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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Separated Connections

A few days ago, a former coworker created a group on LinkedIn, consisting of alumni from our ex-employer. It’s a small lifeline and it won’t pull me to dry land, but it may help me to tread water until I re-learn to swim. The other day I told my husband that I feel like I am a teenager, expelled from the high school clique. Coworkers are in touch via email, but sensitive to my feelings they aren’t sharing much. Until I’m ready to dive off the deep end into a full on career search, the LinkedIn group makes it easier to cling to a slight sense of connection.

In my department, we worked conscientiously, with the goal of doing our jobs professionally. And, while paychecks were necessary and company paid benefits critical, the value of the friendships formed over the years was; well, to borrow a word from Master Card, priceless. It’s hard to grasp, but I spent an actual life time working for my former employer—developing business and personal maturity and witnessing others grow up too. I adopted my daughter while there, and watched others become parents. We celebrated our respective marriages, grieved our parents’ deaths, honored our families’ triumphs and vented about our struggles. For every life event we provided a material support system for each other and in my mind, there isn’t much better than that for fostering company loyalty. But then, in the time it would take to wreck a car, or crash a plane, it was over. With no notice and just minutes to say goodbye, I walked out the door for the last time. After two weeks the shock may be subsiding, but the habit is struggling to die.

When my husband was laid off from a long term employer several years ago, he knew it was coming when his company closed its doors. So, while he empathizes with my emotions, the building he left was dark. The business I worked at for such a long time still functions and those left from my team are doing their job each day. I catch myself wishing for a list of the names of the other hundred or so people in our building that lost their jobs when I lost mine. Who is still there? What is happening with my pregnant staff member and the newly engaged coordinator? How is the toilet training going for the mother of the toddler, and what kind of birthday party did the supervisor throw for her son? And, though I try not to, I speculate as to what was prepared for the meeting scheduled for yesterday and if the year end budget was closed without trouble. Did anyone take care of the items left dangling in my Franklin Planner?

There are fresh pages in my planner now, and different types of to-do’s on my list. I’m accomplishing what’s necessary to move forward, a centimeter at a time, but when you experience a lay off, there is much more than work left behind.

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