A few weeks ago, I learned that my friend Sarah had been laid off from her job of several years. To help her pass the time between submitting resumes and going to job fairs, I asked her if she’d be interested in writing about her experiences here. Fortunately for us, she was!
She’ll be authoring a new series here, one that I hope will help everyone who is in the same predicament as her – without a job and in search of one in a period of economic weakness. The new series will be called Diary of a Firee and we hope to get out about an article a week (we don’t want to interfere with her job hunt), touching on subjects such as unemployment, interviewing, and resumes. We hope that through her experience, we can all learn a little something about getting through this difficult time.
We’ll kick off the series with this post, part one of a two part series on her “job release” experience.
First things first, let me tell you a little about Sarah. As long as I’ve known her, I’ve thought she was very outgoing, intelligent, and hard-working. I usually interact with her on a social level but she’s always smiling, even if things may not be going well. In talking to her, I learned that she enjoys volunteering for groups working in public health and that she enjoys staying active. She’s hoping to complete a marathon this year! Despite her recent job loss, she’s still keeping pretty active, if not for a 40 hour a week job, by volunteering for health expos and serving on a committee that runs events and activities promoting health in all areas. She has extensive experience in the realm of event planning, executive travel, and has interacted as a liaison with board members of several committees.
That brief little bit probably isn’t enough to get you a good idea of who Sarah is, but I hope that through this story about her job loss and her subsequent articles, you’ll find her to be as agreeable and intelligent as I do!
My First Year
I had interned at several companies and volunteered for other student intern jobs while I was in college. A year after graduating, much to my delight, one of those companies hired me! I had never worked in the department as a student but the work intrigued me, so I applied for the position anyway. The next thing I know, I’d be starting the job in a month. I was ecstatic! The job had all the great perks. It had some travel, it had me attending appealing events, it had everything and it just couldn’t get any better. The first year was great. All was going well and not even the typical office politics couldn’t get me down. I had a sense that not everyone loved their job as much as I did, but it never bothered me.
In my time with company, people came and went for a variety of reasons. Whether it was personal or professional, you never really knew the whole story but I didn’t ask. There’s no sense prying into the personal lives of others. Most times I assumed it was for the best and that everyone left on good terms.
After my first year, the unexpected happened. I was promoted! It was unexpected because I had no experience for the position I was being promoted to. They decided that since I picked up the pace in my first position and did well, I had what it took to do well in this next position. They promoted from within instead of hiring someone else who was already qualified, I can’t argue with that! Hello double digit percent raise! Not a bad way to end the first year on the job.
The new job was more demanding, like ‘crackberry’ demanding. I loved it though. I loved it because it challenged me and kept me on my toes. After a few years there, things were still going well and I was asked to do the same job for a new team due to restructuring of the company’s units. I always wanted to work for the unit they asked me to join, so looked like a win-win situation to me. Again, I picked up the pace for some newly added tasks, managed to keep all the balls in the air, and things were well. In yearly performance evaluations, I was told I was doing very well. In my latest performance review, I scored higher than I had ever scored, things couldn’t have been better!
Let’s recap: Things were going well with the job, my performance marks were high, I was loving my work – job security seemed bulletproof. When you couple that with a company that provided services that are recession proof, everything would be great!
Toxic Work Environment
Ha, that’s is when it starts. It may sound cliche, but you’re most in danger when you feel the safest. When you feel that you have good job security, you might be in for a rude awakening because your job might not be as secure as you think. I knew that. Well kind of.
A couple months later, I noticed my boss no longer seemed as happy or cheerful around the office. I thought he might be stressed out over company or personal issues, no big deal. I didn’t think much of it because I had a great professional friendship with my boss and the other employees in the office. I was the “Jill of Trades,” one employee told me one time. So I thought I couldn’t be the source of whatever was bothering my boss. Or could it? Things began to get more uncomfortable at work. What was once acceptable was no longer acceptable. There was greater scrutiny on the work and schedules of specific employees, myself included. I thought it was a fluke, I thought things wouldn’t be like this for long. I figured I’d get my work done, I was still doing it well, and things would get back to normal. I learned from other co-workers that they felt a different vibe from our boss too. They tried not to think much of it and I tried to convince myself I shouldn’t read too much into it either but I had a nagging feeling that this all seemed very familiar. I had been there twice as long as many of them and I started recognizing some similarities.
A couple years ago something similar happened. A good co-worker told me that her work environment had become very uncomfortable, as if she was being targeted. I noticed it too and I know she felt targeted. And, she did… for good reason. Not much later, she was asked to step out with her boss. After a brief discussion, she returned to the office, in tears, packed her things and left. That was it, she “was let go.” My guess, based on my experience there and my observations, was that she wasn’t a right “fit” for the company, not a performance issue. What concerned me was that I never felt that I was the right fit for the company either, even though I enjoyed working there. I was given good opportunities, so I took advantage of them, did my work, did my work well, and kept to myself.
So as these “familiar” signs came my way, I was more on guard and realized the relationship with my boss might change. My intuition seemed to be accurate because everything I did in the next few months was critiqued in more of a negative way. I felt the scrutiny was targeted specifically at me and the environment changed from an all high positive environment to an all low negative environment. Every day, I thought to myself, how did things change so suddenly?
I had been looking elsewhere before all this but I still “safe” in my current position. I didn’t feel the pressure of “needing” a new job. I started job searching more earnestly, to get away from this now uncomfortable position and environment at work. Not that every job will be perfect all the time, but things were different now, I thought I didn’t have a choice but to look elsewhere in the event I were “let go.”
Little did I know…please add your thoughts now! }