The St. Valentine’s Day Job Massacre Or Alternately Freedom, Horrible Freedom!

When I, along with all the other techs where I work, received an email two weeks ago asking every employee in tech support to report for an off-site meeting on Valentine’s Day, we weren’t sure what to think. The fact that it was off-site, that the regular employees and temps had different meeting times, and the fact that absolutely no one seemed to know what the meeting was about were all bad signs. Were we about to be fired, sold to another company, were we moving to another location…or was it something more innocuous?

Nobody really knew. The company made money last year and to the best of our knowledge was in the black this year. Furthermore, no ugly rumors had been floating around…still, my gut instinct was: this is going to be something bad.

The jokes in the tech room reflected the sense of unease:

Person #1: Yeah, we’re going into the meeting and they’re gonna be like, “We have good news for you…well, it’s good news if you like Indian culture, we’re moving to India!”

Person #2: Actually, I bet it’s more like: “The good news is that you have more freedom, you’ve all been fired!”

Unfortunately, those jokes turned out to be foreshadowing. On to the meeting…

We all showed up at 8 AM on Valentine’s Day and the company’s designated hatchet man started trying to put the spin on the bad news right off the bat.

“The bad news could have been that we were sending all your jobs to India or Canada. That could have been the bad news…

Oooof. From there on out, they let us know that we had been sold down the river to another company…just us, mind you; the company was hanging on to the equipment and building. That’s quite relevant, because the owner of the new company spoke to us and let us know he was all about cutting costs….and since the only costs they’d be bearing were personnel…you get the idea.

So did we. If we took the offer with this new company, we’d be in the same building, doing the same job, at the same desk — except it would be much busier for a few months because of all the turnover — and we’d be making significantly less money along with taking large benefit cuts. How much less, we wouldn’t know until we received job offers the next week…but there was no doubt it was going to be bad. You don’t make a move like this unless you plan to really cut to the bone.

So for the last two weeks, the mood in the tech room was, as you can imagine, dreary. Personally, I wasn’t too happy either. My goal had been to work through the end of 2005 with the company, save up more money, get RWN’s traffic up a bit, and then start working full time as a blogger/writer at the start of 2006. Sure, I could have looked around for a higher paying job, but I’d been there five years, had sweet benefits (including health care & 18 days of vacation/personal time which is the best deal you’re gonna get this side of France) and the big bosses didn’t care what we did when we weren’t on calls with customers — which meant that I could actually get in a little work on RWN while I was on the clock with their blessing. That wasn’t a terrible deal given my situation.

But now, there was a kink in my plans…a pretty big kink as it turned out. The job offer I got from our “new” employer? It included a sick pay drop from 12 to 6 days, a vacation/personal day cut from 18 to 3 days, and a big cut in my hourly wage. Combine that with the fact that it was hard to muster even mild enthusiasm for the job given the circumstances and I decided it was time to go in a different direction.

So, that means that I’ve been officially laid off and I am — at least for the moment — a professional blogger. Sure, I don’t have as much money saved up as I’d like, RWN is smaller than I’d like, and my expenses are way too high per month, but…wait, a second, I’m going to DIE! J/K =D

Actually, I am having to cut back on my living expenses quite a bit, but believe it or not, I think I’ll AT LEAST be breaking even given the revenue stream I have coming in and with what I’ll have my costs down to by April 1. Although I would feel a lot more comfortable with a few thousand dollars more in the bank, after crunching the numbers, I think full-time blogging is going to work. And of course, if it doesn’t, well, I can always get another day job.

Over the next few months, I should be able to spend more time on RWN, get to work on the book I’ve been planning, have time to start writing regular columns again, and work on a little project that I hope to unveil in the next few weeks. I’d also like to get some paid writing gigs (email me if you’d like me to do something for your magazine or paper).

The timing may not have worked out exactly as I wanted, but that’s life. I’m going to be doing what I want to do, when I want to do it, and that is a beautiful thing that’s worth taking a risk for…

PS: Yes, I’m deliberately leaving the company’s name out of it. I never mentioned their name while I worked for them and I’d rather keep it professional even though I’m out the door.

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