Laid Off

How to survive when they take your job away

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: March 16, 2003

Laid Off

I have a deep abiding concern for those who have been laid off, or suspect that they may be laid off in the near future.

In my sordid work experience throughout the years, I have been laid off, let go, re-assigned, promoted, de-moted, fired, bum-rushed, asked to leave, asked to manage, often-times handed a ham sandwhich and a road map.

Most people think that it can?t happen to them, the boss likes them, and the company needs them. It can and does happen and now often times the boss gets the boot as well. There is a certain consolation when the boss gets the same pink slip at the same time you do once you hit the parking lot. Corporate etiquette would have it that you have to give him or her at least a three step lead before you start chasing them.

Getting laid off feels a little bit like getting killed. Your whole identity, lifestyle and ego are drastically changed within one day. Your source of security, identity and income gets executed. In America, it?s not who you are as much as what do you do.

I have some hard-lived advice for those who get the short end of the economic stick. The first thing you have to realize is that most of the time it?s not your fault. Don?t blame yourself.

Laying people off is simply a financial decision it has nothing to do with you as a person.

The second thing to realize is that those in the company who are not laid off have to do twice or three times the work at the same pay. The third thing is that the company sucks anyway.

Most people are in denial and don?t anticipate job cut backs. They figure the company can work at a loss for a while, and the boss doesn?t look worried. Always assume that you can be laid off any minute. Always have a Plan B job that can pay quick cash, that you can fall back on. like house painting, babysitting, whatever. Immediately apply for unemployment, even if you expect to be called back.

Be aware of similar companies that can use your abilities, know who is hiring, and consider taking some classes learning another trade should your vocation go into a drought mode. As a mass media major in college once I was blacklisted from fulltime Spanish language media. I found myself unemployable, so I took a job selling cars, then learned the sales trade. Car dealerships have an intensive sales training system. I used the sales ability to many jobs and feed my family until the economy got right again.

There are a few stages one goes though once handed the pink slip. The first is denial. You are somehow convinced that it is a mistake and they will re-hire you the next day. The first day home is like a day home sick from school. You don?t know what to do with yourself and wait for the phone to ring or an e-mail that never comes. You call work to see who misses you or if anything has changed. Soon they make excuses not to take your call.

The second phase is you humble yourself and start asking your friends who's hiring, then check the want ads eventually. You start going on some whack interviews. You soon find that there are lousy jobs out there with way too many over qualified candidates, and they want to pay peanuts.

The third phase is that you get used to being home, interview less frequently and for many, give up. This is a mistake.

Psychologists say in order to be emotionally healthy; people need two things, security and significance. A job gives one significance. In my down times I have learned to forgo ego and have taken jobs that before I would consider beneath my stature and had some of the best and most rewarding times in my life. People around me were happy to know that I was no longer a legend in my own mind.

The life experience of starting over vocationally and knowing that I had to scrap for my money has served to enhance the quality of my life immeasurably and has given me a confidence I couldn?t have received any other way.

I tell my sons that I believe that I could be dropped flat broke from a helicopter in Kentucky and have a job and apartment and a Cadillac within two weeks because now I know how to get my money. Getting laid off at various stages in my life showed me the way.

I hate to quote cliches but this faith-based one is most appropriate, ?Tough times don?t last, but tough people do.?

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist and a screenwriter.

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