The first time I was fired, I was 17. Like most people who lose their jobs, I didn’t see it coming. I was working as a cashier at Du-par's, and it was a great part-time job while I went to North Hollywood High. I’d go there after school and ring up donuts, bear claws and pies, while writing poetry and reading Siddhartha when there were no customers.
I thought I was pretty cool, with all my philosophical jargon, going braless and wearing my hippie beads. I guess management thought otherwise. I don’t remember the specifics, but I suppose I was called upstairs and given a pink slip. It hurt. Didn’t they know I was a published writer? Shouldn’t that count for something?
A few years later, I was working as a temp person in a small office in the bowels of Hollywood. I used to take the bus to the mid-Wilshire area to do some filing, typing and coffee-fetching. One day, I spilled white-out all over the papers I was typing, dripped coffee over an internal memo, and swore a few times while I was executing all these mistakes. I soon got the heave-ho, and the temp agency never got paid.
Call it what you will. Getting fired, dismissed, demoted or let go never feels good. You rarely see it coming, unless your boss starts avoiding eye-contact, or starts leaving you out of important meetings.
I hear that people are even eliminated via email these days, since real face-to-face meetings take too much time. Sometimes your boss simply doesn't like you, or wants to replace you with someone else. There's not much you can do about that either, except polish your resume and look for another job.
Often, it’s due to budgets. In my last publishing job, I found out that the magazine was being sold, and I was part of a “restructuring” that included the elimination of several publishers. I just been named “Salesperson of the Year” a few months earlier, but that didn’t matter. I was expensive, and a liability, which put me on “the list.”
And that was that. I was called upstairs and laid off over the phone. My birthday was in two weeks. What a way to celebrate.
I had enough grief from feeling like a battered pinball, so I decided to work for myself. If I failed, it was my problem. If I succeeded, I could pat myself on the back, although that’s kind of hard to do.
If you’ve worked long enough, you’ve probably been eliminated more than once. It’s character building, and it’s a firm reminder that we’re all dispensable. But hey, it always hurts, no matter when or how it happens.
What’s your job story? Have you ever been laid off or fired? What was it like, and what did you do about it?