I started the job I have now one year ago today. While I don’t love the job, it’s certainly not terrible. I work only four days a week, I’m pretty much autonomous and no one breathes down my neck. It’s definitely not stressful. I reviewed today the serendipitous events that led my getting this job.
In April 2001 I was laid off from the technologically progressive dot com I was working at. Aside from being a little apprehensive about where I would land next, I wasn’t at all unhappy about it. In fact, I was pretty amused as I strolled to the meeting room where I would be given the axe along with six other colleagues. We all knew what was up with the company financially. I had been considering leaving for some time already. I was stressed, unhappy and burned out, and wasn’t much liking the job at that point anyway.
The rest of our co-workers had been invited to another meeting room for a company meeting explaining the recent cost-cutting measures. A lot of them were wishing to be laid off instead of stuck picking up the pieces yet again. This was the third round of lay-offs. We were handed severance packages. Benefits would be paid through the end of the following month, severance would be paid in one lump sum. Two weeks pay for every year of service. My service was calculated at 8 years. For me, that meant four months pay. Let me tell you, that didn’t suck.
The company had hired a re-employment consultant to work with us. She was not a recruiter, this was someone who would make sure that we had all the skills we need to conduct a job search. You know, good resume, good interviewing skills, etc. At our first meeting, she told me about the availability of state funding for re-training she thought I would be eligible for. I had a degree in accounting but had been doing web design and development. Certification would validate my experience and help with pursuing work in that field. After a few weeks of phone calls and leg work, I finally managed to qualify for funding. All training and exams for a certification track I chose at an authorized facility would be fully paid for by New York state. Nice, eh?
I had nearly the entire summer off. I went to three week-long courses. I looked for a job. I collected unemployment. I had almost the whole summer off. Wait, I mentioned that already didn’t I? I finally began to relax. In the middle of July, I got an offer for my current job. It was the only offer I’d gotten and the search seemed to be getting more difficult as more and more companies in the area went through similar blood-letting. So, I negotiated a four day week because the pay was substantially less than the somewhat inflated salary I’d been getting and took the job. To top it off, the benefits were slightly better and the standard number of vacation days exceeded the number I’d gotten at the old job. I negotiated a start date for a little later in the summer. I was relieved to have gotten a job fairly quickly and felt I was regaining some stability.
We all know what happened last September. After that, the state funding I’d been able to get almost completely dried up. I heard it was twice as hard to get half the amount. In the beginning of October, my former company closed for good. It was ugly: Two weeks severance pay regardless of time served. Many people lost their benefits immediately because the bank froze what little money was left and the check to the insurance companies had bounced. My former co-workers also couldn’t get access to their 401k accounts right away either, as there was no administrator appointed. Of course, there was no re-employment consultant this time. Quite literally, after the few remaining employees packed up most of the assets and sent them off to Microsoft (who’d foreclosed on their loan to us), the doors were locked and all operations ceased.
The economy got worse last fall, not only because of that terrible tragedy but also because of the string of large companies that either closed or were forced to lay off many people… Much of it due to dubious accounting practices and corrupt executives. Even now, these problems continue to be revealed and the economy is still in the toilet.
My point? In remembrance of the first anniversary of my being employed, it’s this: Timing is everything. I’m damned lucky and quite grateful to have a job. Every time I think I don’t like my job, this job that is much better for me in many ways, I have to remember that. Sure having skill helps, but competition was stiff and still is. I’ll say it again: I’m grateful. Especially when I think about some of my former colleagues, still unemployed a year later and making do with sporadic freelance work now that their unemployment insurance extensions have expired.