A little more than a week ago, I lost my job.
It was a typical Friday morning, I’d just finished a big project, my boss texted me that morning me to pick up some equipment at a client site which was on my drive into work… and shortly after I got to the office he sat me down and told me that, due to the state of the dollar and the fact that money is tight, he was going to have to combine my position and another coworker’s position; and since neither of us could do both jobs he would be terminating our employment and hiring somebody new to replace us. And since I work with confidential client information, he’d like me to turn in my keys and company equipment and leave the building.
Wham. Just like that. No warning at all. I had a job, which for all I knew was stable and long-term and I was doing pretty well at it considering I had been being moved to salary in December and given my own office recently, and then twenty minutes later I was standing in the parking lot with a cardboard box of personal items and the promise of three weeks’ severance pay and a letter of recommendation pending the return of some stuff I had in my home office (chargers and the like). It was like being kicked in the gut… and the best I could do under the circumstances was try and walk out of there with my dignity intact.
It was not a pleasant drive home, is what I’m saying.
I was pretty numb that first weekend. This isn’t the first time I’ve lost a job, but to be just tossed aside like that was brutal: I’d worked hard at my job and worked closely with the boss for three and a half years and I felt that it was pretty unfair to terminate me without any sort of warning. (The other now-former coworker, an old friend of the boss’, apparently knew this was coming down the pipe for both of us; we haven’t talked about how much she did or did not know and I suspect we never will.) For the record it wasn’t a layoff, which I specifically asked about, I was simply being dismissed without cause. There’s no job to go back to. I will note that no offer was made to train me up to meet the requirements of the new position; There was the phrase “well, try and see it from my perspective”, which really isn’t the most calming thing to hear from the person who’s firing you.
But you know what? If it’s a falling-dollar recession thing, I suppose I understand the necessity. I was trying to be sympathetic and understanding about the situation. I was trying not to be as hurt as I felt, I was trying not to have hard feelings about it even though the boss handled dismissing me in a pretty callous and unfeeling way… but then I got my final pay, my severance, and my “letter of recommendation” and that’s when I got angry.
Final pay and severance? Fine. I’m getting the absolute minimum the law will allow, but whatever. I mean, we fired somebody last year for cause and she got six weeks‘ severance, whereas for a blameless downsizing I only got three, but I’ll let that pass. I won’t get angry about that.
No, what made me furious was the so-called letter of recommendation: Three and a half years I worked closely with that man, and I got a three-sentence letter acknowledging that yes, I worked for him; some praise for my english-language skills and that I got along with my coworkers; any other questions please feel free to call… although he neglected to include any contact information on the letter.
That was a slap in the face.
I showed it to the Mother-In-Law™, who’s had to read (and write) a few of those letters before her retirement, and her jaw dropped. Apparently there’s a particular look to a letter of reference where the boss doesn’t really want to recommend someone, and this one didn’t even meet those low standards: As near as I can figure, my now-former boss either couldn’t be bothered to make the effort to google and copy-paste a form letter, or decided to damn me with faint praise. Either way, it’s a completely useless piece of paper that I would be embarrassed to show a prospective employer, and frankly I think I deserved a bit more consideration than that. That was just humiliating. Fire me, fine, but was it really necessary to salt the wound?
And as angry as I am, The Wife™ is even angrier. I’ve tried to be forgiving, tried to be understanding, and you know what? I’ve given up. I don’t have the emotional energy to spare on that right now, I’ve got problems of my own and I’ve decided I’m not going to worry about whatever the hell my former employer’s damage is.
So I’m back to looking for work… in Peterborough, the city with the highest per-capita unemployment rate in the entire country.
Trying to stay positive: The Wife™ has a job, the house is paid off, we’ve got family who can help out a bit if needed. We’re in no danger of ending up on the street, is what I’m saying. We’ll have to tighten our belts, obviously, but this isn’t the crisis it would have been even five years ago. I’ve gotten a lot of messages of support, including (most practically) requests that I forward copies of my résumé to various people so that they could shop it around on my behalf and yes, I need to do that soon.
I’m going to be honest, aside from starting the ball rolling with EI, I took last week pretty easy for the sake of self-care. The Wife™ and I had a trip to Toronto planned for this past weekend, and rather than cancelling for economy’s sake we went through with it. And I’m pretty glad we did: We managed to have an excellent dinner with a friend; The Wife™ got to dance the night away at the club; and I got to watch her dancing, which is a lot of fun. (For the record, I rarely dance — in any form of dance developed more recently than the Renaissance, the phrase “a full-body dry heave set to music” would be a generous assessment of my form.) We talked a lot. We took a badly-needed break from the suck that has been the last couple of weeks. We made some plans.
This week, the goal is to re-write my résumé (or rather, résumés, plural, since I generally tailor them for various fields of work that I’m looking for) and I’m trying to keep a positive mindset. Emotionally, even more than a week later, I’d like nothing better than to go on a massive carb-binge and curl up in the dark, which is why I’ve redoubled my efforts to keep on the high-protein diet and get about thirty or forty minutes in on the treadmill every morning; giving up would be very, very easy, which is why I can’t do that.
I’m also trying to force myself to write a little bit every day that isn’t job-search related; maybe a bit of fiction, or some political commentary (although to be honest most of it this past week has been so half-assed that I’ve been erasing it out of sheer embarrassment.) Perhaps I can get something published — like, for money — which I’ve always wanted to do.
This isn’t the end of the world. Yes, I feel pretty ill-used by my former boss and I think I’ve got good reason to feel that way. Objectively, one could argue that the reason I feel the insult so keenly is that the injury isn’t too bad. But I could have done without either the insult or injury; I had my life on track. Even setting aside the iniquitous dismissal followed by the affront of that so-called letter of reference, what really frustrates me going forward is that my plans have all been derailed: I was going to start sailing lessons this summer; We were planning to travel; I was going to put a fair bit of money in the bank for the future.
And now… not so much.