When I Was Laid Off in 2009
Each of us has a point in our life that changes who we are or who we'll become. While they're happening, we wish they were over and hope we'll make it through clean on the other side.
In 2009, an event like that happened to me and it not only taught me a valuable life lesson, but it shaped, in part, who I am today.
Living the Dream
I had just gotten my first major corporate job at IBM. I was going to make more money than I'd ever made, and I was going to work for a well-known company I was proud to work for.
A month prior, the manager who recruited me took me to a Ranger's game. We had beer and hot dogs and he told me he wanted me to come work for him. He told me what salary I was going to be offered and how much I should counter for.
I was 25 years old and I felt like I'd made it!
When I started work in the fall of 2008, I was on cloud 9. I was able to move out of my dad's house where I was living post-college and move into a fantastic two-bed, two-bath apartment in Irving, Texas.
I was able to pay off my small debts, catch up on my bills, and even afford the new PlayStation 3 for Christmas. I was living the dream!
Fast forward to January of 2009.
By this time, I knew I wanted to propose to my then girlfriend, Ashley, but I'd been waiting because I wanted to me more financially stable. After working at IBM for six months, I was caught up on bills, putting money in savings and investing in my 401k, and I felt like the time was right to start shopping for an engagement ring.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
On Friday, January 16, 2009, I went ring shopping.
I took a long lunch and decided to go to Robbins Brothers to look for engagement rings. I searched and searched and finally found the perfect ring for Ashley. It cost a little more than I expected but the ring was elegant and perfect, just like Ashley.
On Monday, January 19, I returned with cash.
All $100s =) I fanned them out on the table in the private room and said, “I'll take it!” I was so proud of myself.
On Wednesday, January 21st, I was laid off.
The HR person who had hired me just six months before started calling everyone on my team, one by one, into a tiny conference room. When it was my turn, I walked unsuspectingly into the room and he said the words I still remember to this day.
Him: “Hi Ellory, have a seat. I'm assuming you've heard about the resource action that's been going on this week?”
Him: “Well, unfortunately, you've been affected by that resource action.”
I don't remember much after that.
They did everything by the book after that meeting. I was given until the end of February to find another job within the company and I received a hundred-page document with the titles and ages of all 15,999 other people who'd been laid off that week (so they could prove there was no age discrimination).
I searched through all 16,000 names and there I was. My line read:
Territory Sales Representative, 26.
Over the next twenty days, I ran around the office practically begging for jobs. I made connections, scheduled meetings, printed resumes and wore my tie like a champ.
With the final 10 days of February looming, my momentum faded and I began to feel the weight of the inevitable. I stopped showing up at 8 am sharp, I stopped wearing a tie unless I had a pre-scheduled meeting, and my high spirits were falling fast.
This was when I first realized that no one would take my career as seriously as I do. If I was going to succeed, it was going to be up to me to make it happen.
Well, I didn't find a job. At the end of February, I turned in my security badge and went back to my apartment.
Over the next three months, I downsized from my two-bed, two-bath apartment to a one-bed, one-bath with a tiny office.
My car got broken into and couple of things were stolen. I beat every video game I owned, watched every movie I could find, sent out dozens of resumes and started writing my first novel.
Just months before I was planning my future and now I was broke. I had no job, no prospects, and a fancy engagement ring sitting in my closet.
It wasn't until May, four months after being laid off, that I found and took a job at a marketing company making half of what I was making before.
If you're intentional, you can learn a lot from life's events. To paraphrase an African proverb,
A wise man looks not where he fell, but where he stumbled.
Here I was, an intelligent, hard-working, college educated guy in his mid-twenties and doing everything right. I showed up early, stayed late, made friends, did well on assessments and was passionate about self-improvement and technology.
Still, I was shown the door. I fell when I got laid off, but I'd first stumbled when I'd handed over the control of my future to someone else.
The silver lining of things was that I learned the truth and the wisdom in the saying,
If it's meant to be, it's up to me.
We can do everything right in life and things don't always work out the way we want. We can go to school, earn a degree, work hard, and still have things fall apart.
I learned the hard way the difference between getting fired and being laid off. I learned through experience that you can do everything right, everything you're told, and still get shown the door.
If you put all of your eggs in one corporate basket, you're putting your future entirely in the hands of another person and you leave yourself open to becoming a line item in a spreadsheet of someone you've probably never met.
Later that year, in July, I was able to connect with an old manager of mine. I worked for her while in college and emailed her to see if she knew of any openings.
Long story short, I was hired at another global IT company and was able to leave the marketing job I hated to make over three times as much (I only mention money because at the time, and for years after, I mistakenly equated dollars to success).
In August of 2009, at my birthday party, I proposed to Ashley and gave her the ring I'd been holding onto for half a year. We got married on a beach in Florida in January 2010 and have had a wonderful marriage ever since.
While I hated being laid off, hated working a crappy job making no money, and hated not starting my life with Ashley sooner, I can't help but think about God's hand in it all.
Had I stayed at IBM, it's almost guaranteed I never would have started writing, I never would have met the awesome friends I have now, I never would have joined the mastermind groups I'm in, and I never would have met you.
Hindsight is generally 20/20. While I didn't realize I was putting all of my eggs in the corporate basket at the time, I know it now.
But that's another story for another day.