Dealing with a Layoff

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Getting laid off is definitely a letdown. Money, security and the future were things that immediately worried my father after the Lucent fiasco(s) led him to unemployment. He had worked for the Bell system for over 25+ years and had most of his retirement money tied up with RBOCs (legacy term for Regional Bell Operating companies, i.e. the disassemblation of AT&T).

While having a beer and watching football Saturday, we discussed his layoff and how he coped. Instead of inserting a lengthy dialog, I have put together a list in a true Dumb Little Man fashion:

  • Take 3 days: At a minimum, do nothing for a few days. Allow yourself time to soak everything in. Do not make hasty decisions or start bad mouthing the company on message boards. Just do nothing.
  • Understand what you need financially: Although your retirement fund may have vanished, you have to first be sure that today’s bills are going to get paid. What are your reserves, what are your bills?
  • Don’t get sucked in: If the layoff was large, you can expect that support groups, forums, and other committees to formulate. Often times, these forums only serve as hate mongering bitch sessions. Be careful what you join because often times these groups mean well, but do nothing but delay you from moving on.
  • Look at it as an opportunity: My father was in telecommunications for 25 years and frankly he was kind of sick of the large company bureaucracy. Being set free gives people an opportunity to change fields entirely and identify what they want to do before making a jump. Think way outside of your normal “safe zone”. What do you really want to do?
  • Read: My Dad now has a full library but the two books that really made a difference were, Laid Off & Loving It! and Fired, Laid Off Or Forced Out: A Complete Guide To Severance, Benefits And Your Rights When You’re Starting Over . Combined, these books helped him keep his sanity and also helped him get all the benefits that he was entitled to. In a huge corporation, you are just a pink slip and an employee ID. If you are not looking out for your money, no one is going to hold your hand to make sure you get it.
  • Don’t Hide it: Getting laid off is a part of life. Tell your friends and family what happened. It will keep your conscious clean and you never know, a friend may have an opening at his company that fits your needs.
  • It’s not personal: Remember as we mentioned before, to large corporations you are a number and not Mrs. Marcy Jackson of San Diego, California with 3 kids and a ton of debt. You were most likely not laid off for any reason other than the company’s financial situation. It is not YOU vs. THEM as much as you think it is.
  • Prepare: Earlier we said to think about what career you’d like to move into. Remember, you were just given an opportunity to choose your own path. When is the last time you had such a great choice? Once you’ve decided, work on that resume that has most likely been untouched for a while. My dad, a baby boomer, learned quickly that a 59-year old was not about to simply hop into another career. Although he searched, he never did find a good book or reference that helped people in his age group. He had a few articles bookmarked on his PC. Here are a couple: One from Monster, Quint, and another from Quint. For those that are not in that age group, and maybe closer to me in the 25-34 age group, there are tons of places to go for resume and interview advice. Instead of sending you to Amazon for a book, I would seriously recommend you just go to your library and sit there for a couple hours scanning through all of the books on the topic.

It has been a while now and some of you may wonder what happened to my father. Well he did try to find another position in telecommunications. I will tell you that his efforts were nothing more than sending in resumes. He never called and followed up on any of them, despite my advice. He eventually gave up looking and made a decision that I actually kind of admire. After 25+ years with an enormous company, he decided to just give it a rest. He took a job at a bookstore and while the cash flow is dramatically less, he has been much happier; no stress, no backstabbing, no BS. By sacrificing the material wants, he has become new person by learning to live on less.

– Jay

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