One day in June, it finally dawned on me on why I was so angry.
At the time, it had been eight months after I left my ID card in the cubicle, eight months after I packed a box of personal belongings to be shipped to my apartment later the following week, and most of all, eight months after I was told the five worst words you may ever hear in your career.
“Your position is being eliminated.”
This wasn’t the first time I was unemployed; please raise your hand if you were impacted by the Great Recession that felt a lot longer than the officially-defined nineteen months. However, this was the first time I was left jobless thanks to the flaky psychology of shareholders. And when the layoff comes as you are trying to move beyond senior entry-level – you are insanely more experienced than your title suggests, but have yet to make moves up the ladder – it stings.
Moreso, when the layoff comes because you essentially become a Generally Accepted Accounting Principle called LIFO, it really hurts.
Yet, the experience in the job and at the company should lead to bigger and better things. In your unending vacation, you assess where you’ve been, what you’ve done and who you met to determine what would be of value to prospective employers. More than anything else, you assess it all to determine what would be of value to yourself. After all, the world’s most misguided cliché is “it’s not personal” because everything your name is attached to in life makes it personal. Once you have some idea of where you stand, you start to reach out to people in your – shuddered as I typed the word – network.
Over those months, I had a hard time reconciling the entire ordeal. I was let go because as I was told, I came in at a bad time where the company had set itself on this path while still hiring people it would likely let go in short order. I had already gone through varied levels of sadness, relief, disinterest, joy (sleeping in, baby!) and frustration. Yet, there was a deep-seated anger that went beyond the struggles of the job hunt. It was pointed at something, at someone, yet the target wasn’t in focus.
(In fairness, if there was a mantra that has stuck with me throughout my career, it’s “things could be worse.” And it’s true as too many suffer from crippling depression which is triggered or aided by unemployment.)
So that one night in June, it all came tumbling out. No tears, but a lot of curse words.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have plenty of friends and former co-workers who actually follow through on their promises or try their damndest to do so. If they have a lead, they pursue it. If they know someone, they set up the introduction. If they can’t do either, they at least act as sounding boards for ideas, if not provide some advice. And if they are unable to help, they actually say so.
So with seemingly new connections thanks to this last job, you’d hope that network would have grown, right? As I was leaving, I heard the name dropping of specific friends in high and low places. I remembered the re-hiring considerations that were promised while my severance was explained. Within a week, I scheduled catch-up coffees and lunches. There were a few reference letter offers, as well. They’re not false if you are well-connected, but they are meaningless if the connector either has no real intention of lending a hand or may be legitimately hamstrung by powers greater than (s)he.
The realization hit harder than a freight train. But while speaking my rage into the air didn’t change the course of things overnight, it provided a relief I never knew I needed.
A masochist with intermediate-to-advanced Excel skills, I created a spreadsheet that chronicled the entire job search since hitting the virtual pavement last November – hey, if you’re suddenly out of work in mid-October, you’re going to chill and watch the leaves turn colors for a few weeks. While writing this, I took a tally of the amount of job communications I had from the weekend prior to Thanksgiving to yesterday morning. It’s terrifying, at least to me.
- 179 total communications
- 155 total communications, excluding general applications, emails to former colleagues, job fairs and shots in the dark A.K.A. emailing of your ideal companies.
- 72 job applications submitted, including via email and LinkedIn. Each accompanied by at least one prayer.
- 12 jobs where I wasn’t completely sure if I should apply. Either the position asked for a decade’s worth of experience for an entry-level salary or had an application process which was the equivalent of the NFL Draft combine.
- 12 phone screeners, which are the perfect litmus tests of your psychological state
- 11 interviews (ten in-person, one online/phone), all in some phenomenal choices of attire, I might add.
- 6 candidate assignments for five different jobs at three different companies. Shoutout to Babson College for making every student unofficially minor in Microsoft Office.
- 5 companies actually informed me that another candidate was hired. Three others were kind enough to send the rejection form letter after applying, which is both weird and smart. Courtesy, a truly lost art in business communication.
- One emotional rollercoaster.
To the surprise of no one who has spent more than six months on the sidelines, employers are taking longer to hire candidates. The skills gap may or may not be a real thing, which is fascinating to have in what’s considered the most prosperous and most “overeducated” nation in the world. The contract/freelance workforce grows as much for a worker’s independence as it does for the refusal of employers to pay health benefits. It is incredibly daunting for a job seeker, regardless of the trade, because there are so many capable employees trying to earn a living.
And yet, bills have to be paid and you have skills to offer to the world, so you tell yourself to keep going.
You will run out of patience several times. You may likely run out of money. You may lash out at loved ones in ways you would never do otherwise, though let us hope you know the limits. You may pick up some old (or maybe new) bad habits when you are stressed. You may become a bit of a hermit because you don’t want to borrow money in order to meet up with friends. You will doubt yourself over and over again.
You may lose faith in yourself and, if applicable, the higher power you pray to.
But you keep going. You will pick up an incredibly important habit along the way, persistence. You will learn more about yourself and the world you’re in than you ever could have in a classroom or cubicle. You will move forward with each application, phone screener and in-person interview because despite how hard yesterday has been, you believe in your own better tomorrows.
You will keep going.
(By the way, the search ended last week. I feel like “Calvin“. Sort of.)