Getting laid off. This was what happened to me more than a half dozen years ago now. I was the first one to be let go from a start-up that was starting to show cracks in its hull. It wasn’t a surprise. I didn’t get along with most of my colleagues. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to get along with the rest of the team; rather, a clique had formed before I arrived and they had apparently decided that I wasn’t to be part of it. In the two years that I was there, the only person that I got along with was with the wife of a colleague from a previous job and another outcast that wasn’t part of the clique. Unfortunately for me, the outcast left voluntarily a year before I was let go.
When the kraft envelope was gently pushed across the cafeteria table by my then-manager, I already knew what was inside. I read the form letter inside, thanked him for his “support”, and minding my manners, grudgingly said goodbye to those that made the working environment so unpleasant for me the past two years. I then gathered my things and left the building.
I grinned and bore the job for so long because it paid well and the high tech employment market was still very soft. I wasn’t willing to go without an alternative in hand. But now that someone else had made the decision for me, I felt relieved, as if I could finally exhale and release the tension that had been building up for so long.
During the drive home and for the rest of the day, many thoughts raced through my mind. I looked back. I looked forward. I dreamed. I dreaded. In looking back, it was clear that my work suffered as a result of the workplace environment. In looking back even more, I recalled the day I got a call from a recruiter about a “great job with a new start-up”. Recruiters are typically compensated by receiving a fee worth 20-30% of the annual salary of a successful recruit. The recruiter that I was dealing with was so desperate that he offered to give me half of his commission when I was still unsure whether to make the jump. I declined, although given how things turned out, I should have taken his money as compensation for mental anguish. In looking forward, I wondered if I’d have to relocate. I wondered if I’d have to work with untrustworthy recruiters again. I wondered if I’d have to work at McDonald’s.
As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. The job market was pretty poor, so there was no time to waste. All that introspection lasted for only a single day. The day after, I re-wrote my résumé, I checked out job websites, I sent out e-mails, I made calls, and yes, I even made calls to recruiters. If there’s one thing that I learned about recruiters during that period of job search, it is that they are at most a small step above used car salesmen — slick, sly, and deals only in shades of truth. I attended job fairs. I attended government sponsored re-training information sessions. I attended “networking events”. I paid money to subscribe to a job-posting aggregation website. I visited the government’s department of human resources to pick up pamphlets on job hunting.
By the end of the first week, I had my first interview. By the second week, I had my second. Both ended up in job offers, one of which was from FluxCorp, my current employer. By the third week, I was working again. I have to admit that I was surprised by the pace of events. The interviews weren’t due to networking events, recruiters, or government agencies. I don’t think it was time wasted to pursue those avenues, but still, they were low-probability low-efficient ways to find jobs to begin with. What did work for me was relying on not just my network, but on those network connections that were strong. In the case of FluxCorp, it was an ex-colleague who introduced me to his acquaintance that landed me an interview, and eventually the job.
And this is what is so great about keeping in touch. It isn’t that friends are there for your exploitation, but aren’t you glad they’re there when you need them. And so, my online friends, through blogs and twitter, may I never need to call upon you for my employment needs; but shall that day ever come, I hope you will be willing to give a little help to your friend.
Got any friendly career advice or story to share? Leave them in the comments.