Career and Money Advice At The Intersection Of Business And Technology

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Lessons from the last recession (Part #1) — layoff could be a good thing for you

September 5th, 2008 · No Comments

I was laid off in April, 2000 from a "super hot" Internet start-up. It was the company’s second round of layoff. I received two weeks of salary, plus one-month of medical benefits. For a start-up that was starving for cash, it was a decent severance package.

Several of my colleagues survived the layoff and stayed with the company for a couple more years. There were several more rounds of layoffs, and the severance package got worse and worse. In the end, the company was sold for almost nothing — 100,000 shares of the company stock worth $1 dollar. This company had raised almost $100 million funding from top VC firms such as Accel Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, etc.

People who got laid off early were much better off — most of them were able to get jobs quickly since the job market was still fairly good at time of the early rounds of layoffs. A good number of them joined companies such as Google, Yahoo!, eBay, VMWare, etc.. They have done well financially, and have progressed nicely in their careers. Ironically, people who didn’t get laid off early "suffered" the most — their stock options worth nothing in the end. They missed opportunities to join companies with much better financial and career prospect.

You could argue that this is part of the start-up game — you never know if a start-up is going to make it. There are plenty of examples that employees stick with a company through lean times, and ultimately be rewarded.

But, I think we can all learn a valuable lesson here: when you are laid off by a company, although it’s painful and stressful, it could be the beginning of something new and successful if you can learn from the experience, and use it as an opportunity for self introspection and personal/professional growth. Just like the Chinese phrase for "crisis" consists of two characters: "Danger" and "Opportunity", layoff can be both "danger" and "opportunity" to you. It’s up to you to seize the hidden opportunity. Trust me, it’s there!

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Tags: Beat Recession

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