The following article contains condensed excerpts from $100K to Nothing – Layoff: My journey from a six figure income to the unemployment line in the worst economy of our time by Dan Holt.
Hi, I’m Dan and I’m unemployed. But it wasn’t always this way…I used to be employed, borderline overworked, and well compensated for my effort and effectiveness.
One pleasant spring afternoon, while enjoying lunch with my then 4 year old son, I received a phone call from my boss. I was not alarmed, because my boss resides on the West coast and I in Texas, so the 2 hour time difference often led to calls at odd hours. After taking a sip of water, I answered the phone and my boss paused before talking. A pause is never good. When bosses call, they speak their minds quickly so they can get on to other business. I was soon to find out how bad this pause was.
“Your position has been eliminated,” my boss said. Sure, there were some words before and after, but I don’t really remember them because these 5 words consumed my brain for the entire call-and for many weeks following. This was my first layoff, and although I am only 30 and the likelihood of another in the next 37 years is high, I hope it is my last.
After I calmed myself down, I thought about the best way to be laid off: the exit strategy that would be most beneficial to my future. I came up with these guidelines to help anyone else who faces a layoff, which seems to be everyone these days:
- Ask for an explanation, but don’t expect or demand one. If you are laid off, you deserve a reason from your boss, but you often will not get one. Accept that fact quickly. If you belabor the point, you run the risk of harming the relationship with the person who will be your best reference to future employers-and you stand to gain little more than a vague excuse.
- Maintain a professional image throughout the ordeal, only letting your guard down when you get home. The people you work with will also be references to give to future employers, and you need their last image of you to be as positive as possible. Crying and cursing as you’re escorted to the elevator would be a perfectly human response, but not a very strategic one.
- Finally, let it go. Don’t spend your time over-analyzing what happened. A job search is tough, and exponentially so in this recession. You have too much work to do to waste your time thinking about the work you won’t be doing anymore.
As I read these words now, months after my downsizing, they seem simple. But at the time, there was nothing harder to do than suppress my emotions as much as I could and follow these steps. If you face it, this will be hard, but it will be the most advantageous thing you can do.
After all, telling your interviewer that she cannot contact your former employer or colleagues is a huge red flag, and with 14.5 million other unemployed people competing for the limited number of job openings, a red flag can mean elimination from the pool of applicants without even a chance to explain it.