Five 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.
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!