Friday, March 30, 2007

Layoff: Endgame

WORK RESTS FOR NO man, even one who is being laid off that very day. From the moment I arrived in the office, I had some issues, which the outsourcing folks has posted, to review for press. Proofs of a project due to go to press in June — for which I had set first pass because I assumed nobody would recall how to do this project in my absence — needed corrections. I also wrote a long email about how to handle this project when the time came. Let it not be said that my company didn't earn value from me until the very end.

I signed my term paper about halfway through the morning, after I had completed the work I just described. My supervisor followed soon thereafter. From that point, I considered myself more or less free to go around the office and say my goodbyes.

I was pleasantly surprised to find folks spontaneously offering to act as references should a prospective employer request some. My supervisor, who had expected to move swiftly through the office with only a few protracted goodbyes, seemed amazed that she received the same reception. She shouldn't be. I pulled her aside yesterday to give her a goodbye card in which I summed up her awesomeness as a manager and a friend, and the folks she met today communicated the same message.

To each person I visited, I gave a sheet of note-cube paper with my true-name email address (I made one specifically for job hunting) and my cellphone. I am entertaining all offers. Of course, determining exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life is an ongoing and open question, but to have several sets of feelers out is a great asset, no matter how many opportunities they end up locating.

One woman, with whom I had had a very fruitful chat about job opportunities in less conventional areas, presented a case for my qualifications as a tech writer. I do know a woman who does this for a living, but my coworker in this case felt this term was being applied to a very broad skillset across several specific jobs, and that my writing ability combined with editorial and design skills added tremendous value. I will add this term to my job searches and see if there is indeed this diversity of positions. This is a career that thrives well as a freelance position, a potential long-term goal of mine, so it's doubly of interest.

My supervisor had asked late in the day if I wanted to get lunch, and when she returned to her cube — and was surprised by how much time she had taken — I was ready to go. Joined by a department-mate who is on the block come December, we made our exit after turning in, Dirty Harry Callahan–style, our badges. My super was kind enough to treat me to lunch, and we sat, finally free, and watched Chelsea pedestrians pace by in all of their multicolored sartorial variety.

From there, we headed to our respective subways. I set down the monstrous plant I was carrying home to give her a big see-you-later hug — she graciously invited me to her graduation party in May — and then covered the last two blocks with my department-mate to the PATH station. When the Hoboken train arrived, I gave him a handshake and a big hug of his own, dragged my plant onto the car, executed a flawless Nixon exit, and began my last ride, for now, to Jersey from south Manhattan.

In all, the entire experience was low key and mundane. Surprised? Don't be. At this point in my life, some calm grace is welcome. If there was going to be any drama, it would have been yesterday, between me and my supervisor; I pulled her into our director's empty office to give her the goodbye card, because had she read it out loud, there was a good chance I was going to cry. I remained entirely composed then, and today as well. I suspect it's because I intend to keep in touch with her, quite possibly as soon as tomorrow morning, as I sent her a thank-you gift of flowers to brighten the apartment in which she's gonna be stuck, for the next several days, finishing her thesis project.

I am proud to have left such a positive impression with people, that they offered their aid in my search and their sincere best wished and regrets at my departure. Though I might have spent more time there was good for my career path, I worked to make a difference, and the reception I got from my now-former coworkers confirmed that I was successful. That I did this merely by doing the best work I could, and in acting in the office as I would like to be treated myself, gives me hope that I will find a receptive audience in the next office.

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