Back in July, it was obvious that my employer was in trouble and hemorrhaging profit losses. The leadership had made a significant change to our top program and enrollments were down 86% in the last quarter of the fiscal year. The talk of layoffs was a rumor buzzing around the summer heat. But we stayed positive, kept our heads down and tried to do our work while enjoying the hazy days of sunshine with our families.
As the heat of August cooled into September, the fiscal outlook was becoming more dire. We were now nearly 20 million dollars below expected budget. Upper management positions were being “retired”, out on “medical leave”, or even being eliminated all together. These would be the first of many cuts to the company’s staff. With the looming knowledge of layoffs and reorganization coming, other employees started cutting their losses and leaving for work elsewhere. These departures came to us as notices of “employee resignations”.
It was a Monday that our office became aware that our very own VP had cleaned out her office over the weekend. No notice or word to her work group. No word from Human Resources. She was gone and at that moment we all knew the day of reckoning was coming.
It happened on a Tuesday and spilled into Wednesday. 100 positions (20% of the workforce) were eliminated from the company. With about 40 positions being vacant (due to a hiring freeze), 50 some current positions were affected. People could be seen out of office windows packing up their cars in the parking lot. It was a sad day. It was a nerve-wracking day. When I knew my job was secure, I felt relieved, sad, and guilty that I still had a job while some of my friends did not.
I have survived my first company layoff.
Being born at the tail end of the Gen X generation, many of my fellow co-workers had already been through layoffs at previous jobs. I had not. This was new to me. A new feeling of vulnerability. I have been forced to take a hard look at my job, my values, my needs, my family’s needs, and try to make heads or tails of ‘what I want to do when I grow up’.
My job requires education ( I have a Master’s Degree) and skill. I have built a specified knowledge base over the last 6 years and have become somewhat of an “expert” at my job. However, just because I am good at my job, does not mean that I necessarily like my job. In fact, I have settled and stayed put, perhaps even stagnant, because my job has been incredibly flexible. I had a baby and was able to work remotely from home for up to one year. This allowed me to nurse on demand, spend her entire first year by her side, and not have to pay for childcare. After 10 months, I chose to go back to the office two days a week and remain working remotely from home three days a week. For almost three years, this has been my work arrangement as it has been a good fit for my needs and for my family. It’s been a blessing to able to spend so much time with my daughter during her first years.
Now for the trade-off.
The down side of this arrangement is that I am not very visible at work. I do not have the time (in person) to spend making ‘contacts’ and building social equity which is what seems to get most coworkers I know promoted. I have done the same work for six years. Sometimes new projects come along, but they utilize my current skill set and do not allow me to expand or build new skills. In addition, I remain at the same job level without increase or promotion, so my salary has remained very average and very stagnate.
With the layoffs, many of the “benefits” the company offered, will be slashed come January 1, 2017. With the new policy on Paid Time Off (PTO), I will lose 24 hours of vacation time per calendar year. Rather than putting away 10% of employee’s base salaries into a 401A (the not-for-profit version of a pension/retirement plan), they will now only contribute 7%. Other changes include the amount of vacation time we can have accumulated by the end of the calendar year (then it will be rolled into what is called an Extended Illness Bank), our health insurance coverage is being reduced (higher co-pays), and no merit raises for the last fiscal year or the foreseeable future. Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) were discontinued a few years ago.
I have felt somewhat trapped in my job for a few years now. It is not personally fulfilling, but it has been a good, steady job over all. I have advocated to have a pathway to promotion. I have noted that I am often asked (especially during the hiring freeze) to complete projects above my pay grade and have NOT received compensation or a raise to reflect the extra work I do. This has been a source of great frustration for me. I was slated to participate in the “Leadership Program” this year but due to the final crisis, it has been postponed, leadership opportunities have been cut and my mentor is no longer with the company. In a way, I feel more stuck than ever before.
However, I do realize there are options and I can make different decisions.
My daughter is in a wonderful preschool program and has the option of attending full-time. I am toying with the idea of looking for a new job. Realistically. if I move into the for-profit sector I could increase my income by 15-20% right off the bat. This would off-set child care costs.
Alternatively, I could stay put and pursue my MBA for free. This would be ‘more work’, but it might help me navigate a new career path. Of course this will also depend on whether or not my remote work status continues and if there are more layoffs in the next 6 months. If my remote working arrangement is taken away, I do not feel my current salary justifies paying for full-time child care and I would be forced to either drop to part-time work or look for a higher paying job.
I am at a crossroads and feel that I NEED to make a decision soon.
Have you ever been at a crossroads in life? How did you navigate your choices? What factors brought you to direction you decided to head in?