Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I went into work on Monday and it was a typical day. I turned on my computer and got a cup of coffee.

Then I cleaned off my desk.

I tossed away what didn't matter anymore - copies of letters I'd sent, receipts for purchases, drafts of documents. I filed what needed to be saved and tossed the rest. Then I began arranging my files so that someone else could make sense out of them besides me. Someone else would need to.

Once that was done, I sat down at my computer and began methodically cleaning out my Outlook program: deleting emails that no longer mattered, forwarding emails that would need action taken by someone, and deleting my task list one by one. Click, click, click, until every single task had disappeared.

I took my pictures off the wall, and put my coffee cups and my other personal effects into a small box. I turned in my keys and the company credit card. And then I said goodbye.

I've been laid off.

Seattle's economy has taken a series of devastating blows. The collapse of WaMu is still rippling through our economy. Boeing is laying off 4500 workers. One of the newspapers is on the verge of closing its doors. Microsoft, according to rumors, is going to be laying off thousands of its own workers in the next few days.

And my wife and I looked at each story and said to ourselves, thank goodness we both have solid jobs in this crashing economy. Thank goodness we don't have to worry.

But I worked at a three-person nonprofit that depends on individual donors for its money, and those donors live in Seattle and in the surrounding area. Some of them had WaMu stock. Some of them work at Microsoft. Some of them have investments that have collapsed. My board was worried about the future and decided to trim staff so they wouldn't have to face shutting its own doors in a year or two. I understand why they did it. I don't have to like it, but I understand it.

I suppose I'm lucky. Mrs. B has been wonderful during this, and I'm eternally grateful to her for it. Oliver has been - well, I suppose "sympathetic" isn't the right word, because he doesn't understand what really happened. But he's been charmingly optimistic. When I came home last week and told him I was going to be looking for a new job, his first question was "where is that new job, daddy?" He's already been giving me things - pictures, toys - that he wants me to take into my new office.

I'm in a good position. I didn't learn overnight that my organization had collapsed. (This, unfortunately, was the case with at least one local nonprofit recently. For the sake of their privacy, I won't provide a link to the story.) I wasn't thrown out, I wasn't fired, I wasn't led away from the office in shackles. I'm not in trouble like the guy who jumped out of a moving airplane to avoid his debts. Thankfully, I'm also not working in the financial sector or another job sector that's in a tailspin right now. I'm in the nonprofit world, and rain or shine, they're always hiring.

I'm also leaving in a relatively good position. I don't get a golden parachute like some folks in the business world, but I'm getting the equivalent of six weeks in severance pay. My boss will give me a sterling reference - he felt genuinely sick about letting me go. Many of the board members have also called or emailed me to express their sadness at losing me, and that really helps cushion the blow.

And thank goodness, I have a wide network of friends in the nonprofit world who are all searching on my behalf (if they're not already searching on their own behalf.) Nonprofits always need good fundraisers and good organizers, and I've done both. I have half a dozen jobs I'm looking at already. I don't think I'll be out of work long. I might end up taking a pay cut, but I'll be back on my feet soon.

1 comment:

Carol said...

I'm so sorry! Been there, done that -- more than once. Hang in there!