This was back in 2008 when the subprime crisis hit the world, it tremors were felt across the globe. Jamie lost his job. He was one amongst the scores of middle class people whose life was turned topsy turvy due to the meltdown. Unable to face his family and reveal the truth, he continued to dress up in his formal clothes, strung his laptop bag and left for work at the usual time. He whiled away the day at a friend’s place or a Coffee Day and returned home at the usual time. His windowed mother never realized something is amiss. A tragic accident which claimed his life sent his mother scurrying to the MNC she believed he worked in, in the hope of claiming insurance. To her utter shock and dismay, she was informed that her son was thrown out of his job 3 months ago. The grief of losing her only offspring coupled with the fact that he had lied to her for so many months was too much to bear for her. Where she erred in her upbringing, she wondered.
Nisha one of my brightest friends works as a VP in a MNC. Off late I noticed she is always tense and fidgety. The once chirpy, overzealous girl is lost somewhere and in her place I see this troubled, forever worried aged lady. On prodding this is what I get to know “Yaar the industry is going through a tough time. The firms are no longer minting money. The other option to maintain their margins is cost cutting. All of us working offshore in a low cost country thought we will be insulated from these job cuts but we were wrong. People are being laid off and not just the entry level jobs. In fact there is a fear of people in senior positions being asked to resign. No one is indispensable. The cost saving by foregoing one senior person and getting those below him to pick up his job or even hiring 2 people at mid-level is still a win for the organization. I fear I may lose my job any day. I and my family have gotten used to a certain kind of lifestyle – branded clothes, foreign trips, and the best of everything. I know I am intelligent and can get a job elsewhere if the inevitable happens. But I may have to compromise on the salary part and I dread to think what will happen to the “high life” we are living. How will the kids react?”
Madhusudan was euphoric – a lower middle class boy who secured a seat to one of the top engineering colleges solely based on merit and he now had a job in one of the leading IT companies. His parents and 3 siblings lived in a village, his father is a farmer who is already reeling under the burden of debt. With my job I will change their destiny is what he hopes. It’s been almost 9 months now but he hasn’t joined the IT Company. Per the placement offer, the MNC gave a verbal undertaking that all students would get the joining date within 3 months. However it’s almost a year and he still awaits the letter. Numerous calls and emails to the company go unanswered. Scores of students like him await the offer letter, a look of fear in their eyes and a silent prayer on their lips. Madhusudan has gone into depression and even tried taking his life. He couldn’t bear the thought of facing his poor father and breaking this news to him.
RK Sharma a 50 year old senior HR manager doesn’t seem his usual cheerful self. He is agitated, has drawn into a shell and is often found staring into oblivion. His wife and daughter caught the signs early and despite his protest took him to a psychiatrist. The reasons for his withdrawal was quite a revelation. The IT industry was reeling under the pressure of layoffs and being an HR manager Mr. Sharma was assigned the task of communicating this news to the employees concerned. He was forced to keep a poker straight face, devoid of any emotions and he rattled off the rehearsed speech to one employee after another. “The company is going through a tuff time. You will be paid 2 months of severance pay and be given an experience certificate. Unfortunately you will have to leave in a week.” The look of despair and utter helplessness on the faces of the employees- that of shock, rage, resentment as some burst into tears and pleaded, the others just exited without a word and a few threatened to commit suicide or go the media is what stayed with him. He remained calm and undeterred on the exterior but the gnawing ache was eating him up, bit by bit.
The IT boom in the late 90’s and the outsourcing of financial services and call centers brought about a paradigm shift in the lives of middle class India. 5 figure salaries, higher purchasing power, better lifestyle, mall culture and the mushrooming of real estate- the great Indian dream was finally being lived by masses. The dream of migrating to greener pastures was no longer wishful thinking- scores of IT people found opportunities to migrate to US and European countries.
But every boom will be followed by a spiral. The 2008 crisis, the growing protectionist policies by super powers to cater to the interests of their own people first, the strict immigration laws and now robotics and AI (Artificial Intelligence) blow like a gust of wind which has the potential of stirring and leaving about an air of uncertainty for scores of Indians. We hear of so many people losing jobs and for others the looming fear of an imminent job cut is what is leading them to depression and suicidal tendencies.
The newspapers carried the news of a young man in his mid-twenties who jumped to his death in a hotel in Pune. He feared losing his job and couldn’t bear the thought of facing his family. Candle marches and silent protests followed, many helplines for those in IT sector reported receiving an increased number of distress calls.
Losing a job is no doubt a difficult situation to be in and one is bound to go through feelings of dismay, negativity, hurt, sadness but the bigger question is how one comes out of it. It is not the end of life. It is an unfortunate event which occurred all of a sudden and left you in the lurch but does that mean one should plunge into the darkness for eternity. How can we make ourselves resilient to overcome such adversities and emerge victorious?
- First of all it’s important to remember that a job which provides us with our livelihood, where we spend a significant time of our day is no doubt important but it’s not something that our life depends upon. Like someone said Job is a slice of the pizza not the whole pizza. Personally I knew someone who was given the pink slip. It was quite a shocker as he was known to be quite decent at his job nor was it a period of layoff’s. It was so sudden that many of us were left with a sad feeling for this guy. I was tempted to say something to him in a private chat but fell short of words and decided to stay mum. 2 months down the line his social media profile showed he secured another job in a reputed company. It’s been a few years now and I see his happy posts on my newsfeed. So it was not the end of life for him. It’s not like losing a job means you are doomed forever. You will never get any other one. Yes I have known many people who have had to take a cut in their salary but a few years down the line they always catch up on that.
- With good money comes a good lifestyle. I am a sucker for branded clothes and handbags. I love to splurge money on adding new things to my overflowing wardrobe and savoring on multiple cuisines but I am mindful of not getting into unwanted debt and I make sure my savings are well invested for a rainy day. Its important to be careful with money, to assume that nothing will ever go awry is foolish
- Its absolutely ok to say you need help. In our country where mental health is considered a taboo its takes a lot of courage to come out in the open. Keeping things buried in one’s heart and stifling emotions is detrimental. Open up, confide in your near and dear ones, hiding things and pretending that everything is fine won’t work forever, people are bound to find out someday. Seek professional help, there are many helplines and qualified doctors available. You need to be courageous to take the first step.
- The industry is witnessing rapid transformation with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Robotics. One way to look at it is be fearful of imminent job loses or decide to take the challenge head on. Stop getting complacent, upskill yourself and I bet you will never be redundant.
- Last but not the least what can we do as parents to prepare our kids to survive, not just survive but thrive in a fiercely competitive world. Stop shielding them, let them taste failure, let them fall and get up with a scrapped knee and learn to run again. Teaching them resilience is one of the core skills which can only be imbibed by letting them taste failure. For without tasting failure one can never truly relish the sweetness of success.
Survival of the fittest is what Darwin propagated and times are only going to get tougher. It’s time we brace ourselves up and develop resilience to combat the challenges life throws at us. Who knows a job cut may turn out to be a blessing in disguise? It may pave the way to take up that passion you secretly nurtured as a full time profession.