Author’s note: Here in 300 Hours we cover CFA materials and tips, but careers and career experiences are also a very important part of candidates’ lives. I wanted to share one of the most significant events in my career, and how this changed the entire course of what I ended up doing for a living.
This is the second part of my tale. In my previous post in this series, I shared the circumstances that led to me leaving my job back in 2008.
In this post, we explore my experiences post lay-off, what ‘outplacement’ meant and how I filled the incoming gap in my CV.
A colleague once candidly mentioned that the lay-off process was like a messy breakup. Truer words had never been spoken. Even if I did want to try something new and this layoff was excellent timing, it’s still one of the biggest life-altering events to happen to me. The stress levels one gets from being laid off ranks highly, up with a death in the family, divorce and serious illness.
If you do get laid off, make sure you take your time to heal mentally. It’s like handling a CFA failure – give yourself some time to mope, then recover. Don’t sink into a vicious cycle of depression, but don’t put on a phony bravado act either. Be honest, enjoy some time off, then plan your next move.
Severance + bonus + tax benefits = windfall
My severance package was fairly good for someone of my experience level at the time. The reason for this was simple – the crisis hadn’t properly sunk its teeth into the economy yet, and companies had yet to tighten the purse strings, even with cast-offs like us.
I had, if I remember correctly, 3-4 months pay, plus my bonus payout. And because it was paid in lieu of notice, there were also massive tax benefits to this. Comparing this payout to my usual net monthly pay, I had more than 6 months of fully-paid time to sort out another job. I had been prudent with my savings, and if you added them to the mix, that would last me 4 years.
Financially, I wasn’t in a hurry.
When you’re laid off, sometimes your company gives you what is mystically called an ‘outplacement package’. This basically means they paid a bunch of money to a HR firm who offers a program to ‘get you back on your feet’ and ‘move on’.
They should have just added the money they paid to them to my severance package instead. If you do get a, I strongly suggest you don’t bother with it.
I tried to like this program, telling myself that if an entire company was formed around the basis of ‘outplacement’, surely there was some help to be found here. I was wrong. There are several reasons to stay the hell away from this place:
- It’s depressing as hell. Everyone there has been recently laid-off. Or even more depressingly, laid-off for quite a while now. They’re lovely people, but surrounding yourselves with more people in the same situation every day, in this case, was highly negative for me.
- It makes you all broody. Going there seemed to fixate my mind on my layoff rather than looking forward to getting a new role. Which is ironic considering what the company was there for.
- The coaching was pretty rubbish. Maybe it was the specific firm that I got for my outplacement, but the coaches weren’t very good. None of them worked in any industry similar to mine, and they weren’t even specialized in job-hunting of any sort. I had the feeling they were doing this simply because there wasn’t much else they could be doing. The courses, as a result, weren’t that useful as they were saying very generic things like ‘update your CV‘ and ‘milk your network‘.
You have to work hard to find a job after being laid off. However, you have to work twice as hard if you want to find a job that’s not like your old job.
Recruitment agents are incentivized to get you a new job. Any job. The most likely job you’re likely to get is one which your education and experience suits best. This was not the kind of job I was looking for. I wanted to take advantage of this break in my career to try out advertising. Yes, advertising.
This decision was not made on a whim. I had maintained a keen interest in advertising creative since I was a child, and I had some talent in creating advert concepts, visuals and copy. The recruitment agents were having none of it, though. In the recession, business was going through the roof, and they didn’t really have a lot of time to entertain a fresh-faced hopeful that wanted to try advertising of all things.
I was driven and organized in contacting recruitment agents. But after speaking to over 30 different agencies, I didn’t even get one to put one in front of me. In this business of convincing recruitment agents, enthusiasm counts for nothing, apparently.
Hedging my bets with CFA Level II
I signed up for CFA Level II at about the same time I started my job search. I decided to continue down the CFA path the way a (bad) poker player bets more and more into the game in hopes to win all his money (or in my case, the effort I put into Level I) back. Also, I needed something in case the advertising thing didn’t work out.
Throughout my job search, I also did free lance finance consulting, 3 days a week. This I got from a recommendation made by a partner in my old firm (again, the importance of your network!). There were three main reasons for this:
- It was a good CV-filler, so that I would have something to put in the eventual time-gap
- Keeps me sharp and my skills up to date. It’s amazing how quickly you drop out of sync after a few weeks – this keeps you in check
- It’s good money. In a consulting firm, the firm keeps all the fees it charges and pays you a salary. As a freelancer, I got to charge my own fees, and it turned out to be pretty good for 3 days a week!
Freedom to be creative. Freedom to try.
I was in a good place at this point. I was studying for the CFA Level II, I had a free lance consulting project, and I was pushing on with my job search. I wasn’t having much luck trying to convince recruiters to recommend me to advertising agencies, but my big break wasn’t to hit me for another two months or so.
And in a most unexpected way.
Hope you enjoyed reading this Part Two of my tale! In the next part, I will (hopefully) conclude this series, including my unexpected break into the big brave world of advertising, and my eventual path to where I am now.
You can read the whole series here:
- Being Laid Off, Part 1: Why I Wanted to Get Laid Off
- Being Laid Off, Part 2: Dealing with the Fallout
- Being Laid Off, Part 3: Why Being Laid Off is the Best Thing That Could Have Happened To My Career
If you’ve got any questions or want to know more about something, let me know in the comments below!