Monday, May 7, 2012

Losing a Job

Even before the current financial crisis, people have lost their jobs. However, as the economy began going downhill, more and more American jobs have disappeared. I’ve been there several times, and it isn’t fun!

The first time, my position ended because the manufacturing company I worked for decided that doing business in California was too expensive. So they outsourced the basic operations to China and the Dominican Republic. The administrative functions, including Document Control for which I was the manager, were sent to Texas. This was one of those special companies where the employees became an extended family. We genuinely cared about each other, and even after our work ended, we continued to meet at least once a month.

I was originally given two months’ notice, but ended up working seven. The company provided lots of resources and assistance with resume writing and retraining. Nearly everyone was reemployed within a couple of months. But that was in 2003.

I moved from manufacturing to banking, a ‘secure’ profession. I was unemployed exactly one day, and only because the bank had that Monday off as a holiday. I was hired as the Document Control Lead in the Information Technology Department. A few years later, I became the Change Manager. 

The bank was a smaller, local one where the employees were very close. We still hold reunions, including one last year at our house.

As the banking crisis began, we started to hear rumors that our own bank, previously the ‘gold standard’ for conservative fiduciary responsibility, might be in trouble. In November of 2008, the FDIC shut the bank down, and another larger institution took over.

This time, the resources provided were few. Since the acquiring bank had its own IT Department, there was no need for most of us to stay on. I assisted with the transition for six months, and then my job ended. This time I was out of work for two months, following which I accepted a contract as a Sr. Technical Writer.

A year later when that contract ended, I was again unemployed for two more months before accepting another contract as a SharePoint Administrator.

Even though I was fortunate to have found employment so soon after each job loss, the period of job hunting was frustrating and disconcerting.

So whenever I hear about a friend or acquaintance losing a job, I truly understand the stress and uncertainty.

This is the situation the protagonist in my new book, Ghost Writer, to be published this summer by Oak Tree Press, finds herself in. Nan Burton is employed as a computer programmer by a bank which is taken over by the FDIC. Sound familiar? I could feel all her concerns and frustrations, which made her story an easy one for me to tell. Have you lost a job in the current economic crisis? How did you cope?


  1. The "gold standard" bank was a shock to me. I still recall someone pointing at a pair of 3U enclosures holding solid-state disk (before it was cool, of course)and proudly exclaiming "This holds 16 billion dollars in assets."

    I left a position at the same S&L for personal reasons, in that I was relocating a thousand miles to the north. I do recall hesitation, though, in leaving a relatively secure employer. This place survived the S&L scandals of the 80s/90s, after all, and many family members had entrusted their money to this institution for decades.

    I recall the shock, perhaps only a couple of years later, of learning of this institution's demise in the news. How could *that* happen?

    Oddly enough, I had already interviewed for nearly the same position at the larger institution prior to reading this news, since their headquarters and main campus are a 30 minute drive from me. I was not offered the position, but if I were, I'm not sure if I could have accepted (in hindsight).

    In the end it worked out. I found a very interesting and challenging position at a start-up in the area, and we were acquired a year later by a huge IT company. I'm more than glad I had the experience I did, as I now have the perspective of both the customer and the vendor of IT products/solutions/whatever-marketing-calls-it-today.

    The job-seeking exercise is stressful and I hope not to revisit that anytime soon. On the other hand, my past experiences have brought me to where I am today. Perhaps in the future, I'll look back on what I'm doing now and think how beneficial it was to me while I do whatever it is I do in the future.

    1. Mike,

      Downey should have made it through this time as well, but several outside and unavoidable circumstances impacted us. It's a really ugly story, so I won't go into it. But I was extremely lucky personally. Larry was able to transition to Medicare the month before I left. (He'd been on my insurance for years.) I opted for COBRA. That was at the time there was a subsidy. The month the subsidy ran out, I qualified for the new bank's retiree medical. Last year, I switched to Medicare and retired. So I had complete medical coverage with no gaps.

      Glad you're working and enjoy what you're doing. The last two years of contract work were great for me, although without company benefits. I spent one year as a Sr. Technical Writer and another as a SharePoint Administrator. Both good companies with great people.

      Caroll was just laid off, so we plan to meet for lunch soon. I got Anne and Stephanie jobs at my first contracted company. Anne transitioned to permanent. Stephanie will be leaving next month to move to Texas.

      Some of the old IT group had a hard time, but Steve Wolfe started a new company and brought on a bunch of them. There's a Downey Savings Alumni group on LinkedIn. That's how we all stay in touch.

      All the best. And thanks for the laughs and good memories!