Jan 7 2015

My first layoff

I think getting laid off made me stronger.

I’ve worked in Silicon Valley for 15+ yrs now as a SW engineer. I look back and see that I was brash and overconfident. I was good at what I did. I got raises, promotions. Hell, after less than 10 yrs out of college, I was worth millions on paper.

These were the dot com days, from 1998 to 2002.

Then the music stopped.

I remember I thought the company would have layoffs because there were rumors in the grapevine that our revenues were far below for the quarter. But I didn’t think I’d be one of those laid off. After all, I was a good programmer and I felt invincible. They needed me, no other people in the company knew the component I was working on.

But one day, about a week before the quarterly results were to be announced to the public, my manager told me, abruptly, to hand over what I was working on to a junior developer, someone just 7 months of out of college.

I became suspicious and I talked to my manager’s manager (Emily). I asked why my work was being transferred and what I would be doing instead. At our meeting, Emily told me that I would be tasked to do something else. I pointedly asked her, to her face, if I should be concerned about getting laid off. She responded that I had nothing to worry about. But from her body language, I could tell that she was lying and that she was uncomfortable about lying — she felt guilty about doing this to me.

I went home and even though I hadn’t been laid off, I was in shock. I went into work the next few days in a fog. My junior developer was helping me but she could tell that I was just out of it.

My manager’s manager Emily came to talk to me and asked me why I thought I was going to get laid off. I told her it was because my work was being transferred to another junior developer when I had no other tasks being given to me. She understood and asked me to keep it quiet, but that I would get laid off. She promised that she’d do me a favor if I did.

So I, now despondent, just went through the motions. I cleared out my cube the next day, just waiting to get laid off. I expected the layoff to be on the same day as the public release of our quarterly results.

Well, the day before the release of the quarterly results, I had a planned day off. But Emily called me, on a conference call with HR, to inform me that I was being laid off. The HR person took over from there and I got the usual spiel. I told them that I was willing to come over and hand over my badge that day, rather than wait until the next day, because I felt I’d be better off if I ended this as soon as possible. They agreed. I came back to my office, which surprised a few of my coworkers.

What bothered me most was that I was specifically told not to say anything. I could not warn any of my friends at work what was going down. I found out later that some had suspicions that there’d be a layoff but some were just oblivious. I guess they thought that the dot-com bubble would go on forever, like Henry Blodgett.

Anyways, I drove to my office, and 30 min. later, I turned in my badge, picked up the severance agreement and left.

Emily did feel sorry for me, and because I kept my mouth shut, she got the company to accelerate my vesting schedule so I was able to get more stock options that weren’t to be vested until 2 more months. I really appreciated that.

Well, the next day, my phone started ringing. From my coworkers. I knew there’d be layoffs but I didn’t expect 40% reduction in headcount. It wasn’t just the rank and file. One VP got let go, so did whole groups, including department heads. It was a bloodbath. One of my good friends Susan, vomited, as she left the office for the last time. That’s how shocked she was.

My coworker Mark complained why I didn’t give him a heads up on the upcoming layoffs when I knew about it. He accused me of betraying his friendship. I told him that I was instructed not to. I couldn’t help it. Mark too was shocked and he said he sat in his car in the parking lot for hours before driving home.

For 3 months after that, I was in a funk. I rarely left my house and spent most of the days slacking, not even changing out of my PJs. I was depressed. I felt my world had ended, all my dreams of being a successful guy by 30 was gone. Oh, and my girlfriend dumping me for a doctor, yeah, that was like getting kicked in the balls after my company gave me a hard punch to the guts.

But eventually, I snapped out of it and the trauma of my first layoff slowly faded and faded as time progressed.

I was out of work for 29 months. Yes, 29 months. Thankfully, my stock options and savings kept me afloat for that period. I didn’t have money for “funemployment”, like travelling, but I did have money to pay the rent, pay the bills, and eat on the cheap. But it was close – I had panic attacks of becoming homeless. At 28. Asking myself how the hell did it come to this?

I spent months and months sending out resumes, only to find that for every open position, there were 200 other applicants. It was dead in Sillicon Valley. No one was hiring.

I spent this part of my life either chasing jobs or taking programming classes at the local community college to upgrade my skills. But those 29 months, especially the first 3, were harrowing

I seriously considered becoming an electrician. To get out of tech and do something blue collar.

I had no love life. Who wants to go out with an unemployed dude? That made me realize that we put way too much of our identity in our jobs.

After 14 months of job hunting, I received one offer. The salary was 40% of what I was making at my last job. I really thought long and hard about this offer. I was scared that this would be the only offer I would see for the next 6 months.

But I turned it down. I couldn’t go back to 40% of my previous salary and try to make it back up again.

But finally, I found a job, 29 months later. It was a contracting position but it paid me more than I had previously made.

That contract led to another contract, then another contract, and finally, to a permanent job.

What did I learn from my 1st layoff?

1) Your job is not your only identity. It defines what you do, not who you are.

2) Your first layoff is like your first breakup in high school. Yes, it will hurt and it will hurt a lot. But you can get through it and it will make you tougher.

I’ve been laid off 3 more times since then. Layoffs don’t bother me anymore because I am psychologically prepared for them.

3) I spent more time with my family when I was unemployed. Funny how being unemployed made me realize the importance of my family. I cherish the time I spent with my family. Having them give me moral support when I was down and out. Yeah, that was a reset. For the better.

4) Save at least one year of your salary. This is your emergency fund. After getting a new job, I didn’t splurge and buy things I didn’t have the money for when I was out of work. I paid off my debt. Credit card, student loan, everything. That meant I spent a lot of weekends at home, watching movies from Netflix or playing video games. It didn’t help my social life. I no longer had the nicest clothes or the newest technical toys or a honking 40 inch TV. But I had something better – piece of mind. If I get laid off tomorrow, I have no debt and I don’t have to worry about whether I can make the mortgage or car payments. I have over 1 yr of my salary in savings. I learned this the hard way. I learned to give up vacations or buying a new car every 5 yrs so I have a piece of mind if I ever get laid off suddenly.

Looking back, I don’t feel invincible as I was back then. But I feel more secure now.

That first layoff really changed my life and lifestyle around. I think for the better. Because I don’t fear layoffs anymore.

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This post was submitted by DotCommed.

Jan 7 2015

Dealing with stress

One of the hardest parts of losing your job is dealing with the stress. When I new my days were numbered, I was hit by a wave of anxiety that I simply could not deal with. Over time I learned how my diet, exercise, and attitude had a huge impact on how I could cope with stress. I got laid off due to a job elimination a year ago. After a long search I eventually did land a new job. Using my stress coping skills, and above all, staying positive, truly helped me get through my time on the bench. Now that I am working, I still have moments of stress and anxiety, and I still rely on my coping skills.

For those of you who are still looking, keep staying positive no matter what!

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This post was submitted by Chris.

Aug 22 2014

Guess I live in the wrong country

After working for almost 17 years at a hospital I found out that “my job had been eliminated” and that would be my last day of typing neurology, cardiac, sleep studies and EKG’s. We had been out sourced, all of our transcription for the entire hospital (except the lab) and I am assuming all UHS hospitals out source to India! No notice at all and the day before Thanksgiving to boot. No heart, just a number on the budget reports, no hope you haven’t bought your son’s Christmas yet or hope you’ve already bought your food for a Thanksgiving dinner.. Nothing. Straight out of the scrooge movie. To rub salt into the wound the entire department had already been cut down to only being able to work 30 hours a week for months now so to make a full check you would have to take your PTO/Sick time to make your check. I am blessed enough to have a few Pto hours left but not many. I am supposed to receive 3 weeks severance pay but I bet they won’t even base that on 40 hours and of course they tax that too. I have to go sign all the paperwork on Monday (in 2 days) and will have to take out my 401K money and get hit with all those tax penalties so we have electricity for Christmas. No more health insurance and will have to pay the penality on that too I suppose. My son is on 2 monthly medications that I can’t afford without my prescription drug card. Needless to say I didn’t feel to much like celebrating on Thanksgiving yesterday. An American corporation putting their own people out of work and sending our work to India is really sad. Not only that all the work that they out sourced and is now being typed is riddled errors and blanks. There is a language barrier, they don’t know the difference between “too and two”. On a more serious note the reports they are typing are what doctors are looking at to base your treatment off of. Not even to mention God only knows what kind of personal information is being sent to India. But yet I have had to sign my life away for years with training and signing things etc about the rules of not breaking the HIPPA law. What a joke. When it was declared that all the medical field had to go to electronic medical records or be penalized on financial reimbursment was the first nail in the coffin. Now with all the United States companies trying to skirt providing and paying for a portion on health care insurance for employees, it has really put a lot of people out of work and has taken food off the table of Americans. I am ashamed of how our country is treating its own people. I am supposed to be able to get unemployment but the max is 20 weeks in my state and given the situation of how medical transciption is obsolete unless you live in another country, I don’t really know what to do. I’m 45 years old and this is what I’ve done for almost 17 years. Can’t find a job in my trade. My trade is no more. I’m scared, unemployed,divorced with a child, mortgage, no insurance, hardly any 401K will be left after all the penalties. God help my soul.

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This post was submitted by Teresa.

Jul 18 2014

New Girl Laid Off After Two Weeks…Cutbacks Kill.

I graduated college with a design degree on June 2012 and have been juggling part-time and freelance jobs since then, just trying to make enough money to live on my own. After spending hours on hours on end searching and applying and interviewing for jobs, I finally landed a full-time gig a year after. It was for a start-up company that has a lot of potential. They offered me a generous compensation with great benefits to match. I was definitely on the right track now, or so I thought.

The day after I got my first paycheck, I was given notice that I am being let go. Our company had a meeting that afternoon, with our CEO announcing we had to cut our expenses in half in order to get more funding (hmm? sounds sketchy right..) and that there would be lay-offs. There goes the first person in the room with a manila envelope… second person… third person… and then, me. Two weeks in my new job, and that’s it. I am a 23-year old professional, I shouldn’t have taken this personally, but I am also an emotional, fragile, disappointed, frustrated and stressed woman – so I broke down and cried to my female coworker. Yes, I did that… in front of my CEO.

Now, I am back at job searching again, hoping next time would be better.

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This post was submitted by Andrea.

Jan 13 2014

Another Layoff?

Last August I left a stable sales job to join a start-up R & D company as a diesel technician. This new job offered a better environment and 50% more pay. I have always been told the only way to get ahead is to take risks, so I did.

Six weeks later, I was told I was no longer needed, and I shouldn’t be surprised because this company is a start-up.

Through a friend, I interviewed and found another job as a trainee machinist. I worked hard, and came home exhausted every single day. Once again, six weeks later, I was pulled into the office and told I was no longer needed due to a soft forging market.

I called my old boss back at my stable sales job, and was rehired.

About one year later, my former employer, the machine shop, called and said they had an opportunity for me. I interviewed and took the job. It paid 30% more, and was a better work environment than my sales job.

Yesterday, four months later, I was once again called into the office and told I was no longer needed. I cannot go back to my sales job as I have already quit once.

I feel like a total failure who cannot provide for my wife. I am ready to never take another risk in my life again as it is apparent that they do not pay off. Is this just visited on me? How many times am I going to be laid off in my life? Why bother trying to work, when I’ll just be let go soon?

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This post was submitted by Kevin.