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May 21, 2009


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Great thoughts.

How long would you wait before you started searching out of state?

My brother lives in Michigan and was laid off on May 1. He is underwater on his house, and all of his family, etc. is in Michigan, so moving would be difficult. However, he is going to have a VERY hard time finding work in Michigan right now. He is trying to decide how long to wait before he starts looking out of state for work. Ultimately the decision to leave the state would mean that he would have to walk away from his house. Should he just cut his losses, walk away, and start over somewhere else?

I wouldn't wait at all...

One of the things that I would do on top of all of the things you mentioned would be to go ahead and start my computer services business. It would probably be the perfect opportunity to start it up.

I would move in with a friend in a cheaper city.

One of the first things I would do would be to cut back on our discretionary spending. That way our emergency fund would stretch a lot longer.

A quibble: being "fired" means being dismissed with cause. Being laid off means being let go because the company can no longer justify your position for some business reason. If you're actually fired, options 1 and 2 are probably irrelevant.

As for me, I'm a "startup lifer", and have been laid off three times when the startup ran out of money. Part of having a "risky" career path means that I have a very large emergency reserve (six months in cash, another year or so in now-mature I-bonds), keeping the networks active, and staying plugged in to the new startup trends and such.

Having a big reserve means I can do stuff like join a pre-funding startup and get paid in stock only - as well as sleep at night if things aren't going well at work.

I'd take the opportunity to learn a new skill so I could get into a new line of work, or work part-time so I can be home when my daughter gets out of school. I really like the dog-walker idea, maybe I will see if I can make $100,000 a year walking dogs. ;)

A while back FMF posted about doing practice interviews. If you did do that, you could call those companies again and let them know you're looking.

I'd also make unsollicited applications (sending out your resume to companies).

"negotiate the best severance I could". often wondered when I hear this what this means. Unless you're a member of some sort of union, how can you negotiate severance (i.e., what cards do you hold to barter with)?

I'd sign up for unemployment immediately--stretch those saved dollars even further.

Strick --

Some food for thought:

Frantically back my bags because my wife and I would have to leave the country immediately; we can stay only so long as I'm employed full time according to the terms of our visas. No grace period, though in practice you have a few days. Once fired or laid off, I cannot get a job elsewhere - I'd have to get a new one and transfer my visa before leaving the current company. The fact that I am a very well paid engineer with a graduate education from a top-5 US school means nothing. Out I go..

Luckily I have a large reserve fund, equivalent to about 10 years living expenses, so while being a royal pain, it would not be a disaster. Although I'd like to stay and invest in a house and so on but the government is so slow to process the greencard applications.

Yikes! Go stir crazy? I've had a job for the last 25 years, and wouldn't know what to do with myself! In all seriousness, I would start with cutting the discretionary spending. My emergency fund will last us longer if I spend less of it now. Next, I would start a job search in earnest, and try to find something quick. I wouldn't be too picky, either. I can look for something more permanent when the cash flow is steady again.

FMF - Interesting article, more complicated than I thought, thanks.

Building a Linkedin network actually takes a little while, so if that's something you're going to want to use, you should actually start that before you get laid off.

Adding links takes time, as does getting and making recommendations for people.

My two cents.
-- Michael


When a company wants to get rid of you, then you are a problem they need to solve. They don't want it messy or with any disruptions to others, so it's best for them if you go away happy and quickly. Not so much for you but for the perception of the remaining people who need to see that the employer treats people fairly. Therefore you have a lot of negotiating power. However the power (threat of not going away per their expectations) must never be used as once you start to do this you will lose whatever power you have. But if you can keep it positive by going in with the best attitude you can (it's just business, not personal), you can negotiate much more than their first offer.

In addition to delaying your departure of offering training to your successor you can also look into the following. Keep in mind smaller companies don't have formal programs and here you'd do really well with good negotiation skills. Bigger companies usually have a team of HR & Lawyers that will force everyone through the same process, like animals in a slaughterhouse (sorry, couldn't resist making that comparison). You can still negotiate with the big guys but you have to find out what their system offers and using a company insider (friend in HR, the admin assistant you were always nice to, etc) will go a long way. Things to consider:

1. Accelerated or full vesting of company stock match as well as 401k contribution
2. Accelerated of full vesting of any company stock options (likely underwater but worth a look)
3. Payout of unused vacation or comp time.
4. Special extention bonus to train others or finish a project.
5. Better outplacement benefits - for example use of a counselor, interview coach, paper, phones, high speed internet, etc to find another job. If you can do this yourself don't tell them but negotiate for a cash amount in lieu of this benefit as companies need to pay for this anyway.
6. Additional education or training you need to find another job.
7. Removal of restrictions on non-compete clauses in your contract. If the employer insists on keeping this this may justify paying you extra to stay at home as you can't find a job outside the industry. It helps to know your state laws on non-competes.
8. Re-location or repatriation to your original town assuming that you had to move to take this job, whether or not the company paid for this relocation.
9. Extension or any other benefit offered to you (health insurance, discounted health club membership, industry association fees) - if this can't be extended ask for an equivalent cash amount.
10. References or what will be said about you if a future employer checks the current company as a reference- not money related but very important. You want to be professional with them and expect the same out of them to you.

Don't be unreasonable and keep asking for extra stuff if you've sensed that they are at their limit. If you are reasonable and flexible you can find enough good reasons where a fair employer will give you more.

Most important, keep your cool and stay logical. If you feel emotional when you hear the news, tell them you need to have a follow up meeting and go for a long run to clear your head. If you are targeted it's really hard to reverse the decision unless you can change the mind of the person who made the decision, and sometimes it's a very high level person. The reality is that you are already gone so there is no point keeping the emotional attachment of the job. Let it go and focus on the next steps (severance package first and then finding another job second). If you stay cool and positive you will always do better than someone who loses it.


Sorry- the previous post was full of typos and poor grammar. Next time I'll re-read what I write before hitting the post button.


I would also investigate if I was eligible for COBRA continuation at the govt subsidized cost. If not, I would immediately bring my health insurance up to date by purchasing an individual or family plans.

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