to go back to school right here.

Read inspiring profiles now:

Faced with a Layoff, a Writer Returns to His Real Passion

Laid Off Dad Finds Hope in Online Learning

Laid-Off Telecom Pro Heads to “Greener” Pastures