You never think it’s going to happen to you. You have job security. You have a job in a traditionally stable and thriving industry. Your company has never laid off anyone on their workforce. Sure, people have been fired before. But, that’s not the same thing. Regardless of the economic climate, job security was one thing you could count on. That is, until Thursday happened. Thursday, that rat bastard wretch of a day. That day of the week where everything, including the sky, seems to fall. And on this particular Thursday, the fall was agonizing.
You see, I’ve been working since I was 12 years old and have always had a job since. I was in the Navy for 7 years and left on my own terms. I worked for Amazon Web Services and left on my own terms. Do you notice the trend? I leave, quit, put in my 2 weeks. I don’t get let go. I’m the dumper, not the dumpee if you will. In all my years as a member of the American workforce I have never once, NEVER, been laid off. That is, until, THURSDAY! Thursday, March 9th, a day that will live in infamy.
The backstory: I had been working for a company called Will Smithfire for the last 10 years. That’s right, 10 freaking years. I was employee number 69 at the company. I climbed the ladder from being a glorified peon to a mid-level manager. I was one step removed from a senior management role. Life was relatively good. I had a good quality of life, managed a team of ~10, and I could set my own schedule. I had a solid reputation and even had earned the appropriate nickname of ‘The Garbage Man’. I personally like ‘Captain Rescue’ better, but they both fit. I was the guy that takes on the projects and the clients that no one else wants. Or sometimes worse, I was a cleanup crew of one, tasked with rescuing projects with major client satisfaction issues. And I had a proven track record. Every project I was brought into, either for client sat issues or a difficult client, we NEVER once lost their business.
So what changed? I got slapped harder than Chris Rock at The Oscars. And, when I least expected it! Hey, twinsies!
But, I’ll get to that here in a moment…
The setup: Towards the end of November, my wife and I welcomed our fifth child into the world. A baby boy, codenamed Oregano. We couldn’t be more thrilled and you couldn’t find a prouder set of parents. Now, because I worked at Will Smithfire, I was afforded an amazing opportunity. Will Smithfire has an incredible benefits package, including a badass parental leave policy. Mothers and fathers receive 12 weeks paid leave for paternity leave. That’s amazing, right? Yeah, I thought so too. Of course I took advantage of that. I took my allocated 12 weeks off and came back to work towards the end of February.
The obstacle: I’ve been back from paternity leave for a little over 2 weeks. When I first came back from leave, everyone was showering me with well wishes and congratulations. And the constant,
“We’re so glad to have you back ! It hasn’t been the same without you.”
It always feels nice to be missed and welcomed back. It shows that people do appreciate you and your work ethic.
There’s only one problem…the team numbers are down. The current economic climate, inflation, the time of year, and other factors have contributed to an abysmal team number. We are well below target and the outlook for the next 4-6 weeks is dismal. Work is slow and our customer projects are few and far between. Not good and this is the storm I’m walking into coming off of parental leave.
But, hey, that’s why I’m here right? I’m here to right the ship and get things back on track. The first day I come back I start reaching out to peers, colleagues, and other managers. Looking for anything from any project to raise our numbers and keep my team busy. Well, my team is not the only one. Everyone I reach out to doesn’t have any work available and their numbers are down too. (Well, sheet!)
So, I put a plan together to find us some work. Continuing my cadence of reaching out to anyone, everyone I know trying to find work for my team. I’ve found a couple projects to support but nothing is imminent to deliver. So our numbers continue to be in the toilet. But, once the end of April hits, my team will be so overwhelmed with work they’ll have a rough time treading water.
My cadence of reaching out to my colleagues reaches its end on March 9th.
The event: it’s Thursday morning at roughly 930 AM. I receive an email with a calendar invite from my bosses at Will Smithfire.
“Hey, clear your calls and schedule.
We need to urgently speak with you at 10.”
Ugh oh! The alarm bells start going off in my head. I’m thinking there’s some kind of fire or a major client issue they need to speak with me about. I quickly reach out on our messaging app and ask them if everything is alright.
*Cricket cricket. Cricket, cricket.*
No response. That’s odd, but I don’t let it get to me. They’re prolly in a meeting or tied up…at least, that’s what I think.
While I’m waiting for the clock to strike 10, I text my wife Sergeant Shredded. She’s not at home, but out of the state with Oregano, visiting a family friend. I’m scheduled to pick her up from the airport at 1:30 PM. Her flight is boarding soon and I text her a quick, “I love you! I can’t wait to see you both! Been missing you like crazy!!”
10 o’clock strikes, I turn my webcam on, and join the urgent call. My boss is on the video call, my boss’s boss, and someone from HR. This can’t be good.
My boss and his boss start chatting me up, bs’ing about my avatar photo and asking how it’s been since paternity leave. Everything is light and breezy. Then, things take a min abrupt turn. My boss’s boss starts it off,
“So. As you know. Our numbers have been down and Will Smithfire is not immune to the current economic climate.
We’ve examined the numbers and looked across the board at all possible solutions.
Unfortunately, difficult decisions have to be made.
KEEP THIS JOB OUT YOUR FUTHER MUCKING MOUTH!
Today is your last day.”
WHAT!!!??? I’m absolutely floored. My stomach drops through the floor when I hear the words “today is your last day.” I’m sitting there, in stunned disbelief. My eyes start welling up and I can feel the emotions taking over. I have to turn away from the camera for a moment to wipe my eyes.
Now, I’m not a big cryer, but this definitely has me emotional. You know Chris Rock was crying after he got slapped, if not backstage then on the inside like a winner. And honestly, didn’t he come out the winner? He got slapped and his career blew up to a whole new level. Me, on the other hand, I just came back from paternity leave. I have a newborn 3 month old baby. I have 5 kids. I’m the sole provider in the house. Like, what do I do?
I collect myself and turn back around, facing the camera. With glossy eyes I respond back,
“Did I do something wrong ?!
I don’t understand. I just came back.
Is there any possibility to stay and take a different position?”
Now it’s HRs turn to respond.
“No. Today is your last day.
Your access will be shut off at the end of the day.
Thank you for your many years of service…”
I nod my head in acknowledgment, say ok and we end the call. I turn away from the computer and take some deep breaths. Trying to comprehend what just happened. In my nearly 10 years I never expected THAT to happen. I just stare off into the distance. I honestly can’t believe what just happened. So many thoughts run through my mind.
“What do I do wrong?
Could I have done something different?
How am I gonna tell my wife?
How am I gonna tell my kids?
What do I do now?”
On and on the questions race across my mind. I take a few minutes to let everything sink in. The next few hours, I call some of my closest friends and tell them the somber news. They, too, can’t believe it. But the overarching theme I keep hearing is this,
“It’s a blessing in disguise.
As one door closes another one opens.
Keep your head up, don’t let it get you down.”
Every call I make. Every discussion I have revolves around that exact message. In the moment it doesn’t uplift my spirits much. A few hours pass by and it’s approaching the time to pick up my wife and newborn son from the airport.
I get into my SUV and head toward the airport. It’s a 30 minute drive to the airport from my house. And it’s a lonelyyyyyyyy drive. I keep replaying the events from earlier. The words that were spoken and the fact I have to find another job. I contemplate what to say and how to tell my wife that I got laid off. I pull up to the airport and my wife is standing outside, holding the baby in the car seat with her bags next to her.
I pull up into the loading area for arrivals and give my wife a massive hug, and a kiss. She was only gone for 4 days, but it seems so appropriate she flew back on this day. I put Oregano in the car and strap his car seat down. I open the door for my wife like a gentleman. Then I climb inside the car, buckle up and start driving home. A few moments later I unload,
“Hey babe. Don’t freak out. I have to tell you something.
I got laid off today!”
My eyes start welling up with tears again, and when my wife sees that, her eyes start welling up. My emotions cause her to become emotional. She responds back,
“Oh my gosh, babe, it’s okay !!
You’re making me cry.
We’ve got this, it’s their loss.
God’s got us. We are going to be just fine.”
Everyone needs a significant other like this! On your worst day, when you’re at your weakest, they know just what to say. They have the right words to help encourage you through no matter how vulnerable you feel. No matter what valley or struggle you’re going through, they are there to support you and build you up.
She isn’t even upset or mad. If anything, she’s confident and knows how much of a non-issue it is.
The fallout: we get home after enjoying the drive home together. My wife, Sergeant Shredded, is exactly what the doctor ordered to cure my hurting heart and psyche. We make lunch and I tell the kids I got laid off. As I’m sharing the news, my eyes start welling up again. My youngest daughter starts getting upset and gives me a huge hug. And instantly lifts me up. My oldest son is appalled. He actually gets mad and states how idiotic he thinks they were for letting me go.
While we eat, my oldest daughter, 12, asks me if I wanna watch anything. I smirk and respond with,
We can watch anything that anyone wants to watch.
I’ve got plenty of free time. 😂”
(Too soon? 🤷🏼♂️🤷🏼♂️)
I can’t help myself. Sometimes you have to just make fun of yourself and laugh things off. Regardless of the situation. And that’s my mission. Master Experiences Through Humor…Find the humor in everything ! When life gives you lemons, find a way to transform them into sweet-ass lemonade.
Just like Chris Rock, I have the last laugh.
For the next few hours I scour the bowels of the Internet. Checking job sites, reviewing job postings on LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, Dice and anywhere in between. I reach out to friends and old colleagues, asking if they have any openings or know of any good companies hiring.
I actually have a job interview the day after I get laid off. Haha, take that Will!
On that Friday, I fill out a number of job applications and have another interview.
The result: over the course of the next 2 weeks, I have 10 interviews and receive multiple job offers. And I make daily jokes about my employment status, or lack thereof. I don’t waiver or let Will Smithfire get me down. He might have smacked the hell out of me, but he is the one looking like a fool, not the other way around. Old workmates text me round the clock to catch up and tell me how dumb Will is. I don’t disagree with them. You’d think after 10 years your reputation would hold its weight in gold. That your hard work would speak for itself. But, unfortunately we live in the day and age of, “what have you done for me lately?”
And I took 12 weeks paid time off. So I mean, if you’re playing the short game and only looking at the here and now, I was an easy target. No one, in no industry is immune to being laid off. The tech industry is experiencing unprecedented layoffs and I ended up being a casualty. Long story short, there is no such thing as job security.
As for me, I ended up taking a position with a new company 2 weeks and 1 day after being laid off. In between, I took the opportunity to joke with my kids and make light of the whole situation. Any chance that presented an opportunity to mention how unemployed my ass was, I obliged. I let my kids see that things always have a way of working themselves out. Everything happens for a reason. And it’s how you respond to adversity that shows your true character.
I’m now gainfully employed with great pay and the opportunities abound. I’ve even finished writing my second book Hysterical Hangouts with The Hindlegs. The most electrifying, dramatic, outrageous reality show debut of all time!
Just like Chris Rock, my career rises from the ashes and the outlook is incredible. You can knock me down, but you won’t keep me down!
And with that, I got laid off on a Thursday…but got back up on a Friday.