What a layoff at work taught me about jobs

38 thoughts on “What a layoff at work taught me about jobs”

  1. Great tips Steve. When you work for someone else your employment is never guaranteed, plan and simple. Important to build a strong network to leverage when you need too. Dealing with a layoff is never easy having, but having cash on hand will reduce stress while looking for the next gig.

    1. Thanks Brian. Completely agree, it’s never guaranteed. Even when all your co-workers are “like family”, business is business. And sometimes, it comes to that!

  2. Seriously, great post. This is such an important truth to realize about employment, and I’m glad you were able to take this away from that somewhat negative experience. I think a lot of us enter the workforce after college kind of naive, believing anyone at our jobs has our best interest in mind. That there is such a thing as a secure job if it’s at a big company. That it’ll never happen to us. Great takeaways, too. Work can’t define us, even if we can strive to enjoy it.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Kalie. I definitely had that feeling coming out of college. Yes, if you do good work, your chances of being *the first* to be laid off goes down, but ultimately, all of us are replaceable.

  3. I went through a similar situation, and came to similar conclusions. I always assumed before that time that things like layoffs happened to “other” people, that I was too valuable, or that as long as I treated the company right it would be reciprocated. It ended up being a very positive experience only because I had placed myself in a position of strength beforehand. Great article!

    1. I think it is definitely true that there are some things that we can do to minimize our chances of being laid off, and those are important to talk about as well. Work ethic is a big part of that.

  4. My first boss in Corporate America made sure I understood these words: “Don’t love your company, it won’t love you back”. She had a long, successful career (and I hoped to, too), but she wanted to make sure i understood that you came in without a job and will leave the same way. Keep your parachute packed!

  5. That reminded me of my step-brother’s situation which taught me the same sorts of lessons. He was working for a tech company that was doing great, well enough they moved their home base from Denver to Seattle. Him and 6 other key employees had even been living there for a few months, and he even found an apartment so he could move his wife up there too. She quit her job, they got their stuff loaded onto the truck, and 2 days later got told that their company was bankrupt and there was no more work. They had to come up with about $10k to get their stuff re-delivered to their house, they fortunately were able to re-sign the same lease for another year as their house hadn’t rented yet, and they got out of the lease they had just signed in Seattle fairly easily as well.

    That hammered home the same points you brought up, which is – at the end of the day, it’s all business. That was his first time dealing with a bankrupt company/layoffs but since then they have a great cushion of savings, and always a “Plan B”. We do the same, and even though I love my job and company, Plan B is always in the back of my mind and budget. 🙂

    1. Wow. That must have been a huge wake up call to what companies might do if the going truly does get rough. That was a pretty egregious example, but unfortunately, those things do happen. I was only a year into my Arizona work gig before they did something similar to me. Fortunately, I was able to find work.

  6. Great perspective Steve. I have never gotten laid off, but glad that I have a nice baby FU fund setup to help me through that process if I was to. I think keeping a large professional network during your working years is key as well!

    1. FU Money is F’ing great, I tell you. You are already ahead of the game where a layoff might hurt your ego, but it won’t put you on the street, either. That’s the way to do it! 🙂

  7. Great article. My boss sent me an email about 10 months ago telling me “work would be slow” for the near future. Ever since I’ve been doing what I can to expand my opportunities just in case.

    Employment = never guaranteed

    1. Good on you for being proactive. Especially if your boss tells you that, that is probably a hint that if you were thinking of jumping ship, go ahead and do it. At the very least, have your resumes ready in case you need them.

  8. My motto has always been “I’m as loyal to the company as it is to me.”

    The first company I worked for after college was sold to a competitor. I happened to be out of the office the day it was announced so my coworker let me know when I got in the following Monday — no one even bothered to call me! Luckily I had been looking for a new job. Working in accounting gives you the benefit of seeing how poorly your employer is doing before everyone else knows. Another coworker, also in his 20’s, said that this was the best thing to happen for the two of us. Otherwise we could have become stagnant by working there longer than we should have.

    It was a rude awakening but I’m glad I learned the lesson while young.

    1. I have believed something very similar, actually. I tend to show respect where respect is shown to me – almost in all situations in life…even outside of work. And very true about working in accounting. You get to see the numbers. Most others don’t. That definitely puts you in a position of knowledge!

    1. Yup – it’s all a part of working in corporate America. You can make big bucks doing it, but it can also throw you out on your ass, too. Be prepared.

  9. I have also been on both sides of layoffs. Neither one is much fun.

    But your are right, a job is a way to make money. It’s not a way to find your self worth. After I got laid off, a friend suggested that rather than just stressing over the whole incident, instead, calculate how much money I had earned during my entire tenure with that employer. It’s a good exercise and helps put things back into perspective.

    1. Excellent exercise. I think a lot of people would be amazed if they just calculated how much money they earned at each place that they’ve worked. It will probably add up to much, much more than we think. Then, the natural follow-up question: Where did all that money go!?! 🙂

  10. Good advice. I try to keep this kind of thing in mind constantly. Your company is not family, it’s a business, and people who you thought were your friends are “just doing their job”. I hate it and it has never happened to me, but I’m not counting on my colleagues or managers to actually fend for me.

    1. Spot on, Stockbeard. Your company is not your family, nor is your work your life. It’s a source of money and that’s really it. Be as prepared as you can so if a layoff does happen, you’ll still be a-okay.

  11. A boss/business will never care about your job/income as much as you do. I went through my own layoff back in early 2009 and it left a really bad taste in my mouth mainly for owners/management. Not because I was laid off but about the timing and how it was done. I lost all respect for my former employers because they had just had a company Christmas party and spent who knows how much on it and then 1.5 weeks later are laying people off. I’m not naive enough to think that if they didn’t have the party they could have even saved one job but it was the principle of it that you tell me how difficult business is so we need to cut staff but you just spent money on bonuses and a Christmas party.

    But I can’t really complain because it’s led me to where I’m at now. We’re on the path to FI, although it’s further away than I’d like, and even with the slow down in the oil field I’ll still make more than I did at my previous job.

    1. Absolutely right, JC. As the saying goes, “If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will either”. While it’s true that “looking out for #1” can be taken too far, there certainly is nothing wrong with putting yourself first and the company that you work for second!

  12. Yes this! I was laid off four weeks ago and even though we were told that layoffs were coming, no one saw how many would be cut. When our turn came, both of us were completely caught off guard yet fine. The only reason was due to our belief in living below our means. He and I used to have talks about Dave Ramsey podcasts during our shift and we motivated one another to how little we could spend (he lived at home so he definitely always won!). But being able to have a very healthy savings meant that even if it took the rest of the year, I would have been fine. At the age of 25 I hope to be able to always be prepared as I was that day.

  13. Early in my career I was “reorganized” out of my job TWICE. They offered me a new job both times, but it would require us to move multiple states away. Not going to happen!

    The long term benefit was that it taught me – no matter how hard you work and committed you are – there are no guaranties. So when I had the chance to start my own company, it was easier (mentally) to do so because who knows, the third “reorganization” may be coming!

    By starting my own company, I was able to retire from full-time work at 49. So to those two companies that tried to move me to another location: “Thanks, guys. Without your help I’d never be where I am now!”

    John

    1. Excellent attitude, John! There is always something that we can learn from everyday life, even (especially!) if those things aren’t all that positive. You sure did, and you are a more successful person because of it. Well done. 🙂

  14. Hi Steve, Good points, Companies talk about career roadmap, work life balance etc., but they hardly walk the talk. At the end of the day it’s your life and you need to take control. At the start of this year, I decided not to spend any minute over and beyond what was required at office. With this I have been to spend a lot more time with my family and yet be efficient at work.

    1. Amen to that, Santhosh! Take care of yourself first and understand that your job, just like any job out there, is nothing more than a source of income. Crucial tip! 🙂

  15. Great advice, especially to someone who’s never give through that first layoff experience.

    Living and working in Silicon Valley, I’ve been through more layoffs than I can count, but few are as shocking as the unanticipated & unannounced one. Gives you a good irrespective on the transitory illusion of life and security.

    1. Thanks Jack, completely agree. Unanticipated layoffs are more of a reflection of the management than it is the staff members, but agreed – it definitely gives us a reason to consider how “loyal” we really should be to the organizations that we work for.

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