Last week I got the virtual equivalent of being told to come to the boss’s office, shut the door and have a seat, looking over to my left and seeing the watchful eye of HR. It came in the form of a prioritized meeting on my calendar and a Skype call, but the effect was still the same.
When I heard the words, “I want you to know that this is going to be a difficult conversation,” my initial thought was what the hell did I do? (because even when I don’t think I’m doing anything I can still do the absolute most). Good news was I had done nothing wrong in the last 48 hours. The bad news was that I was still losing my job due to a reduction in force. Learning that I no longer had a job and would soon be unemployed was unsettling, to say the least.
“Your role is eliminated effective today and you will lose access to the corporate network at the end of the week.” I could not believe what I was hearing. I hadn’t been let go from a job since I was 16 and got fired from McDonald’s in a case of keeping it real going very wrong. Even when I tried to get laid off before graduate school it didn’t happen. I was half listening to the “it’s not you, it’s us” spiel when they said, “You’ll remain on payroll for 60 days during which time you are free to apply for open roles internally. If you are not rehired during that time your employment will terminate with the following benefits…” Did I hear that right? I’m gonna get paid for two months without having to actually work?
At that point the wheels in my head started turning and it dawned on me that this may not be bad news after all. When talk of severance came up I got downright excited.
I quickly realized that first and foremost I was going to be just fine. I had plenty of time to find another job within the company and if I didn’t, I’d still be getting an income for the rest of the year. On top of that the “hide money from myself” savings plan has left me sitting on a decent cash stash. My bonus check hitting my account in three days was the cherry on top. Remembering that I had prepared for this situation allowed me to have an immediate feeling of peace when the call ended. And with peace comes possibilities. It occurred to me that for the first time in my life I didn’t need income. I could maintain my current lifestyle just fine for six months; longer if I actually used the budget I’d created months ago (then ignored).
With the luxury of time on my hands I am unsure of how to spend it. Usually, the first reaction to job loss is to hustle hard and find another one, ASAP. I could do that. Heck, I had other internal job options percolating prior to my position being eliminated. I could just keep pushing for an offer from one of those. However, a not so tiny voice inside my head is telling me not to jump into the job hunt so fast. While I loved working for my employer and there are many roles there I would love to do, a large part of me wants to explore other options. This isn’t just a matter of finding a new company to work for. I am confident that numerous companies would snap me up. It dawned on me that I have the chance to answer the question, “What would I do if I didn’t have to work?”
Not working would give me the time to explore all of the ideas in my head that sound cool but I never found the time to get around to doing. Now that I no longer have the excuse of a full-time job, could I finally put together that business plan and launch my own venture? Should I get a part-time gig to beef up my skills and experience in other areas? Should I start blogging again after a four year hiatus? What the hell! Could I do all of the above? I can see myself spending several days a week down at the SCORE office then challenging myself to write for at least an hour every night.
I also have the option of doing nothing at all. My Whatsapp group chat has already kicked off a “Kick Back in Bali” campaign. Because I own my home I could rent it out to get the mortgage covered and some extra cash, while I chill with my homegirl D peeping eye candy on the beach.
With thoughts of lazy days in my head, one of my mentors quickly brought me back down to Earth by reminding me that if I stayed out of the workforce too long it may not be so easy to come back with a long employment gap on my resume. Plus, because I’m such a big proponent of being open (hence the blog name), numerous people who I’ve told about the layoff are already offering me job opportunities on their teams. To throw one additional wrinkle into the mix, if I were to be offered a job internally and turn it down I would forfeit severance.
I feel like I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t follow through on the job search help being offered to me. I have received several, “there’s an opening on my team and I want to talk to you about it” messages in the last week. Of course I responded to each with my updated resume and calendar invites to chat. However, while the other people who were laid off with me are thinking, what if I don’t get a job soon?, I am thinking, “what if I do?” There is an expectation that adulting means working and I feel like doing what’s expected is kind of taking the easy way out. Would I be wrong for taking a more calculated risk? I’m weighing my options and trying to keep them all as open as possible for as long as possible. When I signed and mailed in my SAR paperwork two days ago I walked home contemplating the idea of renting my place on AirBnB and skipping town for a month or two. I have time. Then I remembered that I’d also applied for a new job that morning, so maybe not.
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