Friday, February 27, 2009

Crappy Times

These are difficult days to be blogging about money. There's lots to talk about, as the economy is front and center in the news, but sometimes it just gets depressing.
This week's crummy news is that my friend Mortimer got laid off. He thought his job was fairly secure but, surprise! It wasn't. He admitted to being in a state of shock and denial, but said he at least had some good connections who would recommend him for job opportunities once he updated his resume and started looking. He also said he figured it was time to join LinkedIn and Facebook to help him network. But his plan for the next day was to enjoy sleeping in and get some laundry done, while waiting for the boxes of his personal belongings from his old office to be delivered.
I didn't want to sound lecture-y, but I told Mortimer not to lose his momentum. He needs to tackle job-hunting with a vengeance and leave no stone unturned, starting today, not a few days from now.
Those who remember my previous stories about Mortimer will understand my concern. He was laid off once before, and it sent him into a tailspin of depression that coincided with some health problems. For a long time, he was paying for his own health insurance, up to about $900 a month. In the last few years, his finances finally recovered somewhat, but they're still precarious. He can't stay unemployed for long.
I would not want to be in his shoes right now, nor in the shoes of many other people I know who have been laid off, or had a spouse laid off. Some of these are people like Mortimer and me, who only have to take care of themselves, but others are parents with kids in college. If I'm a little freaked out these days, I can't imagine how they must feel.

Amidst all this, I got a phone call the other day from a headhunter. He wanted me to interview for a job that almost sounded perfect-- a great fit for my background, a better title, and potentially a raise of about 50% from what I make now. I know headhunters tend to dangle big salaries in front of people, but I knew this could still be a chance to take a good step up the salary ladder, and making more money would help take some of the sting out of all my investment losses. But there were a few reasons I decided not to pursue the job, and one of them was that I just didn't want to risk making a move right now. My current employer seems to appreciate me, and I've already survived some downsizing here. That, to me, seemed safer than going to a new company full of unknowns. This may be a cowardly and short-sighted decision, but it was all I could stomach right now. What would you have done?

20 comments:

alicia said...

Sounds like you made a smart choice, considering the "last in, first out" way some companies do downsizing.

marie said...

I also think you were wise. Better the devil you know. . .

marie

Anonymous said...

Go on the interview. If they hire you, demand a written guaranteed job for a period certain, say 3 years, with severance if they lay you off. It can't hurt. If not just keep he job you have and never tell them you were looking. No one loses.

Revanche said...

I think I would have explored the option, just to see what my marketability was, and to see if they were willing to offer a contract as Anon suggested. You wouldn't have to take it, but it'd be nice to know your options.

frugal zeitgeist said...

I think I would have interviewed on the quiet, but I agree with the poster that I wouldn't make a jump without a contract stipulating a minimum period of employment and what the employer would provide if they opted to break the contract.

Anonymous said...

Make sure Mortimer knows that, depending on his income, his COBRA is 65% government subsidized for 9 months...

Gregg said...

I agree with most of the posters. Unless you can see yourself making 50% more at your current company within a comfortable time frame, you need to explore this position. If hired make sure you are protected with a nice package in case you are asked to leave.

Carrie said...

I think you make great points about your friend - if you start right away, you might find yourself employed again right off the bat and not even have to sit at home worrying...

I think I agree with Frugal Zeitgeist. I probably would have interviewed discretely... but i would just want to know if they would hire me. :D

Anonymous said...

For a 50% raise? Yes, interview. All things equal (beenfits, location, opportunities or advancement, etc), that's a significant enough bump to take a risk. (Ah, but you said "potentially" a raise of "about" 50%...the headhunters are giving themselves some wiggle room.)

In this climate, I would only consider jumping if I could secure at least 25% increase. (In good times, I would look for a mere 10%.)

Anonymous said...

I would be weary of the new job. With so many talented people out of work, why would a head hunter need to persuade someone who's already employed? what's wrong with this job?

Anonymous said...

Since your current job is secure, wouldn't it be fun and educational to interview and push for an unreasonably sweet package with a secure contract? Just to see how far you can go when you're negotiating from a totally *safe* position.

But what do you do if they say 'yes'? Zoiks!

Chicago Rob said...

I would be very reluctant to even consider it at this point if you are secure where you're at. At the level I think you would be jumping to, you will need to prove yourself very quickly or risk being let go. The only way I would even consider it if it was a publicly traded company where I could at least do some analysis of their financials to see how solid it is. If you can't get that info, too risky as they will obviously tell you anything in the interview.

Anonymous said...

Right now its all about managing risk. You are fine to stay where you are respected and appreciated by your employer. If you didn't like your job or really needed the pay raise, that's a different story. However, it seems like you like your job and are doing fine financially.

mOOm said...

I certainly would have interviewed for the position. Not clear to me that you didn't. Might learn something about that firm and don't know whether you could use it to gain at your current firm if you got an offer. In academia often the only way to get a decent raise is get an offer from elsewhere... Don't know about your industry.

Gord said...

Really hard to answer that question without more information, which you probably can't give. Same industry? Similar duties? Company reputation? Can they possibly be in a growth mode? You know most of that, and you decided not to go for it, likely for good reason. If I was offered a similar job, similar or better pay, I would take it. But only because I can retire with a full pension now, I would be double dipping.

J. Money said...

ouch, that's def. a sucky situation for your friend :( i think i'd be pretty surprised myself if it happened to me (knock on wood)...but only because we just got told we're in the clear a cple weeks ago.

this economy sure is whacked out though.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine just got laid off on Thursday, and a headhunter called me the same day. I passed her the information, but she doesn't feel qualified. I told her to apply anyway. A short term job is beter than sitting at home spending your savings. We'll see what she does.

In your situation, I would hang tight. They can call you later if no one fills the position. For now, I would stick with what you know.
-Tasha

Anonymous said...

I think you made the right move. I know of seven people off the top of my head that switched to greener pastures in the last two years, only to be let go within 3 months. That old, last in--first out, rule really does apply.

Anonymous said...

Never, ever turn down an interview opportunity. First, it is an opportunity to practice interviewing muscles - yes, they are muscles indeed. Second, meeting and networking with people in the industry is really valuable. Third, you can gauge your market value and negotiate a better deal with your current employer.

I am sorry to hear that your friend lost his job. I think, he should jump on job hunting right away.

Unless, one takes job hunting as a fulltime job, he/she will suffer for a long period of time.


Good luck.

-CD

Anonymous said...

I'm of the thought that you should have gone through the motions and interviewed. You may have been able to learn something more about yourself and you would also may have had the chance to check out your new employer...their facility and all.

I do understand your weariness though. As someone who works in a crappy place, I'd give anything to work for folks who give me job autonomy, allow me to make decisions and mistakes, and grow without glass ceilings.

So sorry about your friend. That is one wrench he got thrown at him! And that he didn't expect it is a huge bummer. And for you being lecture-y, thats what friends do to each other....they don't let them get down and stay down.