Monday, May 20, 2024

Where He Is Now: Thirteen Years Later

Enjoying a beautiful October afternoon in Southwest Florida.

Today is Commencement Day for the Yale School of Management's Class of 2024, making it 13 years since I graduated from their MBA program, and one year since last I posted an annual update.

Boating in November.
The biggest news since my last post is that I was laid off from Deloitte in October. When I went back to the firm (which I originally joined out of business school and worked at from 2011-17) in 2021, business was exploding, and I rejoined alongside many new and returning employees as part of an aggressive hiring blitz. My practice, which had been launched during my hiatus, offered workforce transformation services, the most in-demand being hybrid work strategy and DEI program enhancement, triggered by Covid-19 and the George Floyd protests respectively. But as those topics and the overall economy both began to cool in late 2022 and early 2023, the pipeline started to dry up, and the bench got ever bigger, leading to ongoing layoffs. I rolled off a project in early September and was having trouble landing another one, so I wasn't exactly shocked when, in late October, a meeting invitation popped up with the dreaded subject line "Business/Talent Conversation," which everyone knew by then was code for communicating a layoff decision.

With new friends at the white elephant gift
exchange party at my country club.
Obviously that was a bummer, especially since I thought I was doing pretty well. I'd founded and was running an offering that ended up being the second-best-selling service out of the seven in our portfolio, on the topic of contingent labor strategy. The good news was that I received a decent severance and, given the lower cost of living in Florida (where I moved to from New York a year ago), had squirreled away a helpful emergency fund in my savings account. But unfortunately, Fort Myers isn't exactly a city full of well-paying career opportunities for management consultants. Although I'm still relatively new to the area, I've made some friends and gotten involved in a few activities. I've joined a tennis club, a bowling league and an LGBT choir. And the reason I relocated to Fort Myers in the first place was because of proximity to my widowed mom, who recently turned 81. So I don't want to move, but I know, realistically, I may have to be open to doing so. And it's not like I haven't done it before. At this point, I've lived in six states!

Making mojitos during a bartending class.
One of the challenges of being laid off, beyond the obvious stress that comes with any unstable situation, was suddenly going from being very busy to having a lot of unstructured free time. To make sure I was keeping my gray matter stimulated, in January I took a two-week bartending class, which was a lot of fun and, truthfully, one of the harder things I've ever done. I was considering looking for bartending gigs afterward, but it so happened that, right after I finished the course, a tennis buddy hooked me up with a flexible hourly job arrangement at her personal-injury law firm. I've been doing that since early February. My main task is to write demand letters, which summarize accidents and request settlement payments from insurance adjusters in the hopes of avoiding litigation. I've also created several PowerPoint presentations for mediations and arbitrations, which are later-stage attempts to settle. I can't overstate how much I've enjoyed working there. It's been exciting to learn something totally outside my areas of experience, and the partners and my coworkers couldn't be nicer or more appreciative of the extra help. (Yes, it has occurred to me to switch fields, but at age 45, I am not keen on going to law school.)

Visiting with my high-school BFF, in from NYC,
on a chilly January day in Tampa.
The job-search process has been slow, frustrating and, somehow, hilarious. My most absurd story is this: I applied for a job in Arizona. They invited me to a virtual first-round case-study interview for which I created and delivered a 15-minute presentation. The feedback was great, so I was then invited to a "final round" interview presentation and panel Q&A in Arizona. I received and accepted the meeting invitation and could see that about 10 people were invited. I let my law firm know I'd be out for two days, booked my flights and hotel, made plans with friends who happen to live out there and took a day off work to create my presentation. I watched dozens of videos about the company and even bought a book written by the founder to read on the plane. Then three days before I was supposed to fly out there, they emailed and said, sorry, we filled the position. (Tip: That should've been a phone call.) They claim that they will reimburse me for my flight, but I'm still waiting.

My mom and I FaceTiming with
my brother and niece in February.
This was the most extreme example of my general experience over the past seven months. A few other times, I got to the end of a months-long interview process and was told I was the top candidate but that they either decided not to fill the role at this time or couldn't because of a hiring freeze. Looking back at how I've approached this search broadly speaking, one mistake I may have made is that, whenever I had a few qualified leads, I perhaps subconsciously took my foot off the gas a bit, assuming that, surely, at least one offer would result. So for anyone in a similar situation, my advice would be to never let up or make any optimistic assumptions until you've actually signed an offer letter ... or better yet, until you're on the job. (I have a friend who's been out of work for a year. Recently, she got an offer, accepted it, and then it was rescinded because the position was eliminated.) Anyway, I know I'm not alone in this, and hopefully I will have some good news soon. 

Exploring Meow Wolf in Denver with two close
friends from my early 2000s journalism days.
Because of the need to tighten the purse strings, I didn't do much leisure traveling over the past year. In fact, I left Florida only for work travel. But in each case, I got to see friends living in or near the area I was visiting. These included Chicago, Boston (onto which I attached a trip to Vermont), Denver (which I'd never been to before) and three unrelated treks to Dallas-Fort Worth, where I lived from 2006 to 2009. Within Florida, I also took a work trip to Miami and drove a few times to visit my brother and his brood in Orlando, where they bought a house and are splitting time between there and New York. I also had five houseguests over the past year. When you move to Southwest Florida and have an extra bedroom, you become a very good friend to have indeed, especially during the winter. One of them even came here twice!

In Orlando over
Thanksgiving weekend.
So, all said, this has been a bumpy 12 months. But even though it's been stressful, it hasn't been all bad. I've certainly had some new experiences I wouldn't otherwise have had. I can make a Long Island Iced Tea and know more about personal-injury law than I ever imagined I would! And, ultimately, hopefully I'll land somewhere great and be able to look back and be grateful that I was pushed out of Deloitte's nest. There's a bit of irony in the fact that I left print journalism to get my MBA in part because I was worried about getting laid off, yet here I am. Doing these annual posts always makes me revisit the question of whether I'm glad I went to business school. I've always said "yes" emphatically because my main goal at that time, back in 2009, was to open doors to a higher-paying career. And to be fair, that happened. But given how this past year has gone, my emphatic "yes" is shifting to a less emphatic "yes, I suppose, but ... maybe I should've gone to law school instead."

See you next year!

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