Things are looking up. And while I retain a hefty bit of cynicism, I feel better about the future.
The following are thoughts I considered keeping inside my head. But after all the help and support I’ve received over the last few weeks, it didn’t feel right to keep them in. So, here we go, some reflections and updates after 3.5 weeks without a job.
As much notice as possible, AKA, one day.
I would love to say that I’ve faced my layoff with dignity. That I’m not holding grudges (eventually, hopefully, I won’t). But at the moment I’m still pretty angry.
Not because the company had the gall to let me go. I get that, business is business. But that they let me go with one day of notice. That’s the part I don’t get.
I thought I was joining a special company. One that cared deeply about employee culture and well-being. But then I was let go, with one day of notice.
Should you decide to leave the company’s employ, we expect you to provide and serve at least two weeks written notice. This is the minimum notice required to receive any accrued benefits available to you after the Introductory Period has been completed. Similarly, you will receive as much notice as possible in the event that your employment…is terminated for business reasons other than poor performance or violation of corporate policies.Expectations laid out in offer letter on August 29, 2018
Please be assured that this decision is not related to your performance. It is based on financial considerations; we can no longer support your position on administrative funds, and do not have the necessary contracts that can cover your time. After reviewing our options, we have concluded that we must eliminate your position effective June 13, 2019.Terms delivered to me in separation letter on June 12, 2019
Anyone can be replaced.
I remember advice my dad gave me early in my career.
It was at a time where I felt particularly valuable in my role at the company I was working for at the time. I talked about how much I was doing to make myself special and how I hoped it would reduce the chance that I could be replaced.
And the advice, “anyone can be replaced.”
Maybe it’s a working class ethic, my father worked most of his life in corrections as a dietary officer. And maybe it was a bit cynical, my father was certainly not the most optimistic person in the world. But as time has gone on, it has started to ring more true.
But maybe, being irreplaceable should never have been the goal.
The shifting workplace.
There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.I never thought I would miss George W Bush…
When I left my comfortable position at Westat a few years ago, I started to work out the Frontier, a coworking space in RTP, NC. And there I stayed during the 2 and half years running my information design business. I met some awesome people and made some really good friends.
And then, when I took the last position, I went back to the same coworking space. I was a remote employee so it didn’t matter where I sat. I didn’t have to lose my coworking colleagues to do my job.
And now, after losing my job, I still go back to the same coworking space. And I sit at megatable surrounded by friendly faces of people who care about what happens next. People who take my side before knowing any part of the story.
Life is filled with everyday traumas, big and small changes and loss. And for years big companies have held our lives in their hands, because not only did they pay our salaries, they also provided us with so many of our friends, close colleagues, and mentors.
But as time goes on, and the physical place of business becomes less important and the offices get quieter, you start to wonder if having a nice office in a big corporate building is really something to desire.
Consulting away their value proposition.
It’s cheaper if companies don’t have to pay benefits.
If they can take people on as consultants and only use them when they need them. They can easily trade higher hourly rates if it means becoming more nimble. Not having to pay the salaries when the work runs out or someone is sick or on vacation.
It’s this thinking, along with the globalization of the workforce supported by the rise of the web, that has shifted so many full time permanent positions into consulting gigs.
I wonder if they know what they’re giving away.
We take the company jobs, not for big paychecks, but for the job security. But as they continue to chip away at what gives them value, all of a sudden those positions have less to offer.
And as we deal with layoffs, position reclassifications, or a not-so-steady stream of contract cycles, we start to learn again what it means to be self-reliant. What it means to be a community of people whose work is the only reason these companies can run.
And at some point, they’ll start to wonder…
Where did everyone go, and why are they so expensive?
With a little bit of Python and a little bit of R, my job security improves.
I used to think that over time other fields that do evaluative work, like data science and UX research, would begin to chip away at the evaluation market.
I think I was wrong.
As time moves forward and the contracts get tighter, there comes a point when we start to think, “is evaluation the field for me?”
As a senior data analyst, web developer, data visualization expert, and designer, I’m really just a little bit of Python away from a data science position. One that will give me more freedom and pay me more money.
Am I really becoming too expensive, or is evaluation losing market share? Less market means less money to go around. The leaders who win the proposals will still command their salaries, assuming they keep winning, and someone will need to do the grunt work. So where do you cut cost? When it’s cheaper to budget in entry-level talent, what happens to the mid and senior level analysts?
I’m not alone.
More and more we are losing the middle. The next generation of bright scholars and practitioners who would normally be in line to take leadership positions and help the field of evaluation evolve.
The fields of data science and UX research are not chipping away at the evaluation market. They’re collecting the runaways. People who still want to make a mark on the world and are ready and willing to learn a bit of code or human centered design methodologies if that’s what it takes.
I think the field of evaluation needs to make a choice. Is it ready to step up and evolve to meet the changing global context brought to us by the world wide web? Or would it prefer to slowly shift towards irrelevance?
At this moment in time, I think I’m going to put my money (and career) on the latter.
My network trust fall and the now and later plan.
Words cannot express how much I appreciate the support I have been given by friends, colleagues, and those of you who have followed my career through this blog and my cartoons.
When I lost my job I freaked out, but the skies are beginning to clear.
I just relaunched a business, this time on the side. I don’t plan to close it completely again. There is too much uncertainty in the world to not have something I can control.
My new business delivers content strategy support to small businesses and organizations focused on pursuing social good. You’ll find it at socialgood.pub. Content strategy, from my perspective, is an alternative social media strategy that isn’t so money focused, but it still keeps you accountable for results. With it I get to mix web analytics, web design, social media content strategy, evaluation, and UX design to help people share their own stories and lessons.
I already have had a couple clients take me up on a content kickstart package. It’s essentially a short term 5K package designed to help launch a content strategy.
Just having a few clients will give me leverage. It means I don’t have to cancel the 3-week family trip to the UK we’ve been planning for a year. It also means I don’t have to accept the first position that will take me.
Summer is not a great time to find a job, everything just moves at a slower pace. But my goal now is to have a new job by early October. So please keep the referrals coming (and thank you for all who have given me some good leads).
For those of you who struggle.
You bring value to this world.
Dreams may shift and jobs may disappear.
But what still exists is you. A special person with your own set of values and experiences that can be channeled to help make this world better.
The digital world has a way of dehumanizing people, turning them into followers and page views. The algorithms that prescreen resumes, they do that too.
But you are a person. You have value. You can bring value to others.
And if you feel lost, struggling to find your place in this fast-changing world, just know this.
You are not alone.