Living History

Working in London for the past six years has been beyond living a dream. It is a city for the young and ambitious. Dynamic and culturally rich, it offers something to everyone. I came here looking for work six years ago and was hoping to grow not just professionally, but as a person. And I did. I was young and in my mind, invulnerable to the cut-throat world of business. I had been brought up by a middle class family in India and my family ethos were that ‘hard work is always rewarded’. If you were good, you would only grow. Unwavering perseverance and dedication were the key to success! And that’s how I had found my initial break in London. 

My class had 22 international students, and none other than myself and my friend S stayed back to look for a job longer than three months. The economy was bad in 2008 and because of the recession the competition was insane. I had a low paying job at a small HR company. We were three people including myself. I applied for jobs morning, noon and night and probably received about 15 rejection letters a day! Being a foreign national, I also had the disadvantage of needing a company to sponsor me in order to hire me. It was frustrating but I stuck on and as luck would have it, a young start-up in the digital media sector liked my CV and hired me! It was where I wanted to be and my journey had begun! Oh the excitement and the sense accomplishment! I had actually landed a good job, in London, during the recession. I was all about the…’sticks and stones…’. I strutted and I blew kisses. In the months that followed, I worked hard. I was a flurry of activity and learnt a great deal. Two and half years later, a larger company hired me as their Marketing Manager. My dreams were coming true. I had a trajectory and in spite of facing an evil boss or two, I had self belief.

Being a manager was a challenge and I was learning how to work with different people under and above me – some annoying, some smart and some absolute dimwits! It did help me be a better person and I was achieving results for the company! And then one day, a year later, my boss asked me to see him in the meeting room. It hit me out of nowhere. I was being made redundant as a result of a merger with a larger company.

“Is it just me? Have I not performed well?”, I asked. Confusion clear in my eyes.

His hands shook as he replied, “You are great Pavs…we’re letting all support department staff go…HR, Finance, Marketing. CC has all the resources in place for these functions and we’ll simply get support from their teams. It’s not personal. In fact, I’ll be more than happy to give you recommendations wherever you go.”

I was numb. Its a defence mechanism that takes away my ability to feel and think. I got into the motions. I thanked him for his support and asked if I could speak to my team before leaving. I wiped my corporate iPhone clean of all data, emptied my desk, hugged my colleagues, gave a brave little speech and walked out of there. Still numb.

I called my parents and let them know and also my best friend who showed up a couple of hours later. We had a practical conversation on my plan of action (POA). It was multi-pronged and strong. We also agreed on the story for prospective employees. She left and I slept. The next morning, I dressed up and went to have coffee with my now ex-CEO. We had an honest chat about my talents and capabilities and he gave me some sound tips on companies that could use my expertise and again offered to recommend me where he can. I gave my thank you speech and left with dignity. As I walked into my house and made my way into the bedroom, it all came crashing down and I sobbed the afternoon away. Self doubt and the critical questions came tumbling into my mind…

‘Was it me?..’

‘Did they not like me and I hadn’t noticed?..’

‘Maybe it was the time I was late last week and the CEO looked at me weird’…

‘Maybe I wasn’t doing that well’

‘Maybe they didn’t know how to politely tell me that my work was crap.’

It was heart-breaking. I went through the usual stages of grief and stayed at anger for a definite few hours. And then the emails started pouring in from colleagues and other employees who had been let go. Some letting me know that it had been a great pleasure working with me, some in the same boat offering to connect, some curious and some demonstrating their respect. It was another defining moment of ‘growing up’. I was good at my job and I had positively impacted all these people, business was business and the company did what it had to – aka I was not indispensable and that was OK. I learnt to fight the self doubt and see me for who I was – strong and willing to learn and then I pushed forward. I networked and pleasantly realised I had built a reputation good enough in the market that I landed myself a ‘dream’ job in less than three weeks! Unwavering perseverance and dedication had paid off but I was also wiser to know that not everything was in my control.

I had come out stronger on the other side of the recession. I had lived through history and I had a personal but heroic tale to tell.

I’m writing this as part of the WordPress weekly writing challenge: living history.