For the first time in more than 30 years, I have nowhere to go when I get up tomorrow morning. I don’t have to jump in the shower, rush out the door with a piece of toast or muffin in my mouth, and race the car up the highway. I don’t have to stop at the local coffee shop on my way into work for my daily jolt of caffeinated energy. In these days of COVID-19, I don’t even have to rush to my home office and log-in to work via my laptop.
Nope, no one is expecting me. No one needs my help on an executive sales presentation or a piece of important web content or even a new change management strategy. No one is waiting by my desk or sending me text messages to check-in with me for direction on a new assignment. No one needs to see me. I have nowhere to be and I’m not sure how to act.
Vanished into thin air
I wish the change was my own doing. I wish I could say that I saw Apple or Microsoft before they became the Apple or Microsoft of today and made a killing on the stock market. I wish I could say that I ran into a hot streak, put all my chips on the Roulette or Poker Table in some exotic Las Vegas casino and walked out a multimillionaire. I wish I could say that the Pittsburgh Pirates recognized my blazing fastball, were willing to look past my age and growing paunch, and finally came calling, signing me to a record contract, but unfortunately, that is not the case.
If not those scenarios, I wish I could simply say that I had served my time, paid my dues, and was retiring to the good life. I wish I could say that, but I still have many, many years until retirement comes calling.
No, no, gambling riches and the wonderful power of compounding interest and time have nothing to do with my current dilemma. I took a chance last year by leaving a stable job that I had been at it for a good number of years to start a new job. I probably could have stayed in my old job for another ten years, I believed in my employer and still do, but I chose to try a new challenge.
Looking back now, my timing left a little to be desired, but little did I know what was just around the corner. It wasn’t just me either, little did my new employer know how the Coronavirus pandemic would decimate the country and economy. My employer tried to hold on, but inevitably decided to furlough a number of workers, including me.
Pink slip city
There’s any number of words to describe my situation: furloughed, laid off, downsized, and let go all come to mind. My personal favorite is “getting a pink slip.” I get the image of a “fat cat businessman” dressed in a three-piece suit handing out little slips of pink paper to workers in an assembly line and me, holding up my hands to say, “nope, I’m good, I don’t need one of those.”
In real life, though, I never actually got a pink slip. Instead, my company CEO talked about the firm needing to make changes for its own survival. He talked about the challenge of the current market and how the firm’s financial whizzes are expecting a slow, drawn-out 12- to 18-month recovery. He used words like downsizing and staff reduction, but the result is still the same for me: I’m out of a job.
I should probably add that I’ve been employed nonstop since well before college. It feels like forever since I’ve been without a job. Oh, I’ve switched jobs, but I’ve always had another one lined up and ready to go. This is my first experience with no title behind my name.
Yup, I need to let those words sink in: I’m out of a job.
Adapting on the fly
Oh, I must admit that I saw the layoff coming, like a driver plays back in slow motion a horrible car accident. However, I can’t say the move is not without some good news. I was under an enormous amount of stress in my job and, in some ways, it wasn’t a great fit. Since I first learned of the news, I’ve found it liberating in a strange way. I now have the chance for a restart or, in other words, a mulligan. With this fresh start, I might even be able to move back to communications, a field closer to my heart.
In the meantime, though, I’m touching up my resume and kicking off a job search. I review my resume now with a fine-tooth comb the way some armchair epidemiologists eye up the daily state by state COVID-19 numbers. I try not to dive down too many rabbit holes, but I inevitably start to question everything: Does this statement on my resume put my best foot forward or does it make me look like a selfish horse’s ass? Does “managed” or “facilitated” sound more forceful? How can I position myself better in my cover letter to make me look more polished? Oh brother, the challenges.
Here today, gone tomorrow
Fortunately, thanks to good planning, my family and I should be fine for a while. Thank goodness for that Rainy Day Fund. When things were good, we had put away a little each paycheck in reserve for an unexpected surprise. In any event, thanks to our planning and a small severance that I’m getting from my employer, I’m able to take some time to process and adapt to this change. One day I was working on an important client project, the next I was handing over all my notes to my coworker—but, yes, I definitely need to get a new job. I can’t stay on the sidelines forever.
In the end, though, I’m struck by this quirk: For the first time in 30 years I have nowhere that I need to be and it feels strange.