I’ve been laid off a couple of times in my career. It’s usually the result of a organizational restructure. However, once my employer ran out of funding and entered a wind down phase. The most recent time was almost a month ago. It was like a surprise punch to the gut.
I got up and got the kids off to school that Thursday morning. Sat down at my computer to start grinding through email. I live in the central part of the country and most of my team is based on the west cost. There is always a fair bit of catching up to do in the morning since I would knock off earlier in the day compared to them.
As I was working away, a calendar invite from my VP showed up for a one on one meeting in an hour. That seemed a bit strange, as I had never had one with him before, especially with no notice. However, we were in the middle of budget planning for the next fiscal, so I assumed it had to do with that.
When the time for the meeting rolled around, I went to join the Zoom session and realized there was a passcode. That was highly unusual and that’s when it hit me. I was about to get laid off. As soon as the video connected, his somber face confirmed my suspicions.
I immediately said, “So, I’m getting laid off, eh?”. He proceeded to read his script, thanked me for my contributions and asked me if I had any questions. I told him that I knew the drill and asked when I would get my packet with details. He told me it would arrive today or tomorrow via FedEx. Total conversation time: 2 minutes.
I think the one benefit to not being located at the actual office saved me from being herded into a conference room to be part of a group layoff. It’s hard losing your job, it must be even worse to have it happen with a group of other people at the same time.
If you have been reading any of my previous posts, such as Forget Resolutions, Live Strategically or Taking Action – Living Strategically Part 2. You have an idea of the precarious financial position that I am trying to work my out from under. This sounded like a death blow to my financial wellness plans. It was a bright flashing red neon sign that just screamed “BANKRUPTCY”.
I had just received my bonus in the form of vesting out some Restricted Stock Units a couple weeks back. This had allowed me to pay down a bit of my debt. Not nearly enough, but it had provided a bit of head room. I didn’t use all of it, just because I had a nagging feeling that I should hold onto a little bit, just to manage my negative cashflow situation.
I spent the rest of the day getting my resume squared away and started applying for jobs. I ended up applying for over 100 positions over the next week. I reached out to my network and started requesting referrals. During my last two periods of unemployment, it had taken 4 months and 6 months respectively from the point of layoff to my next start date, so I settled in for a brutal experience.
The job rejections started flowing in. Not even a conversation with a recruiter. I sent my resume off to have it reviewed by a couple of resume companies. They all came back and said everything looked perfect. There was nothing they could see that they could do to improve on it. However, the rejections continued to flow.
Then I updated my LinkedIn profile to say that I was seeking new opportunities in my headline. I changed my former position to include an end date and added a new position. I built the new position using the title that I was pursuing. I used “Currently Seeking New Opportunities” as the employer and talked about skills in the responsibilities section.
This was the turning point for me. I suddenly had recruiters start reaching out to me. People from around my network contacted me offering to provide referrals. Suddenly, I was having difficultly managing my calendar for interview availability. It was night and day from my previous experience.
It’s been a month, my severance check still has not arrived. It will help when it arrives, but it is not even enough to cover the lost wages so far.
I accepted an offer today. It isn’t the job that has the most responsibility or with the highest pay. However, I’m excited about the company, the people, and the job. It will pay enough for me to stay on my feet. I also feel like it is the one with the best long term potential that doesn’t require me to travel all the time. This is important since I am a single father with three children.
My base salary stays the same, but it is a 20% cut in total annual income. That will hurt, but I won’t feel it until next March when I would have vested out another round of stock. I also have another two weeks until I start the new role and a month until I see a paycheck.
I’ve been neglecting the blog recently, mostly from being emotionally drained. In addition, I was spending all of my available time searching for jobs, preparing for interviews, and refreshing technical skills that has taken on a bit of rust. I would feel guilty if I spent any time that was not specifically targeted at returning to the land of the gainfully employed.
Here are a few tips that I have from my recent and past experiences:
Let Your Network Know.
I know it can be embarrassing, but it can happen to anyone. It is often a business decision. While it can feel personal, it isn’t. The only shame is that which you take on yourself. If you approach it that way, it will come across to potential employers. Your contacts often WANT to help you, they can’t do that if they don’t know.
Companies get HUNDREDS of resumes for every position that comes open. The Internet has made it so easy that people can apply for jobs for no other reason then they were feeling bored at the moment and are curious about the job. Companies rely on referrals to select potential candidates. They only go back to the resume submissions from job sites when they don’t have a referral.
Keep Your Resume Current
The stress that goes with being unexpectedly laid off is hard. That is when you want to be able to pull our a fully updated resume and move into action. It can be a real momentum killer to sit down at an old resume to start updating when all you can think about is how you just got screwed over and your life is about to go off a cliff. You will be more prone to making spelling or grammar errors when you are working under pressure. That can be a killer.
Be Financially Prepared
How long does it take to save up that 6 months of emergency fund? If you make $5,000/mo in take home pay and your monthly expenses are $4,000. That means you need $24,000 saved. With a $1,000 monthly surplus, it will take you 2 years to save up a 6 month fund. I was fortunate this time, but it usually takes an average of 3-6 months to find new employment. It can be a slow process.
When you are employed, job searching can be filled with expectation and excitement. You are not suffering financial hardship and trying to stay afloat. There is time to go through an extended process with the expectation of an outcome that improves your standard of living in some way. When you are unemployed, it is soul crushing and every day counts. Each day you are going deeper into debt, or losing progress as you spend through savings. There is no replenishment of funds, it is a constant drain.
Work It Like It’s A Job
Treat finding a job like it is your job. Spend that time each day that would have been at the office engaged in activities to help find a job. Engage your network, build your network, train new skills, search for jobs, and follow-up on leads. However, try an take some time for self care. It’s hard, but you will perform better if you can make the time to eat healthy, get exercise, and spend quality time with friends and family.
How have your experiences been? Any tips to share?