Three years ago, I received a job offer from my current company.
Back then, I was so excited! After much contemplation, I made the decision to take a break from life in the chemistry lab, and try something new. I loved my time as a lab chemist, but my last laboratory role left me burnt out and bitter. It was stressful working for a rigorous company, and I was overworked. I envied the work-life balance that other people had, and I wanted that for myself.
Making the leap to a new company and a new career seemed like a no-brainer. I traded my lab coats and safety glasses for heels and dresses. Instead of commuting to a manufacturing site in the suburbs, I began working downtown, enjoying both the easier commute and the after-work happy hours. No more spending my days running samples, or dealing with unreasonable requests data, or taking apart chromatography equipment. I traded all that in for a new career in supply chain, and I was so excited to start my new career journey.
As with most experiences, the beginning of my career journey was all sunshine and roses. I was so excited when I wore my first dress and pair of heels to work – seriously, I’d never done it before. That sort of attire isn’t really practical for the lab. Along with my new wardrobe, I also enjoyed learning a new industry, and I found that I had an aptitude for it. Spoiler alert: supply chain operations is similar to manufacturing operations. I met lots of new people and even got paid to spend 30 minutes at a time talking to people I already knew. And my pay was better. With all that, what’s not to like?
After the first year, I ended up with a new manager, a new project and my work life went from sugar to shit. It’s amazing how much your manager can make or break your work experience. I spent 15 months on a challenging assignment, that taught me a lot but also tested me hard. At the lowest moments, I contemplated taking my now-husband’s offer to quit my job and move to DC. But I stuck it out – partly because I knew it wouldn’t be bad forever and partially because I refused to let my then-manager have the satisfaction of chasing me out of the company.
I survived that horrible manager, and that horrible project, and I moved to a new role in a new area. Things started looking up again. I was beginning to feel encouraged…and then the bottom fell out of the whole thing. My company executed a massive layoff, slashing a large chunk of the workforce in a day. I call that day Bloody Tuesday and it actually fell the same week as our wedding. Talk about timing. That day was so tough, seeing so many people who I knew, worked with, my friends, walked out of the building with their belongings in a white box. It was so brutal. And that wasn’t the end of the layoffs – we’ve had an additional two more rounds. The gossip mill says there will be yet another this year, a large one to rival the layoffs we experienced this spring.
Is it bad that I’m hoping that I would be laid off?
I realized recently that my corporate life feels like a season of the game show Survivor. Each one of us is hoping to make it another week, another month, and hopefully be the last one standing on the island when the game is over. We know that hard decisions will have to be made and that everyone won’t end up on the island when the game is over. And it’s stressful to live this way. It’s stressful to try to produce meaningful work in this situation.
How can you plan your career when you don’t know if you’ll be around?
How can you do your best work, meaningful work, when you don’t know if you’ll be around tomorrow to finish it?
How can you put your faith and trust in a company when you saw them blind side people and leave them without a livelihood?
My coworkers and I all walk on eggshells each day. We talk to each other in hushed tones, whispering about the latest rumors we’ve heard. We don’t speak it, but each of us wonders if we’ll be able to survive. We congratulate the people who resign, as they move on to what are hopefully more stable pastures. We hope that one day that will be us, that we’ll be able to make it off the island.
So much has happened in three years. Things have changed, I’ve grown, and it feels like it’s time to move to the next opportunity. I hope to move to it voluntarily but who knows how this game of Corporate Survivor will turn out.