30-Something Worries: Will I Survive Another Layoff?

The Big Short/Financial Crisis

Well it finally happened. As I wrote about in my last piece, about a month ago we got word that our content team was being audited by the powers that be. They are in Northern California; we are in the L.A. area.

Monday evening we got an email that our group manager was coming down the next day for an impromptu meeting, along with a calendar invite telling us we were going to have a “team sync” at 10 a.m. Seeing the invite, I had a fairly certain feeling that one of the three content editors, which includes me, would be laid off.

I tried my best to let the sinking feeling pass, but it lingered, making my mind race into the negative conversations I have in my head—the same conversations I’ve been having for the last month. They consist of things like me telling off our boss for treating us poorly, for being an idiot and for showing us such little respect.

“You should go home to your family and hope nobody treats your children the way you’ve treated us,” I imagine telling him. I’m satisfied with the quality of this particular line, and I wonder if I’ll get to use it during the meeting.

The next morning I drove into work, my mood surprisingly good as I listened to a podcast. But it also felt like I was driving to my own funeral.

At 10 a.m. we went into the conference room, where our group manager from up north was already sitting at the big conference table. We sat down across from him. The mood was tense and I was nervous, but ready. After a month of wondering what the final outcome would be, I was looking forward to a resolution.

I was fully expecting that I would be the one to get laid off, but not because I hadn’t been doing good work. Quite the contrary: In the last few months I had done some of the best work of my career. But all that work had gone unappreciated.

The moment had arrived. I sat there taking it in, listening to the group manager talk about how they had come to a “business decision.” It felt like we were contestants on some kind of reality show. Which one of us would be the one who had to get off the island? To my surprise, we all did.

None of my clever one-liners came to me, nor any real desire to let my boss hear any of them. I could tell that making the decision to let us go was easier than the act of telling us. And I could tell he was nervous. I looked him straight in the eye a few times, and that was enough of a statement.

The final word was that we aren’t included as a part of next year’s strategy. We have two weeks before we’re officially let go. The good news: We get some severance, eight weeks for me, and a bonus payout. After some awkward conversation and a few questions, we filed out of the conference room and headed back to our desks.

I realized that night as I was driving home that much of the negativity that I had felt throughout the last month was caused by uncertainty. I find uncertainty about the future to be a very uncomfortable feeling. It’s hard to know how to act and react when you’re not sure what’s going on. Learning I was laid off eliminated that uncertainty and now I know where I stand. Since that meeting I haven’t felt the same negativity I’ve felt in the last month—instead I feel possibility. I’m looking forward to the next step in my career, and although it’s unknown, it’s not uncertain.

I have to say, however, that I will miss working with my team. We were more than co-workers. We’ve all become friends who enjoy working together, not to mention going out after work and getting drinks. Even when I didn’t enjoy the work, I knew that I would enjoy the people.

Immediately after the meeting, I spent the rest of the day focusing my attention on the next steps. Motivated, I made a list of about ten people that I wanted to contact right away and share the news with—people who might be able to help me find my next job. “Hey Mike, I got laid off today. We should catch up soon,” I texted one person.

But there was one sudden moment that produced a flash of anxiety: It suddenly dawned on me that my family’s health insurance would end in two weeks. For anyone with a 2-and-a-half-year-old, having insurance is at the top of the list. Of course we can get on another plan, or take advantage of COBRA, but the costs will be significant for a family of three.

I quickly put the feeling away, telling myself that it would all work out. This is no time to be anxious about the future, because I don’t have time to waste. I look down at my list, mutter a curse word or two, and write an email to a friend.

It’s time to get to work and get a new job. Maybe it was time for this a while ago.

This article is the fourth in a new series.

Mircea Vlaicu lived in Los Angeles with his wife and son. He was a content marketer at a big tech company, runs a wedding photography business with his wife, and recently earned his MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management. You can, but don’t have to, follow him on Twitter: @MirceaVlaicu


30-Something Worries: On Controlling My Own Destiny

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