Being laid off was the best thing that happened to me. Couple years before the opportunistic purchase of my first property, we experienced the biggest collapse of the financial system since the 1920’s. In the latter half of 2008, it felt like every week a major financial institution was at the edge of bankruptcy. At the time, I was working as a data analyst for a bank that eventually went belly up.
I remember the very day that the bank was seized by the government. Prior to the announcement, even though there were nervousness among colleagues who had watched other banks fell, there was a belief that this couldn’t happen to them. When the news broke that the bank was insolvent and another bank had purchased its assets, the place went solemn. Coworkers who had spent decades at the bank suddenly lost the only job they remembered, many lost their entire retirement savings in the form of company stocks, and many more feared how they would bring food to the table without a job. It was surreal to see a collective despair. In a matter of hours, the email campaigns, the next marketing push, the new product analyses, all became meaningless.
Fortunately for many, things would turn out okay. The bank provided severance packages to most people. It was months until the new employer laid down the gauntlet and fired us all. That afforded people time to look for new opportunity. Through this experience, I learned a few things that eventually shaped me to who I am today.
- As long as you’re an employee of a company, anyone is expendable – Every employment (most salaried workers in the US) is at will. There’s no such thing as loyalty from the employer to you. So there’s no point in showing loyalty to them beyond what you’ve signed up to do.
- It is okay to chart a different course, everything will be okay – The biggest fear at the time was what’s next. Everything I heard was I’m supposed to stay at a company for x number of years before switching. Turns out it was not necessary as I found my next job immediately.
- Perhaps the best thing in life is just waiting around the corner, be proactive and don’t be afraid of changes – I was feeling incredibly stuck at the time prior to the news. I was not learning much on the job and the pace was slow. Worst of all, there was no purpose to why my job was even needed. The news was actually a relief more than anything even though it introduced other concerns.
- Always have a backup plan, always – Seeing the despair and stress on my colleagues’ face was probably the worst of the entire experience. If you’re so reliant on one salary for survival, the risk factor is enormous. I developed the awareness that in all circumstances, I should not let environment dictate my well-being. Whether it’s through building up the nest egg or having sufficient emergency funds, never be 100% reliant on one single source of income.
Lesson is, whatever happens, things will turn out okay. If you embrace every event with a positive attitude, things will be fine. I could’ve very well blamed the system or the timing of my birth with the disastrous economy. What lied ahead was a massive opportunity to build wealth (cheap real estates) and introduction to a career that grew exponentially (data analytics). Don’t ask what you have done to deserve being in a bad place, ask what opportunity there is given the hand you were dealt. Truth is, for every glass half empty, it’s also half full.