I was laid off three months ago after having enjoyed a successful career in which there had never been a single day of unemployment. The company meeting began that fateful day with the President saying, with his best-practiced pained expression:
“Our company has had good days and our company has had bad days. And unfortunately this is going to be one of the VERY bad days.”
And it was all downhill from there. Just about half of the workforce was let go that day, as we stood around in the hallways after the meeting, Blackberries in hand, waiting to see who among us would be losing our jobs. One after another, the buzzers went off for everyone in my group, save one. And it was not I who was spared.
It was then that the emotional roller coaster began. In the week that ensued between the announcement and the “separation,” the first evidence of our misfortune was the way in which our former associates interacted with us. Most didn’t talk very much to us, except for during “knowledge transfer” activities. I guess it had something to do with what is known as Survivor Guilt. It seemed to be more uncomfortable that week for those who were left behind, than it was for those of us who would be leaving.
Soon enough, though, our relationships with THE COMPANY, were at their end, and we were set out into the job market during the biggest economic recession since the Great Depression. In the Industry in which we had worked, Biotech/Pharma, a series of large mergers and downsizing measures had placed tens of thousands of people like us on the street, competing for the same meager collection of jobs. This was NOT going to be easy. And after the first couple of weeks of attempting to get into the swing of the job search, the roller coaster swiftly morphed itself to carry me into a steep, swift plunge into the depths of depression.
Probably like you, over the years I had been sought after almost on a daily basis by recruiters, who while in pursuit, would become my fast and best friends—always there. Now, most had become unusually scarce. I had to call or write to them to follow up on the meager leads that I had sent their way (None were flowing to me in the other direction). Those recruiters who had long been in my network gave me little hope that the job market would open up any time soon, and were encouraging me to consider pursuing jobs that would pay less than half of my former salary. What??? Seems their commissions have been thinning out too!
Enter Linked-In. Intrepidly, I uploaded the tried-and-proven resume I had used, with minor updates, for pretty much the past ten years, and used it to create my online profile. While cruising around on the site (and searching online job boards), I waited to be found. And I waited. Nothing. Not only was I no longer sought after by hiring managers and recruiters; NOW I was almost entirely overlooked by them!
Deeper plunge into the depths. Now I was all the way down to feeling weak and worthless.
The few jobs that had looked promising initially had been awarded to existing employees, or had been cancelled because of budgetary considerations, or suddenly, my phone calls were no longer getting responses.
Fellow travelers on this roller coaster, if you are still spending more time in the dips than in the rises, take heart. You can turn it around. Though it is not a rapid process, it IS a process and you can take control of it and drive it to success—just as you had been doing in your career up until the dreaded day!
No, I am not yet back among the gainfully employed. but I'm climbing the hill now, without any recent serious backslides into hopelessness. It may still take some time, but I feel very confident that the road ahead will lead to a new beginning.
Next week I’ll start the story of how things seemingly SUDDENLY began to turn upward for me. I hope it will help some of my fellow journeyers who have not yet reached the turning point. If you’re one of us, please follow my blog for a few more days; you may find the information to be useful.
For now, I wish all of us the best of luck in early 2010. I think it’s going to wind up being a positive experience!
All photography by Michelle Alton