My first layoff – how it all began

It pains me that I can say this with authority, but getting laid off is different every time. Though the end result is always unemployment, each occasion has peculiarities that make it oh so memorable.

My first layoff was extra special (the first time always is). I was working for an Internet startup, in the heady days of the dotcom bubble. The company focused on live music, concert reviews and listings in particular; whether or not this could be monetized was another issue. When we weren’t skateboarding around the office or playing touch football, I was a content editor.

The company’s offices were in some raw space on the top floor of a loft building in the then industrial and now chichi DUMBO neighborhood in Brooklyn. This was a huge step up from the previous office – a big room over a paper disposal plant a few blocks away that doubled as the owner’s apartment. The new space had huge windows with fabulous views of the Manhattan Bridge and downtown Manhattan, some prefab desks and a bunch of computers. That was it.

Things went along swimmingly for the first part of 2000. I got to go to a ton of shows for free, and then write about them. Sometime in there I even got a raise. It wasn’t enough to retire on, but I was happy with it.

Along about September, the company started to run out of money. The CEO called everyone together and said he had enough in the bank to cover the next month or so of operating expenses. (Pizza from Grimaldi’s was probably involved, as every meeting involved pizza… another perk.) He had meetings set up with venture capital firms and was confident he could secure additional financing. But the dotcom bubble was deflating and investors were no longer throwing money at everything. If the trip secured anything, it wasn’t much. I was still getting a check, so I continued to show up every day. It didn’t occur to me that this wouldn’t always be the case. Oh to be young and naive.

After the trip, the plan changed from securing additional funds to selling the company. There had been talks with a couple of suitors in previous months, and those talks were renewed. One even sent a representative to review the company’s systems. It seemed that I would continue to have a job and could net a small windfall from my stock options. Things were looking up, and then they weren’t. In fact the one serious suitor was only interested in bringing the company’s technology in-house, not in carrying on the company as it was.

The paychecks stopped but the talks continued. The CEO was confident that a deal was still possible and encouraged us to continue working to keep the site viable. I showed up for work for a couple days after the company missed my last check. Others didn’t. I worked from home for a few more days, doing the bare minimum. The potential deal fizzled and the company basically ceased to exist, except online. The site remained live on the off chance that another buyer came along. I was unemployed.

My last couple of checks depended on additional cash in the form of more financing or a bridge loan from a new owner. That cash never materialized, so I was essentially out of luck. Needless to say the stock options became worthless too. Over the next week or so, while management was clearing out of the space, some of my co-workers helped themselves to computers and furniture as compensation. I can’t say I blame them.

In this layoff, there was no official meeting, letter or really notification that I was laid off. There was no severance package or continuation of benefits. No one walked me out of the building or FedExed my belongings to my apartment. The CEO just told us that he was no longer able to pay us, so I stopped working. To his credit, he was upfront (if overly optimistic) throughout the whole ordeal, sharing information as he got it. It still would have been nice to get my last two paychecks. I guess I’m just funny like that.

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  1. More adventures in temping | Jobless and Less on Friday, January 30, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    […] second run-in with temping came after my first layoff. I was toiling in obscurity, waiting to see what grandiose opportunity would present itself next. […]