By November 12, 2008

What would you do if you got laid off?

Part of working in the dot-com industry are layoffs. My buddy BushPutin’s employer Pandora suffered some cutbacks about a month ago. Fellow Richmond-based company Circuit City filed for bankruptcy protection, which explains the sheer number of CC applicants that have come our way in the last three months.

Based on the rumblings around the campfire at my work, we’re due for some layoffs, too. Oh, sorry, that’s reductions in force.

At this point in my career, I know there’s nothing I can do to prevent or delay a layoff. I’ve been directly involved in or survived at least a half dozen layoffs and closures. There was never an instance where I said, “I wish I would have done XYZ,” or “I should have done a better job” or whatever. It’s business. Strategies change, products get spun off or killed, and companies shut their doors.

So, what can you do when a layoff may be in your future? Keep working hard, and daydream about what you’d do if you got shitcanned.

Scenario one: get the fuck out.
I’d sell most of my possessions (including my house) and buy a plot of land somewhere in Virginia. I’d buy a yurt for about $12,000 and live off-grid until I could piece together a self-sustaining habitat with power and plumbing. I’d do odd jobs/locksmithing until I could just say fuck it and never come down from the mountain again.
Chance of this happening: more slim than a retching supermodel.

Scenario two: start a new career.
Every time I start a new dot-com job I think to myself, “this is the last one.” To be honest, I hate my career. When people ask me what I do, I say, “nothing” because in two years or less everything a Web person works on will be significantly changed or gone. I’d like to do something that has a physical component to it. I’d like to be able to lock up a store and realize I was done for the day. Make something. Own something. Something tangible.

I’d really like to open a coffee shop, but I don’t have enough cash socked away. Opening up a cafe in the eye of an economic shitstorm is probably a bad idea, too.
Chance of this happening: slim.

Scenario three: take a break and ride my motorcycle around the country.
You may recall that this was my idea when my contract with my last employer was up. I hated that job and was looking forward to riding to San Francisco and back. I wound up getting my current job and my distaste for my (now sold) BMW K1200LTE put the kibosh on that trip.

However, a layoff would give me another reason to hit the road. Except that it’s cold in most of the country right now, and my chances of making it to the west coast and back without being buried in a snowstorm seem low. If a “right-sizing” takes place, it will happen way before the weather heats up again.
Chance of this happening: decent, even if it’s a shorter trip.

Scenario four: open up my own usability firm.
When full-time positions go down, contract positions go up. Contractors are easy to get rid of and are less expensive than full-timers. Based on my experience, contractors are also much better at their jobs than equivalent staff. I’ve done enough contract and permanent work that I might have enough experience to start my own consulting firm. The only catch to this is: startup capital will be hard to raise in this economy, and usability is one of the first things on the project chopping block. When teams cut costs, they look to usability, project management, and testing.
Chance of this happening: meh. Who knows, I’ve done crazier shit in my life.

What would you do if you got laid off (or maybe, what are you doing)?

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11 Comments on "What would you do if you got laid off?"

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  1. fishsprout says:

    I know exactly what I’d do… Hang with the dogs and train all day long and find some orgs to volunteer with. :)

  2. Ed says:

    Own me own firm. I layoff other people now.

  3. erin clare says:

    What haven’t I done, or tried to do after quitting or getting laid off from jobs?? I vote for you quitting and visiting Austin!

    Dell recently asked their employees to “volunteer to take days off unpaid” so they could avoid layoffs. Hmmm…so, take unpaid days off and you may not get laid of, but no promises! Weird.

  4. Bond says:

    I’d probably work on contract at my friend’s usability consulting firm… ;)

  5. Gremlin says:

    I worked for a consultant, the writing was on the wall, things were going badly. I went to work for a automation controls company. Now I write code for automation systems. The first time you execute a program and things in the real world start moving. Wow, it’s way better than the little black box.

    Along the way I got my Boiler Operators License, and my EPA CFC card. I’ve learned to do plumbing, electrical, controls, roofing, framing, and concrete. I could build a house tomorrow. If my company dies, I’ve got the skills to be an HVAC tech or business owner tomorrow.

  6. Starbucks says:

    When I got canned I took two months off from the real world to figure out what I wanted to do. I guess I have it figured out it is just going to take all of my savings to eventually do it (go to pastry school).

    We could always open a coffee house together :)

  7. BushPutin says:

    Didn’t you and I get laid off from the same place once?

  8. Mary says:

    Becareful with that ‘deciding what to do with your life’ I tried that and ended up a grad student.

    btw: There are some really nice roads in Ohio. Lots of steak.

  9. Sharon says:

    The first thing I would do is crap. Then after I calmed down a bit, I guess I’d reacess what I can do and have control over, and what I don’t. Then start taking action. I think a downsizing makes sense to start, and live more frugally.

    Then I might actually try like you say to find a way to be self sufficient.

  10. Nathan says:

    If I were to get laid off the first thing I would do is file for unemployment, then I would party for a week and sleep in, then I would start looking for a new job I guess.

  11. Grace says:

    One thing’s for sure, we all lived in the past few years with the idea that debt was good leverage,and now it is coming crashing down. I like your idea about living sustainably, and off the grid. Maybe I need to look into that…

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