I got laid off this morning

Departure Sign

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'The phone rang and I knew it was over. It was an internal ring, I could tell. I'd witnessed it many times over the last couple of days; the call, the nervous laugh as the receiver was replaced, and then the long walk up to the fifth floor to be told by HR that your services were no longer required.

Well, now it was my turn, and I was determined to take it like a man (actually, I initially ignored the call, hoping that they'd get fed up and chose someone else instead. But they didn't). So I silently cleared the stuff I needed from my desk (all personal belongings, of course, as the client data and the rest of the information that I'd need in my next job had been shipped out piecemeal during the two weeks before).

I took my jacket off the back of my chair, and had a last look around the trading floor. No-one would look me in the eye - they all knew what was coming, and had their heads down, clearly uncomfortable and not knowing what to say. I understood, though, as I'd been there myself. What was there to say ? 'Goodbye' would sound naff, 'Sorry', insincere, and 'Tough luck' quite patronising. Best to look down at your desk and keep mum. And their turn would come, too. We all knew that. Maybe not this time around, but at some stage. It comes with the territory in our jobs.

A young administrator from HR met me as the lift doors opened. She said my name, and I nodded (wouldn't want to get rid of the wrong employee, would we ?). I followed her to a room off to the side. Strange, but at that moment, I actually pitied her. I was sure she hadn't been around long enough to realise that, once this round of lay offs were through, so was she; she'd be the next in line. At least old timers like me see it coming.

The older girl behind the desk introduced herself. I assumed she was also from HR, although she didn't say. Strange how you only see those HR-types twice when you work for a firm like ours - when you're hired, and when they let you go. I've often wondered what they do the rest of the time. 

To tell the truth, I can't really remember what the HR girl said. It didn't really matter. In the end, I was passed a compromise agreement, advised to go see a lawyer and sign it, and told that I was being taken next door for a 'brief chat' with a 'careers adviser'. Ironic, I thought; I could probably have done with some careers advice before they laid me off!

Anyway, I was hurried out of the office, and pushed into the arms of 'Gerald', an inoffensive chap in his mid-50s with a reassuring look on his face.

And Gerard spent the next 45 minutes telling me all about his own career history, and how he was going to help me rewrite my CV and network to get another job as quickly as possible. Bearing in mind this guy clearly hadn't been able to find a job for himself back in the industry when he was laid off (and he had been, he assured me), you'll forgive me when I say that I'm rather dubious that he'll do any good for me. But I didn't say anything; no point being offensive now. And it wasn't Gerard's fault that I'd lost my job, much as I would've liked to have used him as a punch bag.

'And not to forget your transferable skills', I heard him say, as my mind wandered back to reality.

'I'm in equity derivatives', I replied quietly, 'Or at least I was. How's that transferable ?'.

That stumped him. Well it would, wouldn't it ? He'd spent a career in operations at a commercial bank, you see. But, hey, he was doing his best.

We shook hands, and I promised to call him to make a proper appointment. And we both knew that I wouldn't - ever. I was on my own, and I knew it. Willing as he was, the likes of Gerard would never be able to help me. That's the way it works. I'd need to work out my next move for myself. You walk into a new job with nothing but your experience and your contact list, and you leave the same way. It can be a hard and cruel world, our industry, but we all knew that when we signed up'. 

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