The first inkling I had that I was going to lose my job was when my boss at UBS in New York suggested we go off the desk for a coffee.
'Looking back all to those years ago, I naively thought we were going to discuss something social, like sorting out the bowling outing he’d mentioned a few times. But this was something entirely different, hence the sudden need for some privacy off the desk.
So, clutching a pint of latte, he ushered me into a corner of an outside terrace away from all earshot.
‘The company is scaling back, and I’ve been told to reduce the size of the desk', he told me bluntly. The penny didn't really drop. ‘You may have to take redundancy, mate. I’m sorry.’
‘You’re kidding!’, was my immediate response, but when he came over all grim and stern I found myself stammering. ‘You can’t do that - I’m way ahead of target; I’m doing all this graduate recruitment. It’s totally unfair', I said.
And it was unfair, because it was near year end and I'd already factored a decent bonus into my plans. Not to mention the fact that we were living in the USA - where my network was not exactly red hot. But investment banks are like oil tankers in stormy seas. Once they get on a course, there’s nothing much going to make them alter it. And if you’re some poor little guy with a target on his back searching for the lifeboat, you'll never find it.
So, only a day later I found myself in an office talking to HR and feeling like a total loser. I was read my various entitlements and given details of my severance package. I could hardly speak with the shock of it all.
And this is what it’s like to be laid-off. Some see it coming - I didn't. And worse was to come - the missed financial opportunities, the lost business relationships, the loss of face and dignity - the sheer desperation of looking for work in a market which made you feel that no-one really cared.
In the end, it worked out for me - up to a point. But like many former UBS professionals from all those years ago, I look back and realise that my time spent there was the high point on my career. And it was so quickly taken away.
So next time you see those matter-of-fact headlines about large firms streamlining / downsizing / right-sizing - or whatever smart terms are used to tell people that they no longer have a job - think about what it really means for those who are unfortunately let go'.