Peter Judge was dismissed from his job as a cashier at his local grocery store last week, leaving him “heartbroken,” he said.
Judge, 59, had been working at a WinCo Foods in Phoenix for nearly four years, and was shocked when his manager told him he was being let go. Judge had used more than his allotted number of sick days, he said, and because he relies on public transportation to get to work, he was occasionally late because of delays.
“I understood why they had to do it,” he said. “The manager was following protocol, I get it.”
Still, he was crushed, mainly because “I loved what I did,” said Judge, who has worked in retail for the past 30 years — including at the height of the pandemic. “I like interacting with people.”
“I had my regulars, and people would wait in my line no matter how long it was,” he added. “I enjoyed that.”
Judge felt hopeless, and worried about how he would manage his expenses. He is single and rents a studio apartment alone, living paycheck to paycheck.
“I don’t want to file for unemployment,” he said. “I just want to go out and get a job.”
He voiced his concerns to his son, Patrick McCarthy, 30, who decided to share his father’s story on LinkedIn — a platform Judge had never heard of before.
“I just appreciate him as a human and know how much he liked his job,” said McCarthy, who lives in Woodinville, Wash., and has his mother’s last name. “I know that he would struggle if he didn’t have a job for long.”
“I just figured I’d try something,” he continued, explaining that, at the very least, he hoped writing about his father’s situation might make others feel less alone amid the recent wave of layoffs across the country. Plus, he said, “people in the service industry are so often overlooked.”
McCarthy himself was let go last month from his job as a marketing manager at Coursera, an online learning platform. “A lot of people are getting laid off, and it connects a lot right now. People just want support,” he said, adding that he is currently job hunting, too.
He wrote a post, sharing a bit about his father, as well as a photo of him.
“This is Pete. He’s my dad,” the post begins. “He’s been in the service industry for most of his professional career. Walgreens, Fry’s, Winco. He loves his customers. He loves being the reason people come back. He loves seeing customers seek out his lane for check-ins and updates. He said to me, “I’m good at this stuff.”’
“Most of his professional stints have lasted 10+ years. As anyone would be, he’s shocked. Overwhelmed. Scared. Emotional,” the post continues. “His network is not like mine. He doesn’t even really know how to make his next move. But I know whoever is reading this and this LinkedIn community can make magic happen.”
While McCarthy was hopeful that his post might yield some job leads for his dad, the last thing he anticipated was for it to reach thousands of strangers, hundreds of whom offered to help.
“This is all just a shock to me,” he said.
Judge, for his part, was even more stunned.
“I never saw any of this coming,” he said. “This has raised my spirits like you don’t even know.”
While some people simply shared words of encouragement, others chimed in with potential job suggestions — such as working at another local retail store, as an outdoor guide or a remote customer service representative, among other ideas.
People who couldn’t help with the job search offered assistance in other ways, including with career coaching, interview prep and résumé and cover letter reviews.
“This is just blowing me out of the water,” Judge said. “I don’t even know what to say.”
It was clear that people could relate to his plight.
“I was part of the recent (very public) Meta lay off so I understand what your dad is going through,” one person commented. “And I know how important it is to have your family in your corner to help pull you up by your bootstraps. I’ll be cheering you both on from the sidelines!”
In addition to public comments on the post, numerous private messages poured in. Although McCarthy didn’t expect it, he understands why the post — and the message behind it — struck a chord with people.
“What I tried to harness in my LinkedIn post is humanity in work, and vulnerability and empathy in work,” he said. “Work can feel so inhuman sometimes. I just like highlighting that we’re all in this together.”
McCarthy said he’s glad his father was on the receiving end of a wave of unexpected kindness. He needed the pick-me-up.
“He doesn’t have a lot, so it’s really powerful for him,” McCarthy said.
“What’s happened in this past week with the reaction has completely restored my faith in humanity, period,” echoed Judge, adding that he has read all the responses, many of which moved him to tears. “The gratitude is abounding.”
With the help of his son, Judge is now sorting through the many job offers he has received. Together, they will determine his next career move.
“I just have to take the bull by the horns and find the next step,” Judge said, adding that he may expand his horizons beyond retail. “I’m not going to jump at something because it’s offered to me. I want to make sure that I have the capabilities to perform well for whoever I work for.”
In the meantime, he has created his own LinkedIn profile, in the hope of connecting with more people, and sharing updates on his job-seeking journey.
“If you have a chance to network, do it, because you have nothing to lose,” Judge said.
In the days since the post was shared, he has learned a meaningful lesson: “People do believe in people,” he said. “It makes you want to go on and get out there.”