Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The Layoff Project: "You are in the middle of a very emotional and stressful period."
Another pharma veteran writes in with his story for the Layoff Project:
What should you do the first week? Should you take a break? Jump right in to finding a new job?
File for unemployment immediately. We were eligible for benefits even though we were on severance. Take that money and sock it away for when your severance ends.
My company also gave us a week to clear our out stuff, send goodbye emails and the like (we had full access to the network, minus the electronic notebook). I think it's a good week to clear out the clutter, touch base with folks that might help you down the road and let the initial shock/anger/depression pass. You'll think more clearly in a week's time. I did.
How can your family and friends help?
Tougher question. After a while I got a bit tired of being asked questions about my severance, my job prospects, what I was going to do. I think good friends, colleagues and family members should give you some space until you start discussing things and take it from there. Even the conversations that had great intentions can feel like someone is pitying you. No one wants or needs that after losing your job, and maybe your career.
Was the help the company offered you (outplacement, etc.) useful?
It was useful to simply get out of the house and interact with human beings. A few classes were good, but most weren't geared towards scientists looking for jobs.
What financial advice can you offer? What should/did you do? What should you NOT do?
Again, file for unemployment and stash that money. Do not touch your 401K unless you're about to lose your house. My company gave us a sheet about what you shouldn't do that first month. Basically it said to make no major life decisions that first month (aside from the one they just made for you, of course). No major purchases, vacations, etc. I think those are actually good suggestions. You are in the middle of a very emotional and stressful period. You don't want to make major decisions while you're still in a bit of shock. Let things slow back down and start to assess your options.
When did you start looking for another position?
After two weeks. I had to travel to bury a relative, so that slowed things down a bit. There were a few openings in other areas in my company that I sought out unsuccessfully at first.
How painful was finding another position?
Basically in order to keep my wife from leaving her critical position, I ended up being placed into a Development group (I was in Discovery), doing a job I didn't have much experience or expertise. It was a great learning experience, but it was a bit ego bruising to land a job not because I was the best candidate.
What should someone be emotionally prepared for?
The 7 stages of grief, basically. Losing your job/career is very much similar to losing a loved one. You'll run through all the major emotions at one time or another.
How did you spend your typical day?
Lots of internet searching for jobs. Emailing friends and former colleagues. I read a lot of books that I had always wanted to, but didn't have the time. Worked out. Did all of the household chores, grocery shopping, cooking and the like. My dog loved all the extra attention and walks. Since she died in March, I look back to that time period very happily in some respects because I got to spend so much time with her that I never would have.
What behaviors do you think were helpful or not helpful?
I should have gotten out of the house more than I did, especially when the weather got nicer. I tended to hunker down at home too much. Get out, even if it's to the library. Volunteer someplace to be around others. One major rule I had was no drinking during the day if I was at home. It could be a slippery slope from having a beer with lunch to having 12 by dinner. Didn't want to slide down that road, especially as the unemployment time extends further.
As hard as it is to say, try to enjoy some of your time off. I hadn't had a break since college, and not having to be someplace every morning was kind of nice. I'd watch my wife head off to work while I drank coffee and read the newspaper. Do something that you've wanted to do but didn't have the time. Read, write, take on a project at home you always pushed aside. Work out, volunteer at a dog shelter or hospital. You never know where your next connection could come from. Lastly, don't blame yourself for losing your job and let go of the anger you may have from your former company. Let it go, it wasn't personal.
CJ here again. Thanks to our anonymous contributor and best wishes to him (and all of us.)