Marketing Tips on the Way
How did I wind up here? In January 2013, the vice president of my division informed me that the company I had worked for fifteen years had determined I was “excess.” He asked me to pack my stuff and be gone—within the hour. Boxes had been placed outside my office and a security officer roamed the halls. The VP told me there would be a FedEx package waiting for me at home that explained my severance and COBRA. I had a premonition that the layoff was coming; your boss’s boss doesn’t fly in from Boston every day. I was excess, but I’m betting he didn’t fly coach. Part of me had expected this. I had been watching my “mid-career” friends dropping like flies. I came to this company, like many of my co-workers, through acquisition, and had watched as the old-timers were slowly but steadily removed. As the years passed, I knew the company was becoming something our original founder, a beloved but now-defunct computer pioneer, wouldn’t recognize. I was in the process of making sure that my personal files – which I had been carelessly been keeping on my old corporate Mac – were downloading onto my brand spanking new MacBook Air, purchased the day before with my corporate discount. My brief, terminal conversation with the VP took place as my music files and photos transferred off the company computer and onto my own. People are often surprised at how fast “casualties” are whisked from the building during a layoff, and my experience was no exception. Management wants to get the troops back to work without interference from the walking wounded. They are also might be concerned about theft of intellectual property and confidential information. Fortunately, they weren't looking out for the expensive Aeron chairs. Call it a revenge chair theft. In retrospect, I don’t recommend it, I regret doing it, and I would undo it if I could. But in that moment, I knew exactly two things: that I would be starting a new life, and that I needed that chair. So away I drove, with a box of awards, extra spoons, and dried-up Chapstick in my trunk, and an Aeron chair shoved in the front seat. “Was I prepared?” everyone asked. I’m not sure why the element of surprise is so relevant to people; I suspect it’s because they want to know that if it ever happened to them, they wouldn’t be caught off guard. I had tried to prepare myself. I drove my poor friends crazy, crying after each round of layoffs that I survived. I had been going to over-priced and ultimately useless career coaches. I was desperate to figure out how I could make myself so indispensable to the new parent company that they would never lay me off. I was the one with family health insurance. I was scared out of my mind: what would we do without my insurance and salary? I made it, round after round, but in my heart I knew my time was coming. So when people asked “did you expect to get laid off?” I answered, “Yes, for the last 5 years of my corporate life.” In the end, I got a severance package and COBRA which gave me some breathing room to plan my next step. That’s life, right? Getting caught off guard and quickly adapting. That is the theme of this book: adaptability.
Transitioning The first couple of months, I knew I wanted to consult, but I was not acting like a consultant. I acted like someone looking for a job. I kept hearing horror stories from my “midcareer” friends (in their 40s, 50s) who were telling me how hard it was to break back into the corporate world. But I still felt like a young person. Maybe I was mid-career, but I could get back on that corporate horse. Turns out, when you want to be a consultant but you end up just looking for a job, what you find is a job. Despite my misgivings, when an opportunity at another huge tech company presented itself, I took it. Bigger and grayer and more bureaucratic than the one I had just been booted out of. Four months after the layoff, I found myself sitting in a larger, grayer, more soulless office with no friends and very few colleagues – where was everybody anyway? I was back to rebuilding my career and my reputation. This time, I was doing it for a different set of shareholders. When an inevitable re-org happened at month five, I knew I had to get out. I had lasted seven months.
I guess I needed that one last full-time job to convince me to move on and strike out on my own.
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