Got laid off? What experts say you should be doing right now

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- There are two crises right now: One is the coronavirus. Signs of it are everywhere, such as testing, social distancing and shuttered businesses.

That leads to the second crisis, which is economic, and front and center in the middle of that is the life-blood of Houston's economy: the energy industry.

Right now, demand is low. People aren't flying and they aren't driving. Plus, supply is too high, and storage capacity is filling up, meaning that if something doesn't give, production could stop, which could worsen an already difficult situation.

"It's devastating, short-term, for sure. We're seeing that," said Bob Tippee, a long-time energy writer.

The former editor of the Oil & Gas Journal has been blogging about the coronavirus impact for two months.

"The bigger problem is the demand slump," said Tippee. "It's an enforced demand slump. It occurs because economies have been officially immobilized because of the coronavirus, which means the market can't do what it normally would in times like this."

And while it could be months before demand returns, it will eventually.

"Once the COVID-19 shutdown is lifted, and it will be, we should see a return to demand levels approximating what they were in February, January, and last year," said Jim Rice, an attorney and partner at Sidley Austin LLP in Houston. He specializes in the oil and gas industry.

But rough times are ahead.

The longer we are engaged with a health crisis, the economic crisis lingers. There is not an agreement on how long that could be, but there is agreement we'll get through it.

"I'm hopeful," said Rice. "I'm optimistic that we'll get the worst behind us in the short term here, [and] get back to normal in the summer driving season and see better days ahead."

Still, for those who've lost their businesses or jobs, those days could come too late. The industry announced more layoffs on Tuesday with the expectation that they are not the last. So, what can you do if you find yourself out of work or furloughed?

ABC13 turned to Mary Massad, the division president of Traditional Employment Operations for Insperity. Her first bit of advice is to use your time wisely.

"Get up every day just like you have," said Massad. "Get dressed. Be ready for that call. Take advantage of the opportunity, but make learning your job. "

She suggested using free online classes to learn new skills or improve the ones you already have. She also recommended using social media sites such as LinkedIn and update your profile. Join like-minded groups, create posts, interact with others and stay connected.

"Voice your opinion and your thoughts," she said. "It's really making yourself relevant in a digital way."

It might be difficult for some who are focused on paying their bills and putting food on the table without a job. Optimism is tough, but the industry will come back and there will be opportunities.

Mike Conti is the show director for OilComm, an annual technology conference in Houston for the energy industry. He's optimistic about how the industry will adapt to new markets. He said skilled workers are always important.

"A lot of the industry knew that change was bound to happen," said Conti. "I think that COVID-19 has accelerated a lot of that. An example of that is implementing new digital technology. Stuff like automation, [and] cyber security."

We are all impacted by this new reality, some more than others. While there might not seem like a light is at the end of the tunnel, it's there.

"It's a tough time to be optimistic," said Conti. "But I wouldn't bet against Houston, and I wouldn't bet against this industry."

Follow Tom Abrahams on Facebook and Twitter.
Copyright © 2020 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.