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On October 15, 2018, I wrote:
“I am sure I will be in his shoe at one point in my career, and I will need his support as much as he needs mine at the moment.”
I was talking about Mr. FAF’s fear of getting laid off when his boss asked him to find a new team at his company.
At that time, I felt pretty secure at my job.
Sure, my job doesn’t pay six figures, but it’s in line with my passion and offers great benefits such as healthcare with a $0 deductible.
I knew that at one point I’d probably face a potential layoff like Mr. FAF, but I didn’t think it would come so soon.
In fact, that fear surfaced in less than two months in early December 2018.
A fateful day
On a day like any other day in early December 2018, my boss called a sudden and brief meeting to announce that he was leaving his position.
It was a shock to me and everyone else. I suddenly felt like I had been pushed off a ship at sea.
“What would happen to the group (created by my boss when he joined the company)?” “What would happen to me and my job?” ” How much longer do I have before getting laid off?” Those questions were swirling in my head, but I tried to stay calm.
My boss at the time seemed to have guessed how everyone would react and said he didn’t know what would happen next.
I was scared. I went back to my desk and told Mr. FAF what had happened. Both of us freaked out.
Trying to find the answers
In the next days and weeks, I tried to talk to as many people as I could at the organization and even the CEO to find out what would happen to my group and my position in particular.
I was told that I’d still have my job in the short term (maybe three to six months), but they weren’t sure about the long term.
I went home feeling so lost. What should I do next? Should I start applying for a new position? Should I try harder to prove my value to my employer? Should I go back to school if I can’t find a job?
What complicates the whole situation is that I am in the US on a work visa (H1B). That basically means that I’m tied to my employer, and it’s hard for me to just switch to a new job like American citizens.
I want to have a career. I want to be a working mom. I know everyone is different. But that’s my choice, and that’s what makes me happy. Why can’t women have both a career and a happy family? They shouldn’t be forced to choose either one. And I shouldn’t be either.
An attempt at an internal position
At about the same time, a position was opening up in another group at my organization. That position, however, required extensive international travel (2-3 weeks at a time and multiple times a year, sometimes on short notice).
Although I was interested in moving up the career ladder, the idea of extensive travel and leaving my newborn and a toddler at home with the husband didn’t appeal to me.
Yet, I felt like I had no choice and decided to apply for it. What followed was weeks of waiting, interviewing and tests. I was consumed by the whole process, constantly checking my work email for updates and chatting with the HR person in charge of the applications to gauge what was going on.
I ended up not getting the job for lack of project management skills. Though disappointed, I was relieved about not having to travel outside of the US and leaving my kids at home.
The next question, however, was what should I do next? I decided to broaden my scope and started applying for external jobs, knowing that it’d be really hard for me to find an employer who would be willing to sponsor my work visa.
During that process, I looked at hundreds of job postings and applied for dozens of them. At first, I got lots of interviews, but none of them worked out for various reasons.
It was also during that process that I realized that none of the jobs I applied for really appealed to me. Those were the jobs that fit my resume and needed my skills. But I wanted something different, not more of the same things I’ve been doing over the past four years.
I started looking at job postings with different titles and was interested in the Business Analyst position. Yet, most if not all of those postings required one or two skills that I didn’t have.
I didn’t have the qualifications they were asking for. I applied for those positions anyway and didn’t get any response. I wasn’t good enough for what I wanted to do. I felt like a total failure.
I spent the next days, weeks, and months feeling depressed and not knowing what to do with my life. I was practically having a midlife (third life?) crisis. I didn’t know what I was good at and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
My job was going down the drain. And my blog, though successful at first, is not generating any money since I can’t monetize it yet due to my work visa. I couldn’t do any freelance work or side hustles also because of my visa.
I felt stuck. Nothing cheered me up. Then I started to wonder if I had made the right decision to come to the US and get stuck in this work visa situation. If I were in Vietnam, at least I could apply to whatever job I want without being asked about sponsorship.
Then I started doubting what I chose to study in college and in grad school. I started doubting myself and every major decision I’d ever made in my life. It was during this time that the voice of the “loser” inside me spoke to me the loudest. And unfortunately, I listened to it every single day.
He would tell me stories about his friends and colleagues who were going through a much tougher time and still stayed positive. Those stories did cheer me up briefly. But then, I dug myself back into his hole of self-pity and disorientation.
During that time, I tried to maintain a good performance at work so that my boss didn’t have another reason to lay me off. But everyday I came into work wondering if I’d be at the same desk the next day.
I even packed up my stuff and cleaned my desk so that I wouldn’t have to spend hours doing so if I got laid off. I told my colleagues I was doing spring cleaning, but I was just preparing to leave. I was mentally preparing myself for a layoff.
The current job is the first full-time job I have ever had in my entire life. Prior to this, I had multiple part-time jobs and internships.
It didn’t help that the layoff possibility was looming large in the holiday season when everything was supposed to be festive and promising.
I did some Google search, and it turned out that layoffs in December are pretty common since that’s when employers close their financial books. I was lucky I was informed months in advance. And it is possible that I can still hold on to my job.
But this is not the end of the story. As I was checking the description of the jobs I I wanted to do but wasn’t qualified for, a light bulb went on in my head. Why don’t I start learning those skills now instead of lamenting about the fact that I never learned them in school?
After all, not everything is taught in school, and there are a lot of free and paid resources out there. That’s when I decided to stop my self-pity and take action to change things around. And this will be the topic of my next post.