Laid off in America

Monday, January 27, 2003

This is my unepmloyment story. I'm sure everyone has an interesting one to tell. Straight out of graduate school, I landed the job of my dreams. I was working for the company of my dreams, doing really interesting and important "stuff", learning a lot, and even better, I had an awesome boss who was a friend and mentor as well. I worked at this company for 8 years and I can say with truth that there were few days that I did not want to go to work. I almost never used all my vacation! After 8 years and the death of my boss, I felt the need to move on. The company was changing, I was changing, and I no longer felt I had such a close fit though it was still good. I also wanted to spread my wings and try new things. I probably wouldn't have left, but I had a fiance in another part of the country and it made more sense for me to move. We separated amicably and I am still in touch with many of them.

I interviewed at a couple of places before calling the owner of a small company, whom I knew through my boss. (I made my first mistake here. I assumed that because I had learned so much from my boss--both in terms of technical knowledge and emotional intelligence, that everyone who worked from him must have learned the same things.). The owner of the small company was thrilled I called. I interviewed with him and he said that he was looking for someone who could not only work with his company but also someday take over his role--as co-owner. That sounded wonderful to me. We agreed that I should meet his partner and take it from there. I took a whole lot of tests, interviewed, and was offered the position on the agreement that I would plan to stay for at least a few years because I would be doing entirely different things than I had been doing in my past job and it would take them that long to re-coup their costs to develop me. As I do not job jump, that made perfect sense to me--but I added that I would not plan to stay if it turned out I was not a good fit. They assured me, as their business WAS selection, that they knew it was a good fit and I needn't worry about that. In literature, this would be called foreshadowing.

My first 3 months on the job went okay. Though not up to speed yet, I felt I was moving forward. It was tough going for a few reasons. First, the work WAS different than I had done before and required a whole set of new skills. A whole set. I was on a steep and tough learning curve. Second, business was slow. Since I was the new kid on the block, others were placed on assignments ahead of me. Third, the owners did not get along. At all. Neither had anything nice to say about the other. I went into my 90 day review with little reason to worry. Or so I thought.

The review went as I expected. I needed to do more here, I needed to work on things there. Etc. Just what I expected. Until the end of the review. Then the co-owner informed me that I had done one terrible training program (out of several) and darn near lost one of their biggest clients. Huh? I knew I had had a training program that hadn't gone well, but when I checked the reviews they had been adequate. But I was even more flabbergasted. If I had done such a terrible job, why wasn't I informed the day after it happened? Why wasn't I allowed to help with damage control? Why wasn't this used as a developmental experience? Why did I not hear about this until now when it was too late for me to do anything about it? They gave me a raise, but I left the meeting feeling like I had been raped.

Things went down hill from there. I was immediately removed from all assignments and the co-owner refused to put me on any more projects. I was given little direction, little real opportunity for development (though I was given a coach who later told me that the co-owner was looking for any pretext to get me out), and little work. According to the co-owner, nothing I did was right. On top of that, the company was doing poorly due to the economy and was starting to change direction--a direction I was even less qualified for and not interested in. I couldn't sleep at night, I was stressed, I felt horrible, I was bored. Within a few months, I was looking at jobs on the internet and through search firms, even inquiring about one. But I didn't want to leave--I had promised I would stay. I got married a few months later and decided that when I got back from my honeymoon I would start looking for a job. I knew a "leaving" was immenent. Screw the promise, I couldn't live like this. Two days after returning from my honeymoon, I was laid off.

The conversation went like this. On the Monday I returned, I said to the owner who hired me, "We have to talk about what to do next." He said, "Let's meet tomorrow". The next morning after sending 2 emails saying "I wish they would just lay me off", I went into a meeting with both owners. The owner who hired me said, "I'm sure you are wondering why we called this meeting". I didn't answer. He continued, "We have decided to change our work contract with you." "Oh god," I thought, "They are going to offer me part-time work." He continued, "We are severing our relationship with you, as of today." My first feeling was relief. This job had been a horrible mistake on both sides. I don't remember the rest of the conversation except that I assured them that this was the right thing to do. I remember them thanking me for making it easy for them.

They were nice about it. I got severance and 2 months at an outplacement firm even though I had been there less than a year. And things didn't look too bad. There was this FABULOUS job on the internet. It was the job I had sent a query on several months ago, and it had re-opened. Perfect timing! The universe had aligned, I would leave this job and walk into that job.

Of course, things didn't work out quite like that.

posted by Valerie 1:22 PM

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The experience of the new rite of passage among today's professionals: Being Unemployed

Contact me
You can contact me by sending me email at

This blog's mention in the July 2003 issue of Fast Company
Web of Despair.

Other unemployment blogs I have found
Ask your ass.
All about Jen.
Homee's job search.
Get that job.

Some blogs I like but haven't been updated in a while
Where The Hell Did My Job Go.
Invisible Matrix.

Credit problems?

What's keeping me occupied while I'm unemployed?
My husband and my travel photography blog.


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