One year ago this month, I was escorted out of my office by the HR Director.
I had considered him a friend, and had certainly clinked beer bottles a time or two with him. But now, he couldn’t meet my eyes as he sheepishly offered to carry one of the two cardboard boxes that held the only memories I wished to take with me after nearly a decade of work.
I know, pretty dramatic. In reality, it was simply standard procedure after a lay-off, but it marked one of the largest life transitions for me to date. Truth be told, I had been plotting my exit from the company, which had changed so drastically in recent months. I had come to despise the job I used to love. I had gone from being a significant voice in the company to feeling forgotten and useless. And being laid off was far better than having to quit.
It really would have been hard to be the one to leave, after all of those years.
I didn’t have to. One morning, the Big Boys from the parent company appeared without warning, multiple HR personnel in tow, their arms full of files and folders that contained our individual destinies. One by one, we went into a secluded conference room to learn our fate, told that our operations were being absorbed by the headquarters in Texas. It didn’t matter that I was hoping for this exact scenario- a severance package, my stock pay-out, extended health insurance, and my freedom. It still was a blow to hear I was no longer important to the success of the company I felt I helped grow.
In all honesty, I haven’t looked back. The company was never again going to be the place it was, way back when I started in 2001. Paranoia and greed had become commonplace, and the feeling of family had diminished, bit by bit, with each veteran’s exit (voluntary or not). I enjoyed probably the best summer I could imagine, still on the company dime (a fact which made it all the sweeter). I have a fun employment opportunity in front of me that encourages the life I already live (food, travel, family). I don’t miss my old job at all. It was time to move on.
What I DO miss is the group of people I grew to love, the responsibility that came with my position, the pride I had in my work, and most of all, a big part of my identity.
I am not big on titles, but this card felt significant in a multi-million dollar company run mostly by men. I was the only female in upper management. I had worked my way there. I did a good job.
I don’t have a business card anymore. I don’t have a title (except cool ones I’ve given myself). I know that a job doesn’t define me or how important I am. It’s just something I did for awhile.
If I need to feel important, all I have to do is look around.
I’ve got all the proof I need.