What I learned while I was unemployed...

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by mikeef, Mar 28, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. mikeef
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    mikeef Silver Member

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    On April 11, 2011, after one year, one month and 14 days of unemployment, I will be starting my new job in the financial services industry. Slightly lower pay, similar job and similar environment to my last job. It was one of about three jobs in the financial services industry in Boston, and I feel extremely lucky.

    Apropos of nothing, in no particular order, here are a few things I learned while I was out of work:

    Other than the obvious loss of income, the hardest thing about losing your job is the loss of social interaction. Over half of your waking hours are spent at, on your way to or on your way home from work. It's next to impossible to think that your previous workplace is going on without you. Your closest friends will remain close, but it's amazing how fast relationships will fall apart when you don't see people every day.

    You need to be able to ask for help. If you've always been independent, it's hard to do so, but you have to start networking immediately, even with people you didn't really like. You are hottest when you are first laid off. Call everyone you know.


    No job is ever 100% secure. I was laid off in February of 2010 after having the best year of my career in 2009. My company had simply lost 70% of its revenues and over 90% of its profits over the past five years. Expensive heads were cut. Inexpensive heads were cut. Almost 40% of heads were cut, in fact. Speaking of which...

    If you don't have an emergency fund, forget the mileage runs and put one together. Seriously. I know it sounds trite, but it's amazing how fast things break when you're unemployed. The size of it should be based on how much you've saved, what your expenses are, whether your spouse works, etc. But more is better than less. If you want to earn miles, find someone to refer you to Bank Direct.

    You must, must establish a new routine. Get out of the house. You probably won't find yourself sitting on the couch eating Cheerios on Day 1. It happens slowly over time. It doesn't matter what you do or where you go, just get out of the house.

    I hate the term "networking," since it sounds so much like "using people," but you pretty much have to start while you are employed. Most of the jobs that I found on the internet had a dozen applicants by the time they hit the web. I ended up finding my upcoming job because my wife's boss knew a headhunter who was doing a search for my field.

    People who were your best friends will never call you. People you thought hated you will go to the ends of the Earth for you. You find out a lot about people when you are down.

    Corollary: If you are employed and someone you know gets laid off, go to the ends of the Earth for them. Don't be embarrassed or feel awkward calling them. Being out of work sucks more than you can imagine, and I'm sorry I didn't do more of it when my co-workers started to get laid off. You don't even have to like the person. Just be there.

    Drew Carey is not nearly as good as Bob Barker.

    It's important that you get into a routine, but give yourself a little time for yourself, also. Take an hour a day and read a book, surf the web, etc. Looking for a job is depressing.

    Like people, employers are fickle. I had one interview with a firm where they never bothered to get back to me and reject me. Another where they called me six months later to tell me that they didn't want me (I had figured it out by that time, guys.). But there was one that met with me even though they weren't hiring and invited me to contact them monthly.

    There is something to be said for being self-employed. It's not for me, but the only one who can fire you is you, not to mention your customers. If you ever want to start out on your own, a good time to do it is when you get laid off.


    There's no way unemployment is only 9%. Not a chance. The official rate does not take into account "discouraged," or those who have simply given up.

    Let's end on an upbeat note: As much as unemployment sucks, find a silver lining. For me, that silver lining was getting to see my kids grow up a bit. They were just over a year when I got laid off and are now just over two. Man, are they a blast.

    Anyway, that's my disjointed, stream of consciousness for the night. Thanks for the cathartic experience.

    Mike
     
  2. lili
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    lili Gold Member

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    Thanks for sharing and for the advice. Glad you are back at work.
     
  3. 2soonold
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    2soonold Gold Member

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    Thank you.
     
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  4. Westsox
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    Westsox Gold Member

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    Thanks for sharing. I lost my job last June and was jobless for only 2 months but I took a job making about 25% of my previous salary. I agree with everything you said and learned many of the same lessons. Good luck in your new position.
     
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  5. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Thanks for doing this.Having never been in the situation I do not know directly, but it seems that all those things might be good lessons for life in any situation.
     
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  6. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    Thanks Mike for your insight, I'm sure this will help others.
     
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  7. 2soonold
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    2soonold Gold Member

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    In addition, I would add that sometimes those who are left will first be asked to pick up the extra workload, and then maybe later be asked to do it all while taking a paycut.:(
     
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  8. kwai
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    kwai Gold Member

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    I don't have the attention span to read it all (right now) as I'm drinking and typing, but I've been unemployed for almost 4 years, traveling around Asia, and it can be a great time if you're unemployed at the time of your choosing.

    Unlike you I'm looking for a job.... unsuccessfully.

    No matter though, you'll find social interaction here. :D
     
  9. mikeef
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    mikeef Silver Member

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    The first half of that happened to my former co-workers, but they haven't been asked to take pay cuts. I'm hoping that business picks up for them.

    One other thing: I always maintained a good relationship with the HR people (even the one who walked me), so whenever I need something, they're always quick to respond.

    Mike
     
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  10. Rlpro
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    Rlpro Silver Member

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    Well put. My husband (and me too) learned these same things when he was out. Congrats on your new position!
     
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  11. 2soonold
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    2soonold Gold Member

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    The company didn't see this coming. So early on, it was reduce the staff and split up the workload. But ya(the company) still gota bring in enough money.
    The company suffered from a little too optimistic outlook about the longterm effects of the recession. It takes a lot of money coming in to keep this thing afloat. So now it's; Jeepers, we may have to ask the workers to accept less money. I could be looking at as much as a 25% reduction in pay. I'll be giving that some serious thought.
    Eventually, slowly, the jobs market will recover, I like to tell myself. As it does, I suspect many current workers will try to leave their current employers behind; in search of what they hope is a better opportunity than what they have been experiencing over the last few years. Just my opinions.
     
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  12. homeyfour
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    homeyfour Silver Member

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    I agree. I am in the embittered automotive industry in the Detroit area, and have found myself out of work twice in the last 4 years. I currently work for 15% less than my previous job, and I cannot stand my job responsibilities or the company. Fortunately, things are picking up around here, and I complete another degree at the end of April, which will hopefully make myself more marketable.
     
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  13. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    Congrats Mike on your new job. I often find during periods of unemployment or that of friends is often is turns into a blessing. For you that's already happened seeing a year of your children's growth. Hopefully it continues to be a blessing for you. Life is funny. Let it laugh with you.
     
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  14. sophiegirl
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    sophiegirl Silver Member

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    Thank you. My company is closing an acquisition next week, no one knows what the final situation will be, but duplication of jobs is almost 100%. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what is coming. I am experienced talent with long term success - but am not kidding myself... as you said, that doesn't mean anything.

    Not knowing is the worst....or, maybe not.

    Congratulations on your new job and I wish you much success.

    Thanks again for sharing your experiences.
     
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  15. TennisPro
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    TennisPro Silver Member

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    Uh oh, I'm sitting on the couch eating Cheerios right now. I guess I better get out of the house. :)
     
  16. Cholula
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    Cholula Milepoint Guide

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    mikeef, congratulations on finding a similar job in this very trying job market!

    While I was very fortunate to have never been out of work for even a day in my 37 year career, I do realize that I was lucky to dodge many, many bullets. Bullets that struck many friends and co-workers and would have had my name on them if I'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Many if not most of my closest friends and family members have lost jobs over their career and what you say about never really knowing your friends until you're unemployed is true.

    In a similar vein, socially, to losing one's job is to retire 10-15 years ahead of your peers. I was fortunate enough to do so well over a decade ago but most of my friends are still working and the relationships change quite a bit due to time constraints, lack of common interests, etc.. It was one of the most surprising things about my very early retirement.

    At any rate, welcome back to the work force! Somebody's got to keep this economy chugging along so us retired old farts can enjoy our "golden years". :)
     
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  17. IMGone
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    IMGone Silver Member

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    Good luck with the new position and thanks for sharing!
     
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  18. canucklehead
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    canucklehead Gold Member

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    Congrats on the new job and a lot of good advice, especially having funds to fall back upon during hard times.
    Having read some of your posts on FT over the past year, I am very happy that you persevered and found a good job.

    Your comment about friends who you expect to be there and those who surprise you is very true - and networking only works when there is a mutual benefit to all parties -- as is the case here -- they would not hire you out of 'friendship', but due to competence and ability.

    While MP has had some soul-searching about content, perhaps what some like Dov and others have said about MP being a community, and not just about travel, rings true with this thread -- thanks for sharing.

    BTW, Drew Carey is basically phoning it in! :D
     
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  19. Toula
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    Toula Gold Member

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    Well said. I have to agree on the change in relationships once one in no longer active in the workforce.

    Glad to hear that you managed to find a new position and good luck.
     
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  20. mikeef
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    mikeef Silver Member

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    First, you get a bonus because my daughter is named Sophie. :)

    The hardest thing for me was that my severing had nothing to do with performance. If I were a lousy performer, I'd understand, but the guy I was working for had specifically asked me to come work for him a year earlier (I moved from a tangential division, but we all worked together.) because he needed help in my area. I spent a lot of time wondering how I got chosen, and then I ran into a former co-worker, with whom I'd spoken maybe six words over the past two years. He told me that he had been laid off under similar circumstances and had driven himself crazy trying to figure out why he was chosen to share the fate of Loius XVI. He told me not to do the same thing. It's hard not to, but ultimately, I wouldn't get any answers.

    I'm glad that people have gotten something out of this thread. It was cathartic for me. I was fortunate enough to have a good support network.

    Mike
     
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  21. Frequent Freak
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    Frequent Freak Silver Member

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    A lot of good points here.

    Absolutely true. That said, I've had two separate stretches of unemployment in recent years, one of which was intentional. I had enough savings to continue traveling. Travel was one thing I did to get out of the house and not be bored/depressed all day. Still, I had to watch my budget. Not to hijack the thread, as I think it's relevant here, but I have some suggestions for continuting to travel while unemployed.

    * Decide which statuses you value the most, and which are worth keeping (perhaps dropping a level) and which you can do without. If you have status with multiple airlines or hotels, now's the time to choose one. Consider what you actually use your status for -- do you really need to make 1K, for example, if you're not going to be doing much international travel and have no need for SWUs? Upgrades are nice, but thousands of people every day do ORD-DEN, not to mention JFK-SFO, sitting in Y.

    * Burn those miles! They don't earn interest, and what else are you saving them for, anyway? This is an excellent time to drain down orphan accounts where you have just enough for one or two awards.

    * Concentrate on the overall cost of the trip -- minimizing spending is more important than maximizing earning. If you're deciding among multiple trips, the winner should be the one that gives you the most value for what you're spending.

    * I needed to make sure I was doing something I was going to enjoy at the destination -- in other words, again, not just going on mileage runs. Have a point to your travel, then it really will be a break from unemployment.

    * Relax. You don't need to be back at home tonight in order to go to work the next day. You don't have to worry about how many vacation days you have left. You can leave on Tuesday and come back Thursday if those days are the cheapest. You have MORE flexibility to travel now, use it.

    * Similar to the above, you should be more willing to trade time/convenience for money. The extra 30 minutes it takes for the bus to get to the airport may be preferable to driving and parking now. Especially if you do it twice a month.

    * Considering the three "legs" of a trip -- airfare, lodging and ground transportation -- wherever feasible, try to have one leg cost you near zero. For example: use points for one of the legs, or go somewhere where you don't need to rent a car, or stay with friends or relatives. (If you are relying on the kindness of the latter, you may want to bring a gift or buy them dinner, etc.) This is actually a good time to get back together with the people who are important to you.

    * Casino status is the easiest to get back. Go ahead and take one last trip to Vegas to burn whatever points and comps you have, but your loss limit just got a lot tighter. May want to leave your ATM card and most of your wad of Benjamins at home.

    * Be assertive with ANY customer service issues you may have. Those vouchers will come in handy. You have time to write letters and escalate complaints now. Don't be unethical, but demand to get what you're paying for, or demand to pay less.

    * If you're by yourself, and stay at Joe's Motor Lodge instead of the Renaissance, no one will know. If you fly Southwest because it's $300 cheaper than United, no one will know. If you sleep in your car, no one will know. (Not that I recommend it.)

    * Maybe most importantly, the habits I developed over many years of traveling frugally, including not spending so much on it in the first place, eventually permitted travel once money wasn't coming in. Unemployment was an opportunity to harvest what I had learned.
     
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  22. Wurm
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    Wurm Silver Member

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    One thing that reminds me of my layoff experience eight years ago is the idea that all of the excellent performance reviews, all of the glowing feedback from clients and all of the times you rejected outside offers mean NOTHING when the company makes the decision to cut. I landed on my feet (although at significantly less pay).

    I'm glad it all worked out for you, mikeef :)
     
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  23. Jim
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    Jim Silver Member

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    Mike:

    Congratulations on the new position.

    Not unlike you, I was laid off in January of 2010 and started a new position this month. 13 months of beating the bushes and I also learned a lot.

    I started a very private blog to help me keep up with the daily emotions and there are emotion filled days.

    I echo the rainy day fund comments, I had no idea that it would take that long but it is an absolute buyers market out there.(The job that I ended up with had 3500 resumes submitted in three days.) The position that I ended up in is completely out of my area of expertise from the previous 25 years as far as products go, but completely in my area of expertise with regard to sales and management.

    I also agree with your comments about reaching out to your friends who find themselves in this position. I have a group of about 25 friends who called me once or twice a week to just say hello, it means a lot. More than anything, the untiring support of my wife and family meant the most.

    What did I learn about job searching?
    • All recruiters are not the same. When you get a call from a recruiter, find out everything you can about the job they are talking about, I mean everything. Then ask them if they are on a retained search. There are thousands of recruiters who make their living by "skimming." Skimming is when a recruiter finds a job on a board, solicits candidates and offers them to the potential employer for his fee. If the employer does not have a retainer with the agency, you are now screwed. The employer will not touch you.
    • Check the job boards three times a day. I can't tell you how many times I would see a job posting in the morning and gone in the afternoon. I would routinely hear of 3-4000 resumes for the job I was applying for.
    • Speed of response makes a difference. My current boss sent me an email and asked for 16 references in 4 separate categories. I was able to have that to him in 15 minutes.
    • Don't be afraid to turn down something that isn't right. At 53, I am still worth another dozen years. In five years, no so.
    • My personal opinion is the smaller independent recruiters do a much better job. I learned to avoid anything that says MRI affiliate. They are some of the most egregious skimmers.
    • I had no luck with any of the "Ladders" a couple of hundred bucks down the drain.
    • My favorite site was Indeed.com It is well organized and the search engines are effective.
    • Use as many search engines with as many key words as you can.
    • Change your resume on the job boards every month.
    • It was a great day when I unsubscribed to all of the search engines.
     
  24. 2soonold
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    2soonold Gold Member

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    Thanks for your post, Cholula. I have found that my friends who retired before the Great Recession can be said to be somewhat clueless as to what's going on with younger people in our society today. I'm still working, hoping for a late retirement; and I'm watching my job environment degrade, while trying to be a friend to people younger than me who have lost jobs and are dealing with the serious difficulties of long unemployment; and at the same time dealing with my dear retired friends who are wondering why everybody is always so unhappy these days.
     
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  25. 2soonold
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    2soonold Gold Member

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    One thing I have to deal with is people saying to me, "Well, it's easy for you; you still have your job." Actually, it's not really the same job I signed on for. The workload has skyrocketed, while the environment is slowly degrading.
    I am only still on the job by dumb luck. I have walked away from long term jobs in the past; and those companies eventually folded. I would agree that you will likely never get a truly satisfactory answer to WHY; so move on in faith.
     
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