While my boss was telling me that I was his go-to person, he was also informing me that my position was being downsized. It struck me as funny because my immediate thought was, The go-to person is GONE?
This happened years ago while I was working at a tech company; a product launch, delayed several times over, prompted the downsizing. At the time, tech companies were going down faster than leaded balloons, which meant the unemployment rate was increasing along with the competition. I had never been suddenly unemployed and I wasn’t scared or upset—I was curious.
While I was embracing this change, I was declining invitations to blame games and pity parties from former and current employees, friends, and some family. One college friend insisted that I was in denial because I wasn’t angry or scared. She said, “You are acting too calm during the worst time in your life.” I told her I was healthy and no one had died, so how could this be the worst time in my life?
Being angry couldn’t change anything, plus I am a strong believer in graceful exits. They treated me well the years I worked there. I liked the job and had learned a lot; the industry was dynamic and my coworkers were smart and innovative. My biggest contention was reconciling my ego with my unemployed self. My ego told me I was smart and talented and would be working in a few weeks; my unemployed self said, “Girl, I don’t hear the phone ringing daily.” My ego told me to relax and take a vacation and my unemployed self said, “If you don’t have a job, that’s your vacation.” My ego told me this was the time for better opportunities; my unemployed self said, “Your opportunities are knocked down!”
This was a chain of “crazy,” but ironically, it gave me perspective by not allowing me to go too far on either side. I didn’t want to slip too deep into the negativity of being unemployed, making it easy to accept invitations to blame games and pity parties, feel dejected when the phone wasn’t ringing, or get discouraged when the unemployment rate increased. I also didn’t want my ego to set impossible standards where I couldn’t be flexible and open to possibilities, i.e., accepting a change in industry, position, salary, or location.
My ego and my unemployed self continued this power struggle, but I just dealt with it.
I interviewed with a COO at a growing tech company that needed someone to create a new support department. This was a great match for me, but the salary was surprisingly low for the responsibilities and the company size. A few days after the interview, a company representative contacted me stating that they liked me but couldn’t be flexible on their salary. I said I could be flexible to a degree, but explained that it was a major undertaking and detailed the necessary tasks. They didn’t change their initial offer, but continued to call me every two weeks to see if I had changed my mind. I felt like they were waiting for me to go on sale.
My ego said, “That’s a lot of work, a significant salary cut, and an ugly commute coupled with a low-balling, shameless company.” My unemployed self said, “Girl, you ain’t got a salary to cut!”
They both had a point, but I went with my ego because I had savings and a well-thought-out, best-case through worst-case, three-step unemployment plan. This would have been a desperate decision, which didn’t factor in until step three. I was still on step one.
Since they kept calling me, I offered to consult until they found someone, but they declined on the premise that they wanted a company employee. I offered them two suggestions:
1. Conduct a salary survey to see if their expectations were realistic.
2. Consider the bigger picture. If they continued to pursue people at clearance price, it may be counterproductive to their end goal because a seasoned person may take it as a temporary stopgap until a better offer comes along.
Going with my ego kept me in the waiting game, which was a risk I was willing to take. During the unemployment journey, the question is simply, “Now what?” But the answer can be complex. The unemployment ride is different for everyone, depending on resources, responsibilities, reactions, and your reality check—four big Rs. As the waiting period extends, whether you are feeding your ego or feeding your insecurities, all of these Rs will be challenged by the constant R called rejection.
“The Unemployed You: Battling Through the Waiting Game, Part 2” concludes on October 5.
Excerpt of Part Two: “No matter how optimistic you are, the longer you are unemployed, the greater chance you will run into frustrations, insecurities, disappointments, and self-doubt. Since this is part of the journey, the challenge is deciding how much of it to keep on your drive.”