Losing a job can be very traumatic.
How to recover from a layoff?
Been laid off? It has an emotionally draining effect. So,
what is the best way to cope with a layoff?
RELEASE the flood of negative emotions out of your system;
if you try to hold back that anger, you will only make yourself
sick and feel lousy.
One of the solutions is to write about your feelings, all
of them. Put your pain, fear, anger, frustrations, and grief
down on paper. Say what you want to say, need to say, on the
page. This is called cathartic writing. The purpose of cathartic
writing is to empty your head and providing all important
emotional release. Here is a good example, well written piece
by Ana Sierra Leonard.
Put your screams and yells on the paper, look at them with
the eyes of a detached observer and then calmly move on.
The unavoidable fact is that the only person who's really
got your best interests at heart is you. Not to worry too
much about it. Every negative has a positive, even if it is
hard to see it.
Career hurts, but life goes on...
Time To Take Huelita's Advice
This narrative poem
examines the layoff survivor syndrome from a first person
perspective, in the format of a journal entry. The survivor
is a second-generation Hispanic, female executive at a financial
institution remembering the advice of her grandmother, Huelita,
whose view of the downsizing is through the lens of the garment
I am one of the last
survivors of a venerable hundred-year-old Wall Street firm.
We recently moved to the fourth floor of an old, unwanted,
downtown Manhattan location where the bones of another long
gone brokerage firm are buried. Our world has collapsed, struck
down by internal hemorrhaging with no chance of recuperation.
Blank-eyed, soon to be unemployed, we wander from task to
task without mission or purpose. Strangers in three-piece
suits, out of place as if in a time warp, busy themselves
picking through the financial remains like vultures over a
Taking her advice, I drag myself to work everyday. Signs of
decay and planned demise go from barely noticeable to obscenely
obvious. Overhead lights that were once repaired immediately,
now flicker for indeterminate periods before plunging into
darkness never to be replaced. Offices of the once rich and
famous are temporary rest stops for stacks of rusted gray
cabinets. Unadorned coat racks lean against abandoned cubicle
walls, lined up like unarmed soldiers after a war. The cleaning
lady doesnít bother to unwrap the toilet paper; she throws
a few rolls inside the bathroom door and quickly leaves as
if escaping a leper colony. The elevators have joined the
general meltdown: they donít come cleanly to a quick halt;
they donít go directly to the requested floor. They bounce
gently to stop for long periods of time on now unoccupied
floors, waiting for passengers that never come.
So, I keep coming back. Women in my family have always worked.
My grandmother spent fifty-two years, a proud union member,
sewing samples at the same lingerie factory in the garment
district of New York City. She was surrounded by row after
row of tables covered with the material of the season: polyester,
flannel, cotton, nylon, and rayon. Huge spools of multi-colored
ribbons, trimming and lace hung down around her, surrounding
her machines like the drapes hiding the magician in the Wizard
Last summer, right before her eightieth birthday, she went
down to one of those boarded-up firetrap garment factories
and asked this old geezer if she could do some part time work.
She didnít need the money. She was bored. Why he even bothered
to even give this white-haired stooped over old lady the time
of day is beyond me but, maybe he was bored too. He gave her
the once over and says, "Can ya woik dat machine?" In response,
she sits down at a Singer, carefully threads it with her semi-knarled
hands and sews a seam faster and straighter than any of the
illegals heís paying less than minimum wage to. ĎStoogeí starts
salivating and points to the embroiderer, "Öand dat one?"
She shrugs her one good shoulder, grins to herself like an
old fool and spins her way back in time to the lace factory
where she had her first job in Puerto Rico.
(Huelita said, "I finished
my high school diploma. Did you know that? I got a good
factory job to help my Mama. In this way, I married the
only taxi driver in Rio Piedras and came to America. That
is why I have my own house. You finished the masters so
you can have your own house too. We have the education
so the bosses want us. You stay right there and get their
money from them before you go.")
As do all young people, she had dreams and they cost money.
She had to pay for her dreams, the dreams of her family, the
dreams of her people. If she could pay for them, she would
be loved, wanted, needed. Money brought her the power she
wielded because she worked. So when Mr. Garment Factory Boss
Man eagerly whispered breathlessly, "Sweetheart, when can
ya start?" she feels whole again, triumphant, still capable
of being in charge. Imagine the look on his face when she
turned around, winked and said, "Never mind, I donít need
"You donít need this job. I have plenty money from el
pensiůn and from the social security and from El
Viejoís pensiůn. You can have it if you need
it. But those people owe you that money from all the years
you work. You stay until they pay you. You make that Mr.
Boss Man pay but you donít need his job.")
Not to say that I donít need a job, just that this is the
first time that Iíve faced the prospect of not having one.
And, Mr. Boss Man, I donít want just any job. I can
get any job. I just thought that this retirement at
someone elseís expense would be a great time to make my mark
on the world. You know, that one career making opportunity
where I could change the culture of a corporation, get my
picture on the cover of Forbes, write that New York Times
best-selling book and retire with a worthy epitaph ("The Enterprise
Intellectually, this is the perfect time to regroup. No more
sixty, seventy hour weeks. No more decisions upon which my
next bonus is decided. No more giving a damn about whether
or not the CFO, CIO, CEO or COO believes that I am valuable
to the firm. Now, I am the firm. Thatís empowerment. (Okay,
so thereís almost nothing left but itís all mine!)
"If you have to get a job and be a vice president again,
you should tell them that you are not going to stay to
the end when they start to lose the money. Tell them you
want good benefits like the union people get. Tell them
you donít need the job but they need you. Yes sir. They
In retrospect, the value of this experience was that it was
a virtually risk free environment. I began to make decisions
that I felt too confined to make before the firm closed; what
were they going to do, fire me? I canít understand the people
who rarely showed up for work, did nothing, took no risks,
made no decisions and never got past the anger phase. Oh,
it was pretty much justified as a Ďthey owe it to me after
I worked so hard and then they abandoned meí attitude. Once
I hit acceptance (and, trust me, it took longer and felt worse
than I thought it would), there was no looking back. Just
how many opportunities will a provincial, Brooklyn-born, Baptist-bred,
puertorriqueŮa get to sit down and go mano-a-mano
with a hard-nosed, butt-kicking, cigar-smoking chief financial
officer? Look Huelita, Iím playing with the big boys now!
But playing with the big boys has its costs. Iíve had the
flu seven times in four months. My husband and daughter retreat
to their respective corners when I get home. Sympathetic survivors
stare at me with sidelong glances in ghostly hallways. Whatís
left of the shreds of management wonder why I smile during
pointless still-endless meetings. Long-gone co-workers check
in on me to see how the patient is doing. (God bless those
phone calls; theyíre like getting flowers in the hospital.)
And, most people probably feel as did one of the last to leave;
he bid me a fond farewell with a "Get a grip. Get out. We're
Iím not one of those people naive enough to think that a life
long commitment to a corporation will be rewarded with a gold
watch and a nice pension. Iím a woman of the nineties, a baby-boomer,
a poverty phoenix. Nobody owes me a thing. Contrary to what
Newt thinks, I donít think this is a welfare state. (Can you
believe that after I approached this toe-tapping mortician
of an executive about the unfair treatment my staff was receiving,
he said to me, "What do you people want? Something for nothing?"
I wanted to take his golden parachute and tie his butt up
to the flagpole outside the unemployment office.) Well, my
guilt was in believing that integrity, loyalty, hard work,
commitment and professionalism would be recognized and rewarded.
What was I thinking?
So, Iíve been sizing up the situation. You have to do what
you like and what pays the bills. Sometimes you luck out and
thereís a match. Sometimes you do what you like and skip the
amenities. Life isnít fair but every dog has his day. One
day that parachute wonít open and Mr. Boss Man will pass me
on the way down. Iíll remember to give him Huelitaís regards.