Writer’s Workshop: You’re Fired!

I took a workshop years ago, and one of the things our trainer said was that his company never hired anyone who hadn’t been fired from a job at least once. He said the reasoning was they didn’t want anyone working for them who was afraid of losing his job.

It made sense to me, although I was one of those people who was afraid of losing his job. It’s tough when you’re the sole breadwinner; you realize that if you lose your job, you have to get a new one, or you’ll starve, and take your spouse with you. That, and my mother always had a bad reaction to people not having jobs. I don’t know how many times I heard her say, “My God, he has no job!” I guess I internalized that to the point that I stayed in jobs years after I should have left.

I guess you could say I was fired from the job I had from 1984 to 2004, but that wasn’t exactly how it worked. I was given thirty days to “straighten out my act,” as my manager put it, after a demo/training session went sideways at a user conference, and I decided that, after twenty years, it was time to move on anyway. Over the next month, I looked for work and got my resume in order, and I also thought about what I had just done. I don’t mean quit, I mean stay at that company for twenty years. I started reviewing those twenty years, and identified about a dozen points at which I should have quit, but didn’t. And I remembered something Uncle Jack told me many years before: “Back when I was starting out, the object was to get with a company and stay there until you retired. Nowadays, they expect you to leave after about five years.” Looking at things that way, I should have had four jobs in those twenty years.

Nowadays, someone between the ages of 18 and 55 has about eleven jobs. That’s about three years per job. In a way, you’re always looking for a new opportunity, even after you start a new job. Back when I started, that was considered “job hopping” and was supposedly career suicide. How things have changed in forty years. Now, it’s standard operating procedure: you’re supposed to leave after three years, or less. The longer you stay, the less valuable you are to the company. This is now a world of “free agency,” as Dan Pink calls it. You no longer work for a company, you work for yourself and sell your services to a company.

So being fired is actually your company doing you a favor. Might not seem that way at the time, but it is.

Today’s prompt (at least the one I used) was “Write a blog post inspired by the word: fired.”