I was Laid Off and Lived to Tell

Laid OffFive long years ago this week I was laid off. To add insult to injury, I was actually laid off on my birthday! To “celebrate” the anniversary of this life changing event, I thought I’d take a few moments to reminisce and reflect on how my life has changed since that fateful day.

The Background

Tumultuous times were on the horizon back in mid 2008. The economy was on the verge of collapsing and the banking industry was about to be among the hardest hit. I had been working as a small business loan underwriter for a large national bank (this bank does not exist anymore!). Life was rough at the time for me (I was going through a foreclosure nightmare and my wife and I were $140k in debt). However, I had just graduated with my MBA and finishing off that accomplishment was a nice relief.

While life was a mixed bag for me at the time, I definitely saw the ominous signs ahead. However, as many others can attest to, it was challenging to know just how everything would play out with the economy. As for the bank I was employed at, they had been hinting at “expense reductions” and those savvy enough to read in between the lines knew lay offs might be right around the corner.

Getting Laid Off: A Smack in the Face

One sunny, warm morning I walked into the office just like any other day. I could immediately tell something was amiss though because everyone seemed frenzied. I fired up my e-mail and found a concise message waiting for me with instructions to meet in a certain conference room at 9am. For the next half hour or so, the whole office was comparing and contrasting who was meeting in which conference room (there were 4 rooms being used in total).

Have you even seen Hollywood week of American Idol where they have 2 rooms full of “safe” contestants and 2 rooms with “eliminated” contestants? Well, whoever coordinated the layoff announcements must have been a huge Idol fan because it played out the exact same way. Guess what? I was assigned to a room which was sent home packing.

In a way, I knew it was coming because, as I said, the writing was pretty much on the wall. That said, getting laid off was still extremely hard to to swallow. I never thought I’d ever get laid off. It felt like an affront to me. I’ve always prided myself on doing quality work. Truth be told, I actually did not enjoy the job much to begin with, so, in a way, it was a bit of a relief. That said, being laid off still felt like I was being disrespected. And who gets laid off on their birthday? Seriously?

Panic Sets In

Sitting in that room and hearing the news was surreal. I did my best to take it all in stride and I really did initially feel a wave of relief. It’s hard to describe why I felt that relief, but looking back I think it was the combination of not liking the job coupled with the nightmare foreclosure I’d been dealing with for quite a while. When you hit absolute rock bottom there’s a brief calm. It’s like being in the eye of the hurricane.

The relief was a fleeting feeling though. Walking back to my cube to pack things up was a challenge mainly because I had to witness others’ emotions. Some were crying hysterically while others were bitter and hopping mad. I boxed things up, exchanged contact info with some other casualties, turned in my badge, and left.

I arrived home and plopped down on my recliner and then it finally hit me. I was unemployed and had no clue what my future beheld. Those are scary thoughts to have. How am I going to pay the bills? Am I going to have to take a minimum wage job? What about that $140k debt we have – will we ever pay it off now? I should probably forget about ever retiring, right?

Rational Thought Prevails

It’s so very easy and somewhat excusable to get carried away in negative thoughts when enduring that initial overwhelming emotional hit from getting laid off. After a while, though, you’ve got to sober up a bit and return to rational thought. That’s not to say all of those hard-hitting questions don’t continue to dance around in your mind. However, you’ve got to keep a level head; you can’t move forward if you stay in full-on panic mode.

The good news for me was that, by law, I had to be given a 60-day notice of layoff. The bank could have chosen to keep me actually coming into the office for those 60 days. Instead, they continued to pay me to stay at home. Plus, after the 60 days elapsed, I got a severance package (3 months of pay) on top of that. Having a 5 month cushion to figure things out was a blessing.

How I Bounced Back After Getting Laid Off

After the 60 days had passed, I embarked on a full-fledged job search (I had to ride out the 6o days – if I’d started a new job before then I would have had to forfeit my severance). Working against me was the recession that was in full force. By October of 2008, companies had essentially frozen all hiring and many were dumping jobs left and right. Lo and behold, I got a call from a hiring manager at a Fortune 50 company on a Monday morning in early November. We did a phone interview the next day. He had me do an impromptu 2nd phone interview later that day with his top analyst. The interviews seemingly went well and I held out some hope that I’d get a call back for an in-person interview sometime soon. The call came the next evening except that is wasn’t for another interview – it was a job offer!

I could scarcely believe my fortune. In two days time I’d gone from fully unemployed to hired at a Fortune 50 company via only phone interviews and in the midst of a recession to boot. I’ll be honest, I was ready for Ashton Kutcher to run around the corner and tell me I was being punked! It was legitimate though. To top if off, I ended up getting a raise over what I had been making as a small business loan underwriter.

The Key Takeaway

When I look back at the whole saga of being laid off, I smile. In the end, it turned out for the better. Yes, that’s right, getting laid off turned out to be a good thing. I’ll fully admit I was extremely fortunate in how everything unfolded – especially in landing a better paying job in the midst of the economic downturn. That ties in with the point I want to stress. The message I want to impart to others who have recently been laid off or who might be on edge about their job security:

Things have a way of working themselves out – usually for the better. It can be difficult to trust or believe good fortune will find you when life is kicking you hard from all angles. You probably won’t be able to envision how things could possibly turn around. Just work hard and give it some time. There’s a strong chance you’ll look back years later and realize how fortunate you really were – even if you couldn’t see it at the time. Remember, nothing lasts forever…not even the bad stuff like being laid off…on your birthday!

Image courtesy of archie4oz at Flickr.

23 Responses to I was Laid Off and Lived to Tell

  1. Drew @ financialvoodoo.com August 22, 2013 at 5:41 am #

    There are times where I wish I would get laid off, but as it stands right now, it’s the best gig I can obtain.

    Glad to hear it worked out for you in the end.

    • Mr. Utopia August 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

      Aspire for something greater and then use your current job as a stepping stone, if possible. As I said, things end up working out it strange ways sometimes.

  2. Holly@ClubThrifty August 22, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    That’s awesome! It’s amazing how something so horrible can turn out being the best thing that could happen.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…A Flashback to a Workaholic PastMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia August 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

      Thanks, Holly. Sometimes you only know things turned out for the better when looking back at them years later.

  3. Joshua (CNAFinance.com) August 22, 2013 at 8:16 am #

    Hey Mr. Utopia, great post here. Which is awesome cause this is my first time here at Personal Finance Utopia. Anyway, being laid off would suck. I’ve never had to go through it but, I couldn’t imagine it being fun…at least in the beginning. Anyway, great story! I’m glad that you were able to not only overcome the issue but you found yourself in a better place afterward. Very uplifting! Anyway, I’d love to see you in the conversation over at CNA, why don’t you stop by some time!
    Joshua (CNAFinance.com) recently posted…Welcome To The NEW CNA Finance!My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia August 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

      Appreciate it, Joshua. Glad you found my story uplifting.

  4. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply August 22, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Thanks for sharing your story. I didn’t know about the 60 day notice, is that specific to your state? Glad things worked out for you. You weren’t that happy at that job anyway and you were just finishing your MBA so the timing worked out right? Oh and Happy Birthday.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…The Pros and Cons of Working in the Public SectorMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia August 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      I’m not an employment law expert, so I can’t say for certain on the legal parameters regarding the 60 day notice. I live in California and I believe it is legally required here, but there may be some stipulations that go with it (like size of employer?). In any case, my current employer, a multi-national corp, also has a 60-day notice in their policy and it doesn’t seem to be state specific. Thanks for the happy birthday wishes, Andrew.

  5. Money Beagle August 22, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Thanks for sharing your story. very glad to hear that it ended up working out so that you got a job so quickly as well as keeping your severance. I had a similar story though there was one extra layer involved. I was let go from one company, didn’t see it coming at all. Similar to you, I found something rather quickly. What wasn’t similar is that this new job was an absolute nightmare. I hated it and it hated me. It lasted about nine months before I was mercifully let go (this time I knew it was coming). I was pretty down after that, but *then* I found a great job and I’m still here today, 7 years later!
    Money Beagle recently posted…Why I Am Considering A Gym MembershipMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia August 23, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

      Sounds like it all turned out for the better for you too, Money Beagle. The difference was that your journey took a short detour!

  6. Thomas | Your Daily Finance August 23, 2013 at 4:24 am #

    That had to suck being in one room getting laid off while the other room just listened and watched. hey but it worked out for the best and now you can say it happened for a reason. How did you manage to just get a phone call from a Fortune 50 company was it from networking or just submissions to job boards?
    Thomas | Your Daily Finance recently posted…Are You Trapped in the Credit ConundrumMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia August 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      Thankfully the “safe” rooms weren’t watching what was going on in the “eliminated” rooms. In fact, they told people in the safe rooms very quickly and then sent them home right away. Management didn’t want the laid off workers interacting with the ones that were staying.

      And I probably didn’t explain things well about landing my new job. I applied for for several positions via the company’s online job portal. So, it wasn’t an unsolicited random call. That said, it was surprising to hear anything considering that type of applying is akin to cold calling.

  7. MonicaOnMoney August 23, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    Sounds like you made the best of a really bad situation. Sometimes really good things come of bad situations. Best of luck!
    MonicaOnMoney recently posted…Tailgating on a Budget!My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia August 23, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

      That’s exactly right, Monica. Which means you’ve got to do your best to wait things out when the “seas are rough.”

  8. Michelle's Finance Journal August 23, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    What a story~ Yes you were fortunate, but I bet you worked your behind off throughout your life that brought you to your fortune.
    Michelle’s Finance Journal recently posted…Friday Update: Sixteen Candles and New JobMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia August 23, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      There’s something to be said for working hard, Michelle. There’s a saying out there that goes something like “if you work hard you create your own good luck.” I’m probably not getting that statement exactly right, but there is some truth to it. Although, in my case, I think I was aided by some other good fortune that wasn’t necessarily directly related to prior hard work. Plus, I have already admitted to being lazy: http://www.personalfinanceutopia.com/2013/08/you-are-lazy-that-is-good/

  9. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen August 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    Great story Mr. Utopia!!!! What a good one to read on a Friday! It’s amazing how everything worked out for you! I’m sure it’s because you stayed positive and kept on going. You should think of it as a great birthday present then!
    Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen recently posted…Being Earth-Friendly and Saving MoneyMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia August 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

      Ha, yes, I should think of being laid off as a birthday present. At the time I would’ve said that sarcastically but, in truth, it was an actual good birthday present.

  10. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter August 24, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    I’m so sorry this happened, but I’m glad you came out of it as you did. I’ve thought about it a lot, and while it’s unlikely that I’d get laid off, I wouldn’t mind if I did (for a reason like restructuring – of course I’d rather not be laid off because they didn’t like my work) in that way. I would like a couple of months paid to regroup and see what I want to do and work on my websites, but of course it doesn’t usually work out that way.
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted…How to Save Money at Silver Dollar CityMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia August 26, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

      That’s true, Daisy, things usually don’t unfold that way although Financial Samurai does have a book called “How to Engineer Your Layoff.” I haven’t read it so I can’t directly endorse, but it is an interesting concept and, if implemented correctly, could lead to an extra windfall.

  11. krantcents November 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    Bad things happen to good people! I am glad you cam out stronger from it. Although I am still employed, I lost my teaching assignment. It is frustrating, but at least I am employed.
    krantcents recently posted…How to Take Control of your LifeMy Profile

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