In today’s new business reality of Mergers and Acquisitions, many people who have worked at the same company since graduating from school and expected to continue to work at the same company until they retired, find themselves wondering how long they will have their job. The sad fact is they have to face the bitter new reality of being unemployed when their company is either sold or their work outsourced to foreign countries.
When trying to find a new job, many are surprised to hear that they are “too old.” Some quickly get over the initial shock, adapt to their new reality and, utilizing their past experience, open their own business and become successful. Others eventually find a job often taking a pay cut that affects their family’s wellbeing. People who refuse to accept their new reality cave under the pressure of being unemployed, fall by the way-side and give up looking for a new job.
Not Being Able to Face the New Reality: Case Study
While attending a week-long photography workshop in Death Valley, I met a fellow photographer who was a manager at a large oil company. He told me that his company was laying off 2000 people after they merged with another company. This person had worked for his company for the past 30 years and was 18 months short of early retirement. Facing this new reality, his world “fell apart” when he received the options of taking a demotion and continue working at lower pay or being terminated immediately. The photographer, who was an oil engineer, felt he had valuable experience and asked his employer to retain him as a 1099 consultant. He was dismayed to hear that his offer would be considered and they would get back to him.
We photographed in an area that didn’t have a cell phone connection and every night after we finished photographing the sunset and the majestic scenery of the sand dunes that the colored sky painted orange gold, he went to the motel office and used the pay phone to call his office voice mail hoping to hear that his offer had been accepted. By the end of the workshop he still had not gotten an answer and told me he had 10 days to accept the demotion and salary cut or be laid off. Not being able to face his new reality, he said that when he got home he would call his financial advisor and ask him to cash part of his retirement fund to subsidize his lost income for the next 18 months until he reached early retirement age even though he knew it would result in substantial penalties.
When I asked him what other options he had, he said that he was an expert in surveying where oil should be drilled. When I asked him why he didn’t use his expertise to become an independent consultant to other oil companies his response was, “After being employed for 30 years I wouldn’t know how to market myself. I’d rather wait for my early retirement than get stressed trying to get a consulting assignment in an oil field.”
Facing the New Bitter Reality
Two of my friends who worked for an International Computer Company for many years faced the same reality as the oil engineer. The first one worked as a sales rep for the international computer company 35 years and was laid off in his mid-fifties. Despite the fact that he saw the “handwriting on the wall” as people his age were getting laid off, he couldn’t bring himself to look for another job. His manager, who gave him the bad news, was his close friend and was upset knowing his rep, who was divorced, was supposed to get married to his high school sweetheart. After he got over the initial shock, my friend “pulled himself together” and started looking for new employment. Because he was an excellent sales rep with many connections in his industry, he was able to get a new job within a fairly short time. At his wedding, I met his new company’s CEO who gave a speech saying how fortunate his company was hiring my friend. A year later my friend was contacted by his previous company and offered his old position. Bitter, his response was, “thank you, I found myself a new home where I am appreciated.”
Facing Reality and Making a “Bold Career Move”
One day I got a call on my cell phone from the second friend who worked for the International Computer Company as a mid-level manager. His opening statement was, “This is a confidential call, I have decided to leave my company.” Not believing the news since he had been with them for the past 30 years, I asked him if he were joking. After a short pause he said, “I never joke about such matters. By Friday it will be public knowledge.” My friend, who is a brilliant manager, was beloved by his employees and was voted the best manager for whom they had ever worked. When he had to lay off someone, he would give them a year’s notice, telling them to look for a new position within the organization or outside. Seeing the other managers being forced to retire in their mid ’50’s, he saw the “handwriting on the wall,” wondering when it would be his turn.
During dinner with an old friend who was an executive at an International Communication Company, they discussed his situation. His friend offered him a challenging management position at his company. Because the position was in a completely different industry, my friend hesitated accepting the offer and told him,
“I have no experience in your Communication Industry.” His friend, who refused to hear excuses, made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Despite everybody’s “good advice,” my friend chose to accept the offer, leaving behind a 30-year-old career at the International Computer Company, and started a challenging new career at the Communication Company. His decision turned out to be an excellent choice resulting in his being promoted to General Manager of the entire Northeast Region.
Our greatest enemies are the people who feel they have to give us advice, looking out for our “own good.” Being a self-made man who has seen hard times I always say: “When somebody gives you advice, watch where the advice is coming from.” I don’t regret the costly mistakes I have made in the past. I regret the decisions I did not made listening to other people’s “good advice.”
About SMC & Dani Kaplan:
Since 1980, Dani Kaplan has worked with manufacturers, distributors food distributors and food processors as the trusted advisor helping them lower their operating costs, streamline their operations and control the inventory.
Dani can be reached at (917) 647-2466 – http://www.smcdata.com/