You don’t really think it will happen to you, even though it’s happening all around you. Somehow you don’t want to believe that your number could be up, that despite the temporariness of work these days, especially the job I had, the layoff letter thanking you for your service but telling you those services are no longer required would be pushed across a desk by a manager who was just as confused as you are. On January 14 I found out the temporary job I had with the federal government that lasted for almost four years would end on January 29.
I have been laid off twice before at other companies. Once when I was in college I worked for a small bank in San Marcos that spent $600,000 on consultants who came into the bank to find ways to improve efficiency, one of those ways being to lay off two part time employees who, together, maybe made $15,000 per year (I always marveled at the logic of that business decision). While that was a big blow to my psyche, I was in school at the time and essentially living off my parents so it wasn’t devastating. The second time I was laid off was in 2002 from American Airlines. I was also in school at that time, working on my Master’s in English at SMU and was only working part time at American, so between my monthly stipend at SMU and unemployment I was able to manage pretty well financially. In some ways though, this most recent layoff was more devastating. I think it was so surprising partly because I had been told by several managers that I would probably be one of the last people laid off because my production numbers were so high. I also think because this job was the highest paying job I have ever had, I felt more of a loss financially.
I allowed myself one weekend to stew in my sadness, to feel sorry for myself and to be depressed. The next Monday I decided that, quite frankly I had been unhappy where I was working for some time so maybe this was the push that I needed to finally move forward. While I loved the work, helping disaster victims with loans to help them rebuild their homes and lives, I was frustrated that there was little room for advancement at that agency unless I was an attorney. I was ready to move into management and was feeling stuck where I was. Luckily I had already been sending out resumes and query letters for writing projects I wanted to do. I finally sent off the application to law school I had been sitting on for a month or so. I decided to get head shots done and record a demo tape to do voiceover work. I had become very comfortable where I was and might not have left unless forced to. I also remembered that every other time I have been laid off my life actually turned out better than it was before, new avenues opened up, new opportunities presented themselves. I would be okay.
I have been fighting the feeling that maybe I did something wrong to cause me to be laid off, that somehow I wasn’t good enough to be kept. Of course the problem with that is that at the place where I worked, ability and intelligence counted for little when promotion, hiring or other decisions were made in the past. Those sorts of feelings are really not productive anyway. There is not a lot I can do about what is past, the only thing I can do is work on what is my present. It’s sort of frightening to be competing against all the other people who have been laid off in the last year. But for me, getting into action, doing something every day to feel like I am moving forward has helped.
I have a contract job lined up starting Monday that I’m excited about. Mainly because I won’t have to take unemployment for now, which I couldn’t live on anyway. And I’ve been sending out lots of proposals for writing jobs I’d like to do. I’m also hoping this blog thing will take off as well (hint). Luckily I have options. But I still worry about those people I know were laid off when I was who have fewer options than I do
In England they call being laid off “being made redundant.” I think that expresses my feelings at times during the last two weeks. But life goes on and I believe that everything will be okay.