Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Five Stages of Downsizing: Depression

It's story time! Last time I was laid off, I was all fired up for a couple of weeks, and then it happened: I ran out of steam. I had actually been pretty ambitious at first. I cleaned every room in my house, redecorated, kept busy, all while applying for jobs. And then one day, Kind of out of nowhere, I stopped fighting it. I sat down and put on the tv, despite promising myself I would not. Once that tv went on, it didn't go off, and each day the time spent watching 90210 reruns outweighed the time spent looking for jobs a little more.

At the time, we were getting some work done on our house and these two guys were outside every day. They never came in, but one day one of them knocked on the door and asked to use the bathroom. I told him he could just come in, he didn't have to ask, and he would come in every once in a while. Our windows were open, and I heard him say to his boss, "What the fuck does she do all day?"

What an embarrassment! I was so ashamed of myself after hearing that. I really was just laying around like a disgusting slob. I probably didn't even brush my teeth that day. The point here is that it's important to maintain some kind of momentum so you don't fall into the sweatpants trap like I did and end up sitting on your couch all day with the shades drawn and potato chip crumbs all over the place like some kind of crusty old hoarder. And for gods sake, don't start day drinking!

Even if you're feeling like shit about yourself, at least put some pants on.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Five Stages of Downsizing: Freedom

Ah, we've reached my favorite stage: freedom! When you reach the this stage , you're at a crossroad. The chains are off, you're free! After the anger starts to fade, it becomes more clear that what you're working with is a clean slate. So what will you draw? If you're like two-thirds of Americans, you hated your job anyway.

Pay attention to what happens when you hit this stage, because it might just point you in the right direction. But if you blink, you could miss your exit. In my particular experience, my brain just lets completely loose and the ideas on what to do next start flowing. Some of them seem stupid and probably imossible, ridiculous,  but they're all good. They're clues. Even the crazy ones are clues. It's your subconscious trying to tell you what you want to be when you grow up.

Maybe you did like your job, and you want to just start looking for a similar position in your field right away. That's the easy road, and that's ok! You're lucky. It has never been that way for me, but I have followed that path anyway. Because... easy road. It's the only way I know how to make a living, and it's comfortable. But it makes me miserable. I have reached a point where I feel like I need to at least try to take a different path, and even though I barely set one foot out so far, I am terrified.

I don't feel qualified to really give advice here, since I'm only just starting out on this risk taking business. But there has to be a reason for the existence of the millions of inspirational pictures with risk taking quotes in hipster fonts (today's answer to the "hang in there!" kitten poster) all over the internet. If you don't think that's enough of a reason to go for it, I don't know what to tell you.

Follow your dreams!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Five Stages of Downsizing: Angerrrrrrrrr

If you're just tuning in, I lost my job last week. That means I have plenty of time to sit here and think about ways to make fun of my situation. Which I can totally do, because I'm starting to clear the second stage: Anger.

Once the news hashad a chance to sink in and the dust settles, the first reaction to getting exiled from Cubicle Town is to feel angry. It's so easy to blame everyone... your boss, your peers, yourself. Everybody screwed up and that's why you're out on your ass, right? Wrong! I have thought all the thoughts that have passed through the minds of everyone else in these shoes. "If I had just worked a little harder..." "My boss/coworkers must not have really like me..." "I should have gone in earlier or stayed later more often, maybe skipped some lunches..." NO! If you're reading this and you're thinking that, I am e-slapping your hand right now.

Ok. Sorry for hitting you. It's normal to feel anger and guilt when you're treated less than humanely. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all the human resources efforts to take the sting out, but none of it matters. No matter which way you slice it, it's humiliating, every single time. Nothing worse than that walk of shame out of the building, having to face your ex coworkers while carrying a box of shit that you'll just probably throw in a dumpster anyway.

It's not your fault. Even businessy dudes say it's not your fault, look! It just happens. A lot. It's business, not personal. I can't really say it any better than the Forbes open letter did. The point is that it's important to get past the guilt and the anger. But it's also important to harness that rage so you can channel it into something constructive. You will, as soon as you start to enter the Third Stage of Downsizing, which I will talk about tomorrow.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Five Stages of Downsizing: Denial

Oh hi there! It's been a while, hasn't it? Well lucky for you, I recently came into some free time, having recently been a victim of corporate downsizing. Please don't say you're sorry. I'm fine. No, really, I am. I'm what you would call a pro at this sort of thing. I've been through the layoff wringer many a time, and I've picked up a few observations along the way.

Much like the age-old "tennis shoes" vs "sneakers" or the "soda" vs "pop" debate, the act of getting laid off has many names. There is of course, "downsizing," some know it as "reorganization/reorg" or "restructuring." Some say "getting flexed." There's also the bullshittiest of all terms, "resource management action." The Brits call it "redundancy," and I can't for the life of me figure that one out. I know all the jargon and I'm not really sure what that says about me. I feel like I probably shouldn't put that on my resume though.

When it happens, people usually experience a wide range of emotions. The first stage of grief getting downsized is denial. I think that's because no matter what, you always get blindsided with this shit. Sometimes I think companies hire reality tv show staff to coordinate your sendoff. I swear I'm an expert at this. I know all the signs to look for, I know how to handle it. And yet, I get floored every time it happens.

The first time, I knew it was coming, but we only found out the day before. I actually made myself a shirt for the occasion. I was 20 years old, and a wiseass.

still fits... go, me!

 The second time, I was working for a startup, and that's the kind of environment where you should always expect the unexpected. They called us all in on a Friday and let us know they were closing the doors. Whatever.

This time, for a very long time, I would go in to my job every Friday and wonder if that particular day would be my last. And every Friday would come to a close and I would be spared another week. I started to think maybe I was being paranoid, and eventually I relaxed a little. That's why, when they got me on a Tuesday, they caught me completely off guard. Well played, corporate America. You got me again, you sneaky scoundrel!

So with that said, even if you can see it coming a mile away, it will still be a total shock to you when you get the news. That's how people end up in the first stage of getting laid off: DENIAL. Of course you're in denial, you were a productive, contributing member of society two seconds ago and now you're not. It's like losing a limb... a limb that you really kind of hated anyway because all it ever did was cause you grief and stress.  I guess it's more like losing your stupid appendix than a limb. Appendixes are cool and everything, but it's not like they're the coolest thing in your body. At least your limbs never turn on you like your douchebag appendix might one day.

The denial stage can evolve into the next stage very quickly, or it can extend over a period of time. It all depends on whether or not you get a decent severance package and/or your level of life experience I guess. For instance, after my first corporate execution, I convinced myself I was on a paid vacation for weeks and weeks. Fun, but not smart. At first, I even pretended I was going to work for a while. I actually got up and got ready most mornings, and then I drove over to my friend's apartment and, well... I don't even know what I did all day. Maybe I cleaned? Watched tv? I have no idea. Like I said, I was young. Don't do what I did. Or do... sometimes sitting on your ass for a while is just what you need.

The best thing to do at this stage is to take it all in and wait for the next stage to set in, which I will cover in more detail tomorrow. It's my least favorite, and the darkest, of the Five Stages of Downsizing. I know, you can't wait to hear more about it, can you?