Have you ever been laid off?

I was only offered a full time job here about two months ago, July 26, and had worked as a contractor for about three months prior to that. I learned this morning that, as part of a corporate downsizing plan, my position was being eliminated. Based on the prepared materials I was given, developed by a third party, it seems obvious that this is not limited to me alone and it’s been some time in the planning.

Being that this has been my first real, respectable job and thus, my first time being laid off, what do I need to know? I am being offered a severance package of one month’s salary and the option to continue with my health benefits at my expense for 18 months. I haven’t yet received my benefits, though – I filled out the paperwork for them last week, actually – and am unsure if I can elect to keep them.

They have asked me to stay on as a contractor for the remainder of the year and I’m likely to accept that offer. Is that wise?

As you might imagine, I’m a bit flummoxed right now and I’m not sure, really, how much autonomy I have in making this go as well as possible.

So, yeah. Advice is needed and welcome. Thanks.

Madison,

Welcome to Corporate America… Do not take it personally…

IMHO, take the severance and the health benefit package. Accept the contract position and do your best. Polish your resume and get it out now.

My next bit of advise would have been unthinkable ten years ago… If you are offered a good position somewhere else, give a minimum of two weeks notice and go. In the past, I would have recommended finishing your contract first.

I repeat, don’t take it personally. Your immediate supervision have as little control over these events as you. If they have a continuing requirement for your job position, they will send that requirement up the chain. Do not be surprised if the job offer you end up accepting is with the company you are now with (stranger things have happened).

Good Luck,

Mike

Ahh the wonders of the working world.

I have also had this happen to me a couple times as of now. While it does, to say the least, “inhale audibly”, I see your situation being a bit of a help more than a hinder in your future jobs.

First off, and this is only my opinion, but keep the job as a contractor.
My experience with the working world is although your benefits are up to you to maintain now, the contractor positions offer more pay in the long run.

As for your next year. I see you as having a few choices.

  1. Work as a contractor and deny the possibility of a lay off after your year as just a fluke, and as business gets better they may decide to keep you on after that year. (That’s kind of a pipe dream as most companies are looking to increase the profits, and cut the costs nowadays and thinking that in a year things will be different is a fools perspective on the situation.)

  2. Work your year, knowing that your job is toast in a year and look for work as your time is coming to an end. Don’t leave your current job on a bad note (references are key), but make clear to any prospective employers your situation (maybe not the full details, but that you are currently employed and need to give notice to your current employer). I have seen many jobs listed over the past few months (re: year or so) that assure dealing with these issues discreetly.

  3. Work your year, and after that’s over start looking for a new job. Unemployment will probably pay you, but they (re: your current employer) may fight it and ask you why you didn’t look for work that past year when they told you explicitly your job was toast. Bad stuff to deal with. Unemployment claim fights (if they are needed) are never easy.

  4. Leave your job and start looking for a new one not having a stable income less your severance for a month… Depending on your field of work, this could take a week to find a new job, or almost a year or more… (been there, done that - wasn’t fun)

If I had to choose with the information you provided I would stay on as a contractor, and look for another job. The key in being a contractor (unless it is in your contract) is that you can leave at any time, and they can ask you to leave at any time.
If they have asked you to stay a contractor for a year, then not only is that one more year of experience you have but also income which would normally not be there if you left tomorrow.

Oh, and just for my benefit and out of curiosity, what type of work is this?

Maddie,

Mike and Elgin gave you good info so I won’t repeat it but I will build on it more and give you some additional info.

If you decide to leave now or wait until your contract is up and they give you a pink slip you will need to go to the local labor board and file it, after that you can usually call it in every week. If you do this have the state automatically deduct your taxes, it will make your life easier when it comes time for you to file your taxes. When you’re on unemployment they may call you anytime and ask to see if you’ve been actively seeking a job so keep track of all the places you’ve sent your resume and/or visited and filled out employment applications. You can also go to the labor board and describe what your situation is and they can give you all the options you have. They may also help you with locating another job if you wish. I don’t know your situation with being between New York and Washington so this may factor in also.

Find out more info before accepting to continue your current health benefits. Health insurance is very expensive and continues to rise. If you need to pay for coverage completely out of your pocket your company may allow you other alternatives like COBRA which is good for people who need coverage for a short amount of time, typically between jobs. My company allows people to go to COBRA if they’re leaving since it’s a lot cheaper than staying with Aetna which the company automatically gives us while we’re employed there. One word of caution though, some insurance companys will not accept pre-existing conditions, which means if you’re currently going to the doctor or other specialist they may not cover you. In that case you should elect to stay with your current carrier. You may want to ask the insurance carriers if you have any questions.

Does you company have an HR person you can go to who can answer some of your questions? They can tell you if you can keep your benefits or not.

As for my opinion, I also say you should stay on as a contractor for now but start looking for another job. In 3 months when they say they no longer need you, you will at least know what’s out there if you don’t have another job lined up by then. This will also buy you some time in case there’s a slim possibility of another position opening up at your current company.

This summer I was not laid off, but I was pretty much told “no part time workers.”

The bad part about me being told that is that I started working part time for a few weeks because I was just finishing up classes in my spring 05 semester.

So in other words I started part time for a few weeks, worked full time for a few months, and quit because I could not work part time. :ahh:

The union at the place I worked did not want “part timers”.

Oh, well the job paid good, but it stunk so…

BTW I got a better part time job now with a little less pay so it works out!

I would say keep the contractor job and if you can afford it get the health insurance. While working as the contractor just do some job searching and if you find something quit! If you have to, don’t put in you’re two week notice, only if the new job that hires you needs you immediately.

Madison,
Before you make any decisions get all the facts from your employer. A one month severance for your length of service is pretty good, many are based on one week for every full year of service. The 18 months of medical is called “Cobra” and it reguired by law when the employer is of a certain size. It is expensive even for a young healthy person, so check on the cost. If you have any conditions that require care, and have already been accepted under your current plan, it might be wise to stay with it. You might be able to find a policy through an insurance broker that is way cheaper and has the same coverage.
Layoffs are a way of life these days. I know that it doesn’t make you feel better when it happens but you need to psyche yourself up and get back to work. Taking the contractor position may lead back to full time employment but the odds are against it. My advice has always been to keep a paying position so you can put food on the table while you look for something better. In most cases, an employer who lays off employees and goes to a contractor workforce is either in big trouble or has moved to a distinctly anti employee mindset. (also becoming more common. Interject political view of current administration here…)
However, if a job comes along take it. Employers generally do not hire new employees around the holidays unless they are desperate or need temps to get over the holiday rush. I would get to work and start sending out resumes.

Lots of sound advice above.
I only want to add that you “should always leave a job gracefully.” You never know what lies around the next corner.

something sounds fishy here.

are they offering you the same job back as a contractor? As an independant contractor? Or would you have to sign on with a temp agency?

They got you over a barrel. When you have been laid off you cannot refuse any job that is within something like 60 or 70% of your previous salary. If you do, then you will not receive any unemployment insurance.

IBM was notorious for saying they never laid off any employees. They simply said “your job requires you to move to India or South Africa” or some other absurd location for a person with a family. So your only option was to take it or to quit. Technically you were not “laid off”, so you could not collect unemployment. But we all know better.

Same thing with you. If you refuse the contract position (even if its at 70% of your present salary) then you are turning down a valid job offer, and you will get no unemployment insurance payments.

If they are asking you to work as an independant consultant or contractor then something is really fishy. According to the federal guidelines for self-employment, if you are doing exactly the same thing, in their office, with their equipment and computers, then you are not an independant contractor or consultant - they are playing games with the record keeping to deny you benefits. If thats the case then you need to talk to someone from your state employment office or Labor Board.

Ask a lot of questions and write down the answers. Don’t burn your bridges, NETWORK with everyone you know (or don’t know) at your present company before you leave. They may know of other companies looking for employees. You have your youth going for you - at least you don’t have 25 years of time invested in the company like I did when I got laid off - and I lost a lot of money invested that the company was supposed to match, too. It was a huge financial setback for me that I am still not recovered from, 4 years later.

Ask a lot of questions of your potential new employer, too, and don’t just jump into something because you’re desperate for work. Make sure it’s a good fit and you can afford the benefits, the commute is OK, the working hours are OK with your lifestyle, etc.

So, I’m finally back at work after taking a few days away to think things over and see what I wanted to do.

Thank you everyone for your kind words and advice. I am not a businessperson and have a lot of trouble understanding what, to me, appears to be the cutthroat world of business. You can’t imagine how difficult it’s been for me to reconcile working for a company that exists solely to profit. I like money and certainly know how to spend it, but I can’t imagine how or why a business can exist that serves no purpose other than to make money. They’re not here to save the world and I truly do not understand why.

This sort of thing is terrifying to me because I do not handle change well and because I am, despite my charming personality, useless. I’m really good at doing all sorts of things, but qualified to do nothing at all.

My responsibilities as a contractor are, ostensibly, supposed to be different than those of my current position, but the company has a habit of repurposing contractors pretty regularly. In my initial contract role, I was hired for a single initiative, then moved to a different group with a different role, and finally asked to work full time. Another person who was contracted for the same job I was initially is now doing something altogether different while waiting for another project to start. There’s no way for me to say, for certain, what my actual responsibilities will be.

All of that said, though, I need to work and don’t have much choice in the near term regarding employment. I’ll take the contracted position and keep my eyes peeled for other opportunities. The company is offering an outplacement service, but it’s difficult for me to get to and again, I’m useless. :slight_smile: Another sticky bit for me, personally, is the upcoming holiday season. I live clear across the country from everyone in my family and would never consider missing time with them at the holidays. More than that, I have unrefundable plane tickets – so I need some flexibility from a new job that’ll allow me time away.

Also, I can’t collect unemployment. It’s a long story, but the abridged tale involves my being fired from a slave-driving, temporary “Why am I here?” job that I loathed with the fire of ten thousand suns because I was a bit too committed to getting our 2005 robot done and that employer challenging my last claim for unemployment benefits. So, right now, I’m actually paying unemployment money. It’s funny how life works sometimes.

Everyone here has said that nothing that’s happened has anything to do with my performance and so I’ve presumed that this happened simply because I was the last one hired. Still, it’s difficult for me to imagine that it’s not performance related because, if I were an invaluable asset, they’d have picked someone else. They must have some autonomy in who goes, right? Though, checking my e-mail today, I wonder if this decision was made by someone I’ve never met and I don’t yet know if I feel better or worse about that.

I’m getting by. I went to the state fair on Thursday; albeit a bit earlier than I expected. I went out with friends on Friday, but skipped a trip I’d planned to Idaho on Saturday. Yesterday, I wished a friend farewell as he’s leaving for England this week. Life goes on, the Beatles said, but I do wish it’d go on a road that’s a little less bumpy.

Again, thanks everyone. I guess it’s only fitting that “Job Search 2K3” and “Job Search 2K4” be a complete trilogy.

Welcome to the world of big business. It’s really tough to go through what you are going through and tougher still not to “take it personally”. Especially if you are the type of person who gives a lot of yourself to your job. I also do not handle change well. There is a book out there that I found helpful in making the change - I will have to check for the title of it again - and I will PM you with it. You are not “useless” - do not focus on what you are “qualified” to do - focus on the skills you can bring to a new employer. Try to get to the outplacement service if nothing else but to take personality tests and be open to suggestions of alternate careers. Practice interviewing skills, polish your resume, posting your skillsets at the top, not your work experience. Frankly, an employer may not care what company you worked for in the past, but rather, what skills you can bring to his/her organization.

Madison,
You are most definitely not “useless”. If you have been hired once or twice, someone saw something in you of value. I have never met a single person in FIRST that I thought or found to be useless. Work on what you are good at, get counseling help if available from your employers EAP (Employee Assistance Program) to get you over the hump. Take a look at any and all possible leads, no matter how small. You are going through a rough time and you will get through it. You are a FIRSTer after all and have seen some of the roughest times anyone could imagine. Use your skills, brainstorm, plan, execute. You can do it.

Losing your job is a shock to your system, second only (I think) to the death of a close family member or spouse.

you spend more than half your waking hours at work. When thats suddenly taken away from you that is very stressfull and disturbing.

Understand this and accept that you are going through a difficult time. Most likely you will go through a grieving process, with all the different phases (anger, denial, attempts to bargan your way out…)

Sometimes being knocked out of your normal routine can be a good thing. This might spur you on to find a really excellent job, or even to start your own business.

I know I’m the third person to say this but you’re not “useless”!

Losing a job is very stressful especially when you start wondering about putting food on the table and paying rent, but feeling useless will only make you feel worse. It’s not that you’re useless, but like you said, you’re working for a company who’s sole idea is to make a profit. They don’t see you as “Madison” a person, instead you’re only a “number”. They want a bigger profit margin and one way to do it was reduce the amount of “numbers” working for them. Turning these “numbers” into “contractors” is one way to do it. Usually contractors have less benefits than employees which equals saving money.

Bottom line, don’t take it personally like we’ve mentioned before and don’t bring yourself down. Maddie, you’ve done Solidworks drawings, you’ve helped out in the mechanical threads, you HAVE abilities and skills, we’ve all seen it! :slight_smile: Think about what you have done and what you can do and go from there.

Y’know, I was once offered payment for helping a FIRST team and I turned it down. It seemed like that was money better spent on the students when all along, I could’ve had a career for myself. :slight_smile:

Before moving to Seattle, I was offered two jobs doing mechanical design work – one with a major FIRST sponsor – and I turned both of them down. At the time, I was disillusioned with engineering. I loved what I was going in FIRST and hated what I was learning in class and came to equate engineering with school rather than with fun. That was pretty stupid.

I’ve just come from a meeting my boss set up for me with someone else here at the company that’s working on “the next big thing.” It was hard to seem interested in the project without showing desperation and I’m not sure how well I did at that.

I’d love for an opportunity to work in a mechanical design environment, but as time goes by, it seems like my work experience and growing skillset have less and less relevance to the things I like doing and I will get shoehorned into doing things that I don’t like as much. That, too, is pretty scary.

If you are ready to move back to engineering than do it. Use the time with your present company to interview for what you really want. Companies understand career changes and you are young enough for it to be a non-issue.

My advice is to pick a career you enjoy. There will always be bad days at work but if you are doing what you enjoy you will make it through.

My first job out of college I work at Bullard’s, a now non-existent machine tool manufacturer. They had six lay-off’s in the two years I was there. Each one was bad for everyone, those who were dismissed and those who stayed. I left two months before my level was laid off. Point is, you will make it, you just have to fight for yourself.

Good news! My boss talked with a few people around other parts of the company that were looking for help and I now have a new position. I am being, though somewhat temporarily, un-laid-off through March 1, 2006. If the program I’m moving to ends up being successful, there’s good potential that things may go longer than that.

Yay :slight_smile:

That is great news, but keep all of your options open. Something spectacular might open up.

Madison,

The good news isn’t just the extension of the job, it’s that you have someone who recognizes your skillsets and is willing to help you get into a better situatiion. Everyone has untapped skils that we don’t even realize are potentially useful for various tasks.

My degree (Horticulture) has nothing to do with my job (polymer research), but it is amazing how many times I can draw back on some horticulture training I received that directly relates to the task I’m trying to accomplish. How I got this job has been a series of bosses who helped me by recommending my skills on to my next potential boss. As you move through projects, you gather additional skills and they often will help prepare you for your next position.

A career is never static.

Good Luck!