Back to work

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 7, 1999


Wednesday, April 07, 1999

Jan. 14 was the day Christina Garza’s life changed.

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It started as a work day like any other. The Albert Lea woman readied her two sons, ages four and six, for day care and headed to Lake Mills for work.

An accountant with the Lake Mills Waste Department for a total of 11 months, her first three months were as temporary worker through Manpower Temporary Services. She enjoyed her job and her co-workers, had good wages and benefits.

All that changed two months ago.

&uot;I was called into the office and they gave me the letter, effective immediately,&uot; Garza said of being laid off. &uot;I was surprised. I had no clue.&uot;

The drive home, she asked one question over and over: &uot;What am I going to do?&uot;

A single mother with two sons, Garza knew she wouldn’t be able to survive long without a full-time job.

&uot;It was really hard going from a full-time job to nothing,&uot; Garza said. But after the first day, Garza became more confident in her ability to find another job.

&uot;I just had it in my head that I would be able to find another job right away,&uot; Garza said. A week passed with no leads, and Garza’s confidence began to falter.

&uot;I couldn’t believe it. I was really surprised that I hadn’t already found a job. And all my friends were telling me not to worry because it had only been a week. But I was still worried,&uot; Garza recalled.

She spent the mornings with her two sons, and hunted for jobs in the afternoons, while the boys were at day care.

&uot;It was nice to sit with the boys, but I really wanted to find a job,&uot; Garza said. She isn’t the type to sit around all day; she likes to work.

And looking for work was almost a job in itself.

&uot;I did a &t;I&gtlot&ltI&gt of job hunting,&uot; Garza said. Garza went to an employment agency, looked at advertisements and networked.

&uot;I even just walked into businesses to ask if they were hiring and left my resume,&uot; Garza said. &uot;I talked to everybody and anybody about getting a job.&uot;

In total, Garza figures she sent out 15 resumes and applications, but still no luck.

Although many businesses had positions open, none were for accountants.

&uot;If I didn’t find something soon, I was going to take anything,&uot; said Garza.

After three years of education for accounting, Garza didn’t want to work in a factory. She wanted to be able to use her education and skills. But if factory work was the only thing she could find, she would do it.

&uot;I was getting so discouraged,&uot; Garza said.

Even though the picture looked bleak, she didn’t want to leave the area.

&uot;It would be hard to go somewhere where I didn’t know anybody. It would be hard to find someone I could trust for day care,&uot; Garza said.

She wasn’t willing to move, but she didn’t mind commuting. She broadened her search to Austin and Owatonna.

Garza enlisted the help of Manpower once again. And after all of the resumes and applications, she finally got a couple of interviews. One landed her a job.

Garza began working at Sorenson Bros. Construction Feb. 9, three and a half weeks after she had been laid off.

It wasn’t an easy month, but Garza said she’s happy with her new job. She’s still on the probationary period. But she likes the work and the people and hopes to stay on board.

The benefits, once she starts receiving them, will be the same as the Lake Mills job, although she did take a $2 an hour cut in pay. Concerned about that at first, she figured it all balanced out.

&uot;I did pay a lot for gas. It’s nice to be in town. I can come home for lunch rather than eating out everyday,&uot; Garza said.

Garza offered advice for those who might find themselves in her situation.

&uot;It’s discouraging, but don’t give up,&uot; she said.

Garza recommended that people use whatever resources are available to them. For some, like Garza, an employment agency may help.

&uot;I had a lot of friends looking out for me too. Giving me leads and watching for opportunities,&uot; Garza added.

She also realizes that the first job may not always be the most ideal.

After graduating from college, Garza worked at an accounting job that paid a little above minimum wage. That job, despite its meager wage, gave Garza the experience she needed for the higher paying jobs.

&uot;Sometimes people have to take those stepping stones to get to where they want to be,&uot; Garza said.

With the hard times behind, Garza is confident that she is on her way to where she wants to be.