Have you ever done something completely right, but found yourself holding onto the metaphorical short straw?
I just did.
Here’s the story on how my bet on a job put me in the unemployment line.
In 2016, I left my employer of four years in pursuit of a higher paying job where I wasn’t working 50+ hours per week. You can read all about my company change, my new found salary, and how I handled the money HERE. That part is published and is old news. However, I have a confession to make…
I wasn’t happy.
It didn’t take long at all for me to realize that, by quitting my old job and working here, I had made a decision that kept feeling like it was a mistake.
I just couldn’t shake that feeling like I had just blown out my own candle.
My finance career felt like it hit a dead end. The structure of the department didn’t promote any growth, autonomy, or even identity. I came home each day with the growing realization that I walked away from a low paying job willing to provide me with upwards mobility…and traded it in for…well… I don’t even know what.
Sure, I was earning substantially more money per year and was paying off debt faster than ever, but I lost my passion to to work pretty quickly. The following two years of my life felt like a combination of an empty room, and that kind of random movie that you find on Netflix to kill the silence in said empty room.
Everyone around me knew it, too.
On numerous occasions, I looked over my monitor into a sea of cubicles to find that the entire department had gone to lunch without inviting me. There would be days at work where I left at 5:00 pm and realized that I hadn’t spoken to anyone all day. There was even a time period when I didn’t say a single word to my manager for three straight weeks.
Everybody else around me was enjoying and prospering socially in a company that I only stayed at because of their ability to make it rain in my bank account every two weeks, on schedule.
For those two years, I resonated myself to binging podcasts for 40 hours per week, counting down the minutes until Friday afternoon, and dreading Sunday nights. During this time, I applied for and lost three internal position within other departments. I withdrew from social media, this blog, and numerous people. I just didn’t have the energy.
My husband and I talked about our goals of buying a new house, seeing family overseas, and growing together, but waged those decisions on whether or not I was going to be employed. To be honest, we had actually started saving thousands of dollars in the event that I woke up one morning and realized that I couldn’t bear to report to work anymore. It was that serious, guys.
That was my personal experience, and reality, working here.
One day, after a personally detrimental email chain that I found myself in, and a sufficient amount of jobtime that I could claim on my resume, the time had come to peace out.
So, once again, I pressed my slacks and pushed out my resume.
The job offer.
After numerous interviews with a plethora of companies, one company offered me a promising position to grow into a mortgage loan officer role.
This particular job offer meant taking a decrease in my paid time-off per year (less than half as much, actually), as well as reducing my hourly pay by over $5 per hour under the allure that I will earn twice as much money than I was currently making once I was fully trained with them in about six months.
The day I turned in my resignation, my supervisor and I had the longest and most human conversation that we had ever had in the two years that I worked under her. Not only did she wish me well, but we also learned those mundane facts about each other that you normally cover in your first week–such as how many pets we had, what our interest were, and where our spouses were employed. Suddenly speaking like we were old friends was a sharp contrast to the person who I previously had sat five desks away from but literally went three solid weeks without even smiling at one another. Odd.
As word spread through the office that I was leaving, numerous people said that they were not surprised at my departure and wished me happiness at my new job. Man, did that sentiment stick with me… when I left my last company in 2016, I sent a shock-wave through the entire organization and was met with dozens of people who were literally shocked and upset that I was quitting. A plethora of people told me that the company was losing a great employee, and senior managers told me that they’d love to hire me back someday. This time around in 2018, I was told that nobody was surprised I was quitting. Yikes, man. Right in the ego.
My first day at the new job came quickly and I was excited to get my life back on track. My new job showered me with a company issued laptop and a highly flexible schedule. And I was living for it!
Here I stood, newly debt free, fulfilled at work, learning a new angle on the industry that I had been working in for years, and ready to tee up some moves in my life that were going to require a lot of energy, such as my longtime desire to start investing in rental properties.
Treat Yo Self.
The cash started flowing just as fast as my self esteem did.
In the first weeks, my husband and I bought the new house that we had been planning to do for months. With the new house came new bedroom furniture, new patio sets, and decor. We decided to splurge a little on our upcoming vacation, and really relax.
We didn’t open the financial flood gates, but we loosened up our belts…because things weren’t that bad, anymore. I was happy at work, he wasn’t wearing the unfair burden of my stress anymore, and my “quit your job” fund had transitioned nicely into a plush emergency fund. Things were good!
I received my 60 day performance review from my employer, who championed me for meeting my performance goals at work, however, he requested that I show more dynamics in my personality. He asked me if I still liked my job and couldn’t tell if I was happy, unhappy, or indifferent. I reassured him that things were peachy, I was hopeful of the future, and was simply focusing on working and learning as much as I could. Likewise a lot of my energy had been dedicated to me becoming licensed in my field (a job requirement that was mentioned that I achieved faster than most).
He gave me the advice of being more approachable. As I was told, I was friendly and nobody was afraid to speak to me, but that others around the water cooler had noticed that I wasn’t very talkative. In literal terms, and almost exact words, I was instructed to make a friend at the office.
I heeded his advice. The next morning, I brought in donuts for the entire floor. That night, I added some colleagues on facebook and chatted up a few. The following week, I dedicated 5 uninterrupted minutes, twice per day, to conversing with a different coworker about a range of topics such as their upcoming vacation, lunch options, and our families.
Six days after I was given my 60 day review, I was let go. The only reasoning I was given was “a difference in personalities“. That’s it. I can speculate on tons of actual reasons, but in this medium–I can only say what I was formally told.
Okay, so being petty on a public form only hurts me, but there is one thing I have to say..
“Have you ever heard of somebody getting fired for meeting performance expectations, but just not taking enough breaks from work to socialize?”
Hi there. Let me introduce myself.
The following days after getting let go was a whirlwind in itself between the company blurring the lines of my employment status and easing the mind of my husband who had just learned that 2/3rds of his household’s income had vanished instantly.
The unplanned job loss also placed me in a unique position:
- My first mortgage payment on my new house was due in three days.
- My husband and I were carrying the cost of our old home (the rental) while we waited for a tenant.
- We were going on a month long vacation to visit my family overseas for the first time in 16 years that we planned/paid for over a year ago…in 30 days.
I submitted over 30 applications and resumes in two days, and interviewed for another position at the company that had just fired me. They offered me the role, but at a wage that was 40k less than I was promised, and with the stipulation that they would not accommodate my time off request to visit family anymore. I declined it.
Even though we had no way to predict this job loss, we had made three key decisions that turned my unemployment into a slight financial setback rather than a dumpster fire.
- We had saved thousands of dollars into our emergency fund.
- We built multiple income streams (our rental properties).
- The entire two years that I worked at my high paying job, we never fell for Lifestyle Inflation*.
*‘Lifestyle Inflation‘ is increasing your spending when your income goes up. Lifestyle inflation tends to continue each time someone gets a raise, making it perpetually difficult to get out of debt, save for retirement or meet other big-picture financial goals.
This meant that my husband could afford almost all of our expenses on his salary alone, and the two of us had enough money saved to cover my unemployment for almost eight full months. We took a HUGE sigh of relief, came up with a doomsday plan just in case eight months went by without me finding work, and decided that I should wait until I get back from our trip to find a new job… as it was unfair to ask a new employer to hire me, but immediately give me almost a full month off work for our trip.
Although unemployment has been filled with uncertainty about whats next in my life, it was reassuring that virtually none of our friends or family members were concerned about our financial independence. Considering they had just watched us buy this posh new home, each one of them told us that they never questioned for a minute if we were going to struggle, or that we had put ourselves into a poor financial decision. They knew that we had multiple exit strategies and years of modest living on our side.
They were all right. For two years, I preached to everyone I knew and a plethora of people online through this very website about the virtues of planning for the unexpected…and that wisdom was saving my ass, yet again, in the most monumental financial emergency that we’d ever faced together.
Could you imagine what would happen if we hadn’t saved a single dollar?
We’d lose the new house we had just purchased and moved into, because we couldn’t make the payment anymore. Our old house that was going to become a rental? That’d be gone too. What about our cars? Credit cards? Student loans? Utilities? Cell phones? What about our ability to buy ourselves groceries? Oh god…what about our internet bill?!
If we didn’t have an emergency fund, I would be rushing to pick up any job that I could find as I have done in the past. This (non-refundable) trip that we had spent thousands of dollars on when times were good…we’d either walk away from my new paycheck to go, or we’d stay home and lose all that money we had already paid in airline costs, expenses, and dues. We would be selling everything around us, and probably severely straining our relationship of 7 years over the stress of financial uncertainty.
Thankfully, that’s not us.
I want to make one thing clear in this post. This is not me bragging about my wealth (don’t forget, i’m in the middle class tax bracket)… this is me attempting to convey that bad consequences of life happened regardless of how comfortable or cash strapped we are.
Our bills are still due, the mortgage company still wants their money, and food still isn’t free.
Unexpected events happen, well, unexpectedly. You can’t predict, nor control them. Whether it be a car accident, a health issue, a leaking roof, a death in the family, or (now) a job loss… all you can do is prepare by saving up a rainy day fund. All of these things have happened to me in the last five years, and having a degree of a savings ($250 to $$$$$) have been the only reason that an unexpected event didn’t turn into a financial dumpster fire.
In the wisdom of Kendrick Lamar…
If you need me, i’ll be at home working on my resume, unpacking my boxes, reading job descriptions that make me feel like I will never be qualified, and figuring out where my finance career is taking me next.
What I won’t be doing… is freaking out. Because we are going to be alright.