383 days of agony

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
~”Eleanor Roosevelt”

Today’s post is a little bit of a departure from my regular blog entries. Although cycling is a big part of this story, the focus will not be on it. The reason for this story is quiet simple: I finally found work and it took me over a year from the day I got laid off. So this is overall a very happy story, one I am glad to share and one that begun on March 3, 2009.

I always had great pride in my intuition and I have a strong self awareness, but I never saw the layoff coming, until I stepped into my bosses office and was greeted by him and the corporate HR director. I knew immediately that something was awry and had this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, but even then I would have never thought that I would receive walking papers several minutes later. It hits you especially hard when you love what you do and feel a strong connection to your employer. This story is also not about smearing companies or former colleagues, actually far from it, because I still have very good relations with many of my former co-workers.

When you first hear the words:”…we decided to eliminate your position…”, you feel utter disbelieve. Come on, who in the world gets up every morning and goes to work thinking my position is worthless? While working for my former employer I had the sense that I made a contribution, an impact if you will, and all interactions with reporting levels up and down the ladder, confirmed that. So how then could I possibly be told that my position was eliminated? I have been long enough in this business to understand the economic scale of layoffs, that of course does not mean that I liked it at all, when it bit me. The conversation was short, the severance pay was fair and all that was left was going home and telling my wife: “I lost my job!”

I cannot begin to put the spectrum of emotions into words I felt driving home, but they ranged from despair to rage. I have worked all my life in the hospitality industry and spent the last 15 years in senior executive positions. With that came very good salaries, benefits, bonuses, expense accounts and industry perks. In other words, living the good life and that came to a complete stop in a blink of the eye. That first day of the layoff was nothing but a daze for my wife and I, because it was so difficult to understand what had just happened.

The next few days were a blur of activity, mostly trying to understand how the ‘system’ works, because I never was unemployed before. Over the course of the first two weeks I would quickly learn all there is about unemployment agencies, COBRA, benefit administrators, job boards, networking and job agencies. Looking back the first couple of months really were filled with an intense effort to find a replacement job, an intensity that bordered on exhaustion. The other thing I quickly had to learn was ‘how to adapt for interviews”. I have been sitting on the other side of the fence for so long, that it was not easy to go through an interview without coming across as ‘over confident’, to put it mildly. That was especially true when I sat with interviewers without any skill or preparation.

The weeks and months ticked by, and as that happened, the confidence level of finding a job within 6 months dropped. I took the job search as a full time job and devoted a minimum of 6 hours a day to the search. The rest of the day I spent on my bicycle, in hindsight, a choice which kept me fit and sane! Like almost everyone I know I started chasing jobs similar to the one I lost; the only problem they were hard to find. Looking back at my records there were only 5 that came onto the market, 4 of them were taken off without filling the position and the 5th was landed by one of my competitors.

About the 3rd month into the search, we (my wife and I) started with the “life style changes”, a fancy name for cutting back. The dish network “premium HD gold” package becomes the basic one, phone and cellular planes get reduced to basic needs, meals get planned out to economize, purchases except ‘essentials or emergency’ are cut out, cash is king – meaning if the money is not available in cash we don’t buy. Going out to restaurants, bars, movies – will have to wait.

Applications, submit resumes, interviews, sometimes second and third interviews. Down scaling my expectations of the job, and applying for jobs I know I can do only to find out over and over and over: “….sorry, you are over qualified, if I hire you today, you will be gone the next opportunity you have to get back to the income level you had before…”. Months roll by, and confidence sinks. Aside from chasing jobs I started chasing consulting opportunities. Thankfully I have a very good reputation in our community and I am able to find several short term assignments here and there. Every little bit counts. December is near, a month we always cherished in the past, usually going a bit overboard with decorating the house, the tree our once a year splurge for each other. Not so this time – a very sad day when we discussed not to do anything for each other, not even a tree. Our saving grace throughout all this time really was the fact that prior to my layoff we were virtually debt free. Yes, a mortgage, but nothing outlandish, but no credit car debt, car loans etc. Savings were there for the taking (originally meant for a vacation home) and now a security blanket.

The year changes and with it new hope, that the new year will bring opportunities, which it did. The chase is renewed with energy and hope, but only runs into the same obstacles as in the old year. A chance conversation with a friend ultimately lead to a new beginning. You see this friend is also the owner of a recruiting firm and we have known each other now well over a decade. I have used his services many times in the past to fill open positions, and of course over the past year for me in the hopes that he might have opportunities matching my background. We talked about a possible career change, which would allow for my background and relationships in the industry to be relevant. Essentially we talked about becoming a hospitality recruiter. What better way than to use my knowledge acquired  while working  in multi- and single unit environment for luxury hotel- and restaurant groups and translate that knowledge to identify ideal candidate and match with opportunities.

I was a bit skeptical at first because I thought that in a downturn economy companies would not hire recruiter to fill positions because of the cost. I found out the contrary is true, because most companies have scaled backed so dramatically that they no longer have the resources to sift through the incredible amount of applicants every job opening attracts. I spent the last two weeks working at the firm to verify and I am amazed at a number of things. For one, the work pace is fast and exciting, the way I like it; then there is the people contact which I love; my background a perfect match to evaluate candidate skills accurately; a casual, fun work atmosphere in the office, which is something new to me but a very welcome change. The ability to stay close to the industry that I worked in for so long; case and point, I got to rub elbows with Thomas Keller two nights ago. Yesterday I signed the employment offer with great excitement and my first ‘official’ day is tomorrow, March 22, leaving 383 days of agony behind.

Am I making the money I was used to? No, not yet, the potential is there. Did I find a job 5 miles from home and get to bike to every day? Yes, – you bet! Are we a small firm? – Yes, four us including me and we share great chemistry. Do I think I just won the lottery? – Absolutely! Did I just change career at the tender age of 52? – yup, I am now officially a ‘senior management recruiter’. Do I get to work ‘normal’ hours for the first time in my life? – Wow, yes – I do. Does that mean I will work less? – knowing me, the answer is no, but it doesn’t matter. Are my days of riding whenever I want numbered? – um, yes, they are, but I have regular weekends now, something I never had before .

A very dark cloud has finally been lifted and I look forward to the next chapter in my life….


About GT in LA

Road cycling enthusiast
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28 Responses to 383 days of agony

  1. jeff says:

    GT, Congratulations on the new position!

    • gtinla says:

      Jeff, thank you very much – who knows, there might be a trip to your neck of the woods in the future after all. Thanks for stopping by…

  2. surfsalterpath says:

    congrats dude

  3. sevencyclist says:

    Congrats … I’ve been laid off once in my life, and that was enough. No one should experience this more than once, so I think you’ve paid your dues. It’s funny, how reading your blog, I couldn’t help but think the same things when I was laid off. I guess that’s why I never left to go to a start up company, after we went public. Somehow, the stability of maintaining employment was much more important in my life than the wild gunslinger ride of a startup company.

    Glad to see you will still be able to commute to work.

  4. tracywilkins says:

    Congratulations! It sounds like you landed on your feet. Way to hang in there! Good luck with the change!


  5. dwb says:

    Congratulations! I noticed how your fellow biking bloggers also offered their well wishes. I’m just a reader but it’s great to see your colleagues providing their support.

  6. TheTricksterNZ says:

    Congrats from down here. I’ve heard the recession has been pretty brutal up there. Great work getting the new job. Just a pity it’ll reduce bike time.

  7. Pingback: Why StreetSummit was just the 2nd most inspiring thing I saw this weekend « BikingInLA

  8. misterbee says:

    Congratulations! I am glad to see you moving forward with your life, and I wish you all good things.

  9. 331miles says:

    I’m so glad your long search is over! I’m also glad that it seems you were very prepared for your 383 days without work, and although you had to implement “austerity measures”, there were no disasters. Best of luck in your new career, and continued success on the bike!

  10. Jayne DuVall says:

    You sound like a great guy who deserves all the best!!! Have fun tomorrow!

    • gtinla says:

      Jayne – you are so right, I AM a great guy – LOL (I think my wife would tend to disagree just a bit on THAT statement), but I appreciate the comment…

  11. bikinginla says:

    Man, that’s great! Congratulations on the new job. Hopefully, the best is yet to come — clearly, you’ve learned some hard lessons about what really matters in life. Keep riding and writing, and let us know how it goes.

    • gtinla says:

      Thank you – you know I keep looking for your jersey every time I ride down San Vicente – let’s ride sometimes together!?

  12. Bryan says:

    Congratulations! I totally understand where you are coming from. I also lost a job in 2008 but picked one up in Jan 2009…1100 miles from my family. For the last year or so I’ve been trying to get back to them. It’s been very frustrating but, as has happened several times over the last year, I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and read about all your great rides. Never during that time did I realize you were 52! Please take that as a compliment.

    • gtinla says:

      Bryan – I am glad you did not realize my age, sometimes I don’t either! 😉 Anyway, I can’t even begin to fathom just how much more difficult it must be removed from your loved ones. I really hope that you will be reunited with your family soon.

  13. Jeff Bean says:

    GT, so very happy to read this post and to know the agony of the past year is officially behind you. I really treasure the words and insight you’ve decided to share with us. Best wishes for a terrific new chapter in life. And keep cycling. (Like I needed to tell you that!) Chapeu, GT. Chapeau.

    • gtinla says:

      Jeff – thank you so much. I always treasured (still do) your dedication and integrity. I look forward to the time when our paths cross – hope to get to ride with you up Mt. Palomar one of these days. (which means you’ll have to wait a long time for me up top) 😉

  14. Oh boy, so glad there’s a happy ending to that journey!
    March 22 2010, a date to remember.
    What a process that must have been for both of you.
    New career, better hours, healthy bike commute, all good!
    Very funny because since I’ve known you (a few weeks on Twitter now??), I perceived you like a very positive guy,always there to cheer me up. And yet, you were struggling…Positive, strong, funny, generous and a very loyal friend, that’s how I would describe you.
    A new beginning for you tomorrow, have fun!
    PS With a 5 miles commute, you don’t even have to shower when you get at the office!


    • gtinla says:

      WOW – Mari-jo, if I ever need a reference, I’ll just cut and paste your comment, very kind, thank you!

      I especially love the fact that according to you I will not have to shower (just don’t tell my wife!)

  15. rainycamp says:

    Congratulations, GT. I can empathize with you, because my wife lost her job a year and a half ago. We went through much of what you talk about. Now, she has started a new career too, by starting a new business. It looks like you did everything right, including being open to a career change. Now, let’s see some more frequent blog posts!

    • gtinla says:

      Glad to hear about happy endings, and I will try my best to blog frequently, say once a month? That is a frequency, right? 😉

  16. MErider says:

    wonderfully written, heartfelt and with your usual humor thrown in. I am so, so happy for you, GT. You deserve this opportunity, and it will only bring you gold in many ways. Sometimes we have to go through a year of challenges and re-assessing to get to a better place. Good luck to you and I look forward to your first weekend ride! – which is I hope next Saturday, 100 miles, on which you can tell me all about your first week. In the meantime, take your lovely spouse out for a celebratory dinner and enjoy!!!! 🙂

    • gtinla says:

      WHAT? – what are you talking about? 100 miles, where to? when? who? – what did I miss… gulp…

      🙂 Looking forward to it….

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