The Upside to Downsizing
Young people entering the workforce today can expect a career that takes them through many different phases and employers. This experience is in sharp contrast to their grandparents, who may have had the stability of joining a firm right out of school and retiring from the same place with a tidy pension forty years later.
Then along came the technological revolution of the late twentieth century, and the norms for how business is conducted got turned upside down. The basic principles of operating profitably while offering quality products and services continue, but the manner in which these are carried out has evolved with stunning speed, in some cases leaving workers who were highly skilled, but in specific or limited areas, on the sideline.
With the advent of technological efficiencies, large companies began reducing their workforce with rapid and severe slashes in payroll. Soon thereafter, corporations began to compete globally, seeking ways to extend their reach through mergers and acquisitions. These mergers, which continue today, naturally result in duplication of certain functions, necessitating more layoffs to reduce redundancy.
One thing's for sure, there is no shame in being laid off due to a corporate downsizing or merger. So many people have gone through this mill that it is commonly accepted as not being a poor reflection on you or your performance. Sometimes it is just bad luck.
So what to do if you are one of the thousands of people who find themselves the star of an unplanned farewell party? There are two broad answers to this question: Try to keep doing what you were doing, or try something new.
Option 1: Stick with It
After being laid off, you will probably consider looking for another job in your field. But to get something at the same level or better may require relocating. If you are not currently burdened with real estate, kids in school, or other major commitments, this may be just the excuse you have needed to see another part of the country—or the world, for that matter.
Perhaps you want to continue in your field but cannot, or do not want to, make a major move to a different area. This could be a great time to review your skills and experiences and transform yourself into an independent provider of services. You may even be able to get hired as a subcontractor by the very firm that turned you out. Assuming some of the old team of managers is still there, they certainly know your talents. They would probably even be willing to pay you a higher fee than your prior salary because they are no longer carrying the overhead of your paid vacation, health benefits, 401(k) contributions, and more.
Most likely you would start off by offering your own services. Say you had been a marketing manager for a consumer products company. You have gained knowledge and experience over the years in sales promotions, developing marketing materials, and buying different types of media for advertising. You may have been involved in organizing and running trade shows for your company. Throughout all that time you were building relationships with advertising agencies, members of the media, printers, convention centers, travel agents, and hotels. You have found sources for promotional items. You have negotiated contracts. So, without missing a beat, you have a full Rolodex of talented and reliable vendors you can put to work immediately for your own customers. It may even make sense to join forces with some of these vendors and create a new, more compelling marketing firm.
Option 2: Radical Change
Have you ever found yourself driving upcountry on a beautiful fall day thinking, wouldn't it be great to chuck it all and run a charming bed and breakfast? Or maybe the secret chemist side of you has been watching the aging baby boomers drop serious money on youth-restoring creams and you are thinking, “I could do that.” Well, the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” may all converge in the form of a pink slip freeing you to get started on what has only been a niggling idea until now. One of the best homemade ice-cream stores in the Northeast was started by a fellow after his high-tech company was acquired by an out-of-state corporation.
Making a big change is scary, especially when you didn't plan the change. However, you may be ready to stop working eighty hours a week for someone else and do it for yourself. When you are the boss you only need to look in the mirror to see if it is okay to leave for a few hours to watch a child's performance.
If you're planning to make a radical shift with your new venture, perhaps trying out a field you have always thought would be fun but is unfamiliar to you, fear not. In our information-rich world, you will be able to get whatever information you need to start your new undertaking and make it flourish.