My name is not important. Where I worked is not important. What is important is that I’m recently unemployed in an uneasy economy and need to find a job. For the intent of what I’m doing here, specific details about who I am, where I worked or anything else about the past are somewhat inconsequential. This is more about where I’m going and how I get there.
Late this past January, I got laid off from my job at what I’ll refer to as ‘The Company’ after over 5 years of service. I must’ve survived five or six RIFs (reduction in force) at The Company previously, but kept at it due to some naïve belief that the higher-ups would be able to turn it around and start showing the employees some financial appreciation. You won’t read stories here about how management constantly reminded the employees that The Company had a ton of cash and no business plan, the ridiculous personnel decisions that were made, or about how the executives took care of themselves in the down economy and let the worker bees suffer. It wouldn’t accomplish anything except for wasting both my time and yours. I have to deal with the now, and the current situation dictates that I spend my time and energy finding a job. The story of finding a job in this economic climate is far more interesting than just another person behind a keyboard ranting about an injustice done to them (perceived or actual), because at the end of the day the ranting will just come across as sour grapes.
So here I am, jobless and at a critical junction in my life. There are major financial commitments looming as I’m about to start a family, so even with a job this is a stressful time. I was reminded of an old expression: when God closes a door he opens a window. I’m a firm believer in this; things happen for a reason and although the reasons aren’t always clear it’s up to us to figure out how to find the opportunity in any situation we might find ourselves in. However, how big of a building are we talking about here? How many windows are there, and how long could it take to find this open window? More importantly how do we know that God doesn’t have some nosy neighbors that’ll call the cops on us when they see us lurking around trying to get in through a window?
Seeing how things have been handled here over the years, a round of layoffs shouldn’t have taken me by surprise. Perhaps after being on edge for so long, one just gets used to it, and what would be a stressful and unpleasant environment to an outsider just becomes the horrible status quo. Somehow I was able to get comfortable, and just when I thought it was safe... BOOM! The board of directors runs into the room, throws a blanket over my head and starts swinging a sack of doorknobs at my face. It wasn’t the first time the CEO called a “code red,” but you would never know because he’ll never admit it, and you can’t ask.
That morning started off just like any other, with me in the office kitchen making that glorious first cup of coffee. After a few precious moments of silence a colleague from another department wandered in and started in on the gossip: someone was just let go and there’s another RIF upon us! This person said that the RIF’ing had already started, but didn’t seem to know anything concrete. I started wracking my brain for reasons why one person was just let go while trying to come up with an answer that didn’t involve a full round of layoffs. Before I could even process that, a member of my own department comes in and relays the news that one of our own just got shown the door. That flipped my panic switch. A couple of minutes later, I was back at my desk and nervous as I’ve ever been at any point in my professional career. Before a sip of coffee was even tasted, the phone rings and the caller ID revealed the executioner. I hesitantly picked up and answered, knowing what fate awaited me. My presence was requested in an office, but in my head I felt like I was being lead to the gallows.
After one of the more painful walks of my life, I get in to the office and was greeted by a couple of executive level people that I was very familiar with. Over my years at The Company I had gotten to know them and there was some trust there. After allowing for the initial shock to fade enough for me to process basic sentences, they laid it out for me: it was a cost cutting measure; it wasn't related to anything I did or didn't do. I wasn't leaving on bad terms, but what difference does that make? Once you’re off the Titanic, why go back on? The severance itself wasn’t anything special, but it was good enough where I didn’t think I’d be in danger of living under a bridge and fighting off hobos for a can of beans anytime soon. I was told that instead of a lump sum it would be paid out according to the usual payroll schedule, and that was the end of it.
All in all, the meeting probably only last about 7 minutes but it felt like years. The walk back to my desk bordered on an out of body experience. They wouldn’t let me clean out my desk then, so I had to grab the necessities and get out quickly. The last thing they want is a reenactment of Scarface quitting the burger joint in Half Baked. It’s always been a dream of mine to pull that off, so they were wise in getting me out quickly. After fumbling at some seemingly random things on my desk I was on my way out. Everything seemed so surreal and I just felt lost. What am I now? What do I do? Where do I go? Well I still had a home and I was on my way there, but there was still a feeling of being lost with no clear direction. What will I tell my significant other and what reaction should I expect? I wonder what people thought as they walked past me that morning. My steps were short and slow, and I most likely had a stunned look on my face. I didn’t quite feel like a failure but more like a loser. In a way, the business world is a big, cruel game and I definitely lost this time. Then again, if I can get a good job quickly the severance will be a nice 'bonus' to bank.