I was having a conversation with a co-worker and they seemed surprised when I told them that one of the best things to happen to me in my career was being laid off for the first time.
In 2008, I was working in the two worst industries you could possibly work in. My parent company was a home builder and the company I worked directly for was a mortgage company. After 5 years of service, my position was terminated and I was laid off for the very first time in my life.
As a disclaimer, I was around 29 years old, not married, had no kids and I work in the IT industry, so those factors definitely helped ease some of the pain of being laid off.
Lessons learned while in the process of being laid off
As stated, I worked for the mortgage company that I was eventually laid off from for 5 years. I thought it was very peculiar that I had wandered around the office floors of this company for 5 years with all the trust in the world. However, the moment that I was informed by my direct supervisor that my position had been terminated, all of a sudden I had to be escorted everywhere, from the bathroom to my final exit interview. With some of the violence and destruction of company property that has occurred when employees are terminated, I don’t blame them for being cautious but it definitely drove the point home that one day you are part of the team and the next, you are an outsider. What I learned from this particular experience is that the days of working for one company for your entire career was over. Not to come off as bitter but another valuable lesson that I felt I learned was that there was really no loyalty in business and as I have gotten older, realize, that their probably never was.
Lessons learned after being laid off
If you have read my blog So you want to be an IT Consult, I spoke of being behind in technology because I worked for a Mortgage company and my overall technical skills were very outdated. I remember frantically Googling the latest technologies and trying to spot books I could read to get ready to interview for my next job. My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t even get a chance to get in front of an interviewer because my skills were fairly antiquated.
Back in 2008, my main vehicles of choice to find employment were Monster, Careerbuilder and a host of other job search sites. So after updating my resume on these sites, I actually started to get invited to interviews. Once I started to interview, I noticed a “trend” in many of my interviews. When the interviews started, they were very technical in nature but as the interview progressed, I actually started to connect with the interviewer and most of the interviews became very personal in nature and it was as if I had known the interviewer for years. In one interview, the CIO of the company I was interviewing with and I debated at length about whether hard work was something you learned or was it something you were born with and which person in our lives taught us our work ethic. In another interview, the interview got so personal, the interviewer was telling me about how he was worried about his oldest child going off to college and how stressful the college selection process had been for him and his family. I learned many important lessons after I noticed these trends in my interviews. First, I started to understand that people in general would rather hire someone they like and let them learn the technical aspects of the job they may not be familiar with versus hiring someone who is fully qualified for the job but has a terrible personality. The second valuable lesson that I learned was that I was naturally gifted at making people feel comfortable around me, I was a very good listener and I genuinely cared about the interviewer. Eventually, I would come to understand the concept of Emotional Intelligence and that I had actually been applying them in my interviews.
What eventually happened
Eventually, I ended up accepting an offer from a college friend who was an IT manager at a Local Municipality in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. This leads me to the final lesson I learned, which is that building up and cultivating a professional network is extremely important to your career and personal growth. I have seen survey data that suggests that as high as 80% of jobs today are filled by someone who was referred by an employee of the company filling the position.
Yes, being laid off completely sucks. One of the worst feelings in the world is to be rejected and told to go away. However, in my case, I feel that I learned some very valuable lessons on how business, people and I work. These lessons have been very valuable to my career and personal growth and were bright spots in an otherwise crappy process.