Unemployment diary: I'm a 29-year-old magazine editor-in-chief in Alabama who's been out of work since July

  • The Unemployed States of America takes readers deep inside the decimated American workforce.
  • Julia Sayers Gokhale is a 29-year-old magazine editor-in-chief based in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • She lost her job at Birmingham Magazine in July when the publication suspended operations and let the entire staff go.
  • Now, she's living paycheck to paycheck on $275 a week in unemployment and worried about finding another full-time role.
  • This is Julia Sayers Gokhale's story, as told to freelance writer Nick Dauk.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

After graduating from Elon University with a degree in print and online journalism, I moved to Birmingham in 2013 to accept an editorial fellowship with Oxmoor House. I then became an associate editor for Cooking with Paula Dean Magazine before being offered a role as associate editor at Birmingham Magazine in 2015. Accepting that job was the best decision I ever made.

Within two years, I was promoted to managing editor, then to editor in chief at only 26 years old. Becoming an editor in chief for a magazine had been my dream job since I was 13. When you're working on a magazine career track, editor in chief is the end-all be-all; to reach my career goal at such a young age was something that I never expected. It was a wild and amazing feeling.

I was laid off in July, one month short of my five-year anniversary, when Birmingham Magazine suspended publication and let our entire staff go.

I was obviously devastated at the loss of my dream job, but also devastated at the loss of the magazine right before its 60th year in print. We had plans to push this publication into the digital realm, where it would expand beyond travel and lifestyle to include long-form journalism and highlight current events within our city.

After the initial shock, the anxieties for my own future began to set in.

It's a weird feeling when you've been in a top role and are thriving in your career, then suddenly you're nothing. You definitely feel like your value has been cut down. 

Although I've had a few freelance opportunities, I'm still essentially living paycheck to paycheck. Unemployment was helpful when it was $600 a week, but it's been dropped to $275 a week, which isn't enough to make ends meet. If my unemployment runs out, there'll be pressure to find any full-time role immediately. I'm lucky to have a husband that's still employed, but I do feel guilty sometimes that, while I've lost my dream job, I don't have to worry as much as some others do.

I've always thought that I'd eventually become a freelancer later in life, just not now. You don't expect these things to happen so young into your career. In journalism, you always have to think about industry changes, but you never expect you'd be forced to start all over again. Maybe I was naïve in that fact, but I never thought at 29 I'd be going through this. 

It still doesn't feel real because the whole world is still upside down, but when normalcy does resume, I think I'll be hit with the realization of how much my life has changed.

I had my dream job. I got to travel, attend fun events, eat great food, and experience my city in an intimate way. I loved sharing the stories of those who didn't have a platform to do so. I'm afraid I won't find another role that matches what I felt at Birmingham Magazine.

Though it's exciting to think about what opportunities might come and how my life could be different in a good way. I loved my job and was comfortable there; this experience has encouraged me to reevaluate what I really want to do, and I'm excited for new possibilities. 

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