Being laid off: What it can teach you
By Larry Kunz
posted on June 28, 2012 09:44
Ten years ago this summer I was laid off from my first real tech comm job -- the one I held for 23 years. Actually I held a succession of jobs during that time, from traditional technical writing to marketing to vendor support. But all were with the same company.
Largely because I'd been in the same place for so long, and because I hadn't needed to find a job in over two decades, the news came as a shock. When the shock wore off I had a severance package to tide me over, and in about two months I landed another job -- with not too bad of a pay cut -- that I held for four years before leaving voluntarily.
Ten years later, my professional life has changed a lot. Though I couldn't have imagined it at the time, in many ways it changed for the better.
I learned that there's a whole big world out there, one that I'd seen only from afar during 23 years behind the corporate walls. There are lots of different ways to do things, and there are always good business reasons for choosing one way over the other. Back at my first company, the reasons usually boiled down to "because this is how we do it."
I realized the importance of broadening my skill set and keeping up to date. In fact, one reason I left that second job was because I was writing too many release notes and wasn't being assigned work that would keep me up to date.
I resolved never again to be shocked by news of a layoff. Instead I'll be prepared, and I'll be taking steps to counteract the news, should it come. I've also gotten over the "it'll never happen to me" mindset: it happens everywhere, it can happen to anyone, and it won't stop happening.
I became a lot more sympathetic toward colleagues who have been laid off or who are facing the threat of layoffs. I always understood, but now more than ever, that a big part of networking is extending a hand -- whether it's writing a reference letter or passing along news about an opening.
If you've been laid off, I'd appreciate hearing your comments. How has the experience affected you -- for good or ill? What advice would you give to those in our profession who might be facing layoffs?
About the Author
Larry Kunz is a project manager and information architect with SDI with more than 30 years’ experience as a writer, manager, and planner. He has experienced the transition from book-based documentation to today's integrated delivery of information both as a writer and a manager. Larry is a Fellow in the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and in 2010 received the STC President’s Award for leading the Society's strategic planning effort.
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Friday, July 06, 2012 2:42 PM
I got a lay off 4 years back. I was not at all disappointed rather, I took it positively.
- I felt good to know that the organization did not need me anymore. It meant that I was working there only till the time when the organization needed me, and this was what I worked for.
- It meant another opportunity to work for another organization. Sometimes, we are too settled in our comfort zone that we do not try out new industry, new documentation tools, new processes, and new challenges. Layoff gave me that opportunity.
- When I received interview calls from big companies such as Symentac, Oracle (either by employers or by agents), and few others, I felt good. It meant that my profile was good enough to be noticed by good and reputed employers. It was another reason for me to feel confident to go and apply to any organization in the world.
- I took it as a business opportunity and started taking assignments as an independent contracts. It turned out to be a bolt-from-the-blue and today, I am as happy with my work as I could ever get.
So, life after a layoff could only get better, and it did.
Vinish Garg (http://www.enjoytechnicalwriting.com)
Friday, July 06, 2012 3:30 PM
Vinish, thanks for sharing your story. I think that your attitude about being laid off is the most positive I've ever seen.
Your story brings home the importance of being prepared: You received calls because your "profile was good enough" -- clearly, you worked hard at building that profile before the layoff ever came. You were also prepared mentally, evidenced by the way you viewed your situation as an opportunity to do new kinds of work. Yours is a true success story. Congratulations!
Saturday, July 07, 2012 7:32 AM
I plan to extend this topic in a blog post at my blog, with creditable mention of your post. Is that fine with you?
Monday, July 09, 2012 9:41 AM
Yes, by all means, Vinish. Please add a link here when your blog post is finished.
Sunday, July 15, 2012 12:44 PM
The post is available at: http://enjoytechnicalwriting.com/2012/07/15/handling-a-layoff/
Friday, August 10, 2012 11:04 AM
Two more posts in my series on *Handling Layoffs* are at:
- Vinish Garg
Friday, August 10, 2012 2:14 PM
Thanks again, Vinish. You raise some good points in your posts.
In the end, I agree with what you said in response to a commenter: layoffs are hard to go through but in the end, with the right attitude, we can come out "with flying colors."