Two days ago I was driving to the store for milk and lettuce to support my (fairly mundane) eating habits. I turned left on Slauson and into the on-ramp for the 90 to Marina Del Rey. Suddenly I woke up. This is not the way to the store; this is the way to the job that I felt happy and secure in, three days ago.
Yes, I have been “laid off.” This is a first for me and I was unprepared for the emotions that it brought up. I needed a little refresher on the Five Stages of Grief to make sense of it. Hopefully I won’t be getting to Stage Four. I’ve never been prone to depression and don’t expect it now; but I didn’t expect the others either.
The experience itself? I came into work on Monday to find the parking lot less full than usual. I got my coffee as always and went to my desk. It was eerily quiet everywhere in the office. I answered three emails from London, knowing that they would be leaving the office soon. I checked for new projects in my queue. I went for another cup of coffee and noticed that my section was empty. Ominous. My Manager saw me, seemed flustered, and said “do you have a minute?”
Down the hall and into an office, seated across from the head of HR. She got straight to the point and continued on, but after the first few sentences I was sealed in a cocoon of numb shock. Vacation pay, severance, COBRA and finally reaching behind her desk while asking if I needed a box for my things.
I really should have seen this coming. I suppose I did, but ignored the signs. Two years ago I knew who my boss was and who his boss was, right on up to the top. Two years ago we had group pep talks and got reports on how the business was going. Coming into the last year or so there has been none of that. The upper levels of Management have been purged and nobody hired to replace them. No talk around the office about our ongoing “success.” One by one, my colleagues announce their new jobs with Google, Netflix, various startups.
I actually did interview with one of those companies last year. The interviewer told me that my current company was essentially doomed and mentioned clients that may leave soon. I took this with a grain of salt, knowing that he wanted to fill the open position. I really should have taken him at his word. To that interviewer (who will never read this); I was wrong, you were right. Thanks for trying.
Loyalty is an important virtue with me, but it doesn’t seem to be helpful in today’s Tech Job Market. The sense in offices is:
- Get Job
- Work like crazy for one year
- Look for new Job
- Move to new position before two years are up
Okay, that’s just a feeling. Looking at the statistics, I see that it may be a myth, but…the average tenure in Tech does seem to be just over three years. When considering that number as my father (45 years with the US Navy) or grandfather (50 years with AT&T); it seems instantaneous.
Unfortunately, Loyalty is a two way street. Perhaps people leave Tech jobs because they can see clearly down the road as I couldn’t. When all is said and done, after (hopefully) finding new employment, I will probably not change my habits. Perhaps just be a bit more prescient and aware.