After finding out she had been laid off from her job as a registered nurse and internal auditor at the School of Medicine last April, Shelli Eason visited Yale human resources’ career center every day for months.
Determined to find a new position that suited her and her skills, Eason showed up to résumé workshops, attended career counseling sessions and applied for vacancies in Yale departments — but to no avail. Seven months after she and about 100 other employees lost their jobs because of University-wide budget cuts, Eason has not received offers to return to Yale.
The University has made only a third of the approximately 300 layoffs University officials initially projected, but that has not made the staff cuts any easier on displaced workers. Between the career center and the University’s stated policy of giving laid-off workers first priority when filling open positions, about 35 of the affected employees found new jobs at Yale.
When administrators first announced the layoffs in February, they assured employees who were about to lose their jobs that they would have priority if other positions opened up. Human resources officials will continue to offer positions first to laid-off Yale employees as long as former staff express interest in filling them, Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel said.
“To the extent that people were loyal to the University, we want to be helpful to them,” Peel said. “We’re still committed to the employees, and we have an obligation to think of them in preferential terms before we hire people who have no relationship with Yale.”
The University is also bound to give priority to the recently laid-off Yale employees under the terms of its contract with Yale labor union Local 34, said the union’s president, Laura Smith. A job search team organized by the unions is helping to oversee the hiring process for University vacancies, and even before a job is officially posted, the team works with human resources officials to match a laid-off employee to the position, she said.
Many of the displaced employees moved to new departments within Yale with the help of a career center the University opened over the summer to help laid-off workers to find work. Of the staff laid off in the spring, 95 have visited the career center, and job search training is still ongoing, Deputy Director of Human Resources Christine Pedevillano said.
The career center provides the services used by Eason, like the résumé workshops. The center employs one permanent staffer and a consultant from the career transition firm Right Management.
Though activity at the center has begun to wind down, Peel said, employees who need career counseling can and do still drop in. The department of human resources also recently sponsored two career fairs, one for laid-off research assistants and one for people who lost administrative support jobs.
It was with the career center’s help that John Fitzpatrick, who learned that his position as a liaison between faculty and Information Technology Services was being eliminated in March, found his new job as assistant director for prospect research in the Office of Development. Fitzpatrick now researches prospective donors and manages a team of six people.
Between the career center and Yale’s policy of doubling laid-off employees’ severance packages, he said, the University made his period of unemployment as comfortable as it could have been.
“I used everything they had available, pretty much,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was an anxious time, but I made the most of it, and I will say that Yale handled it probably as well as it could have been handled.”
Eason, too, said the Right Management consultant at the career center helped her by coaching her in how to tailor her résumé for corporate jobs, as well as jobs in academia.
And despite the delay in finding employment, Eason said she does not hold a grudge.
“I think they were phenomenal to bring in Right Management,” Eason said.
Other laid-off employees, like Sandy Preston, who has worked at Yale for 36 years, did not use the career center as she waited for a permanent position at the University to open up instead. After taking on temporary assignments doled out to employees in Yale’s interim employment pool, including jobs in a psychiatry research group and the department of plastic surgery, Preston managed to find a permanent position at the Koerner Center for Emeritus Faculty, which organizes activities for retired professors, in October.
“I’m a Jill-of-all-trades,” Preston said, adding that it had been a relief to take on her new, permanent job. “Things can open up very serendipitously.”
The University initially projected layoffs of up to 300 people when the layoffs were first announced in February. The last time Yale made large-scale layoffs was in 2004, when 76 people lost their jobs.
Correction: Nov. 9, 2009
An earlier version of this article, using information provided by Human Resources, misreported the number of laid-off employees who have been relocated within the University. It is 35, not 40.