Learning from another blogger’s misfortune

Herschel Smith, who blogs at The Captain’s Journal, was recently laid off by his employer.  At his age, with his narrow qualifications, he’s having a torrid time of it.  He offers some sage advice for those who find themselves in his situation.

Dealing With Loss of Work

I recommend that you do this – today.  Write down a list of, say, 25 people in your life, mostly professional, upon whom you can rely for recommendations for work, offers for work, assistance, general counsel, and continued support by simple things like phone calls, text messages and emails to see how you’re doing and tell you they’re praying for you and thinking about you, perhaps that they even miss you.

Now, sit and think about that list for a while, QA the list, remove names if you must, add more as replacements.  Here’s the thing.  Of that list of 25 names, probably 24 shouldn’t even be on the list.  You don’t know that when this happens, and it’s surprising and even embarrassing that your list was so badly built.  But a few other names appear on the list that you never would have considered had this not happened.  You learn a lot about your trusted and valued colleagues.  Some of them don’t turn out to be so valued after all.

I’m a poster child for getting so specialized that you can’t do anything else.  Don’t let this happen to you.  I recommend that you think hard about your work, and decide where you want to be in five years.  Do what it takes to make it happen.  Burnish your CV, expand your capabilities, prepare for the worst, and be ready to make a change.  I’m living proof for those who don’t that there will be pain and suffering for the lack of vision and planning.

I’ll deal with trying to find new work in a moment, but first I wanted to mention a few other things.  I have been thrown into a situation where I don’t know where my next paycheck is going to come from.  I was given a severance package, but that will eventually run out.  It may all work out for the better nonetheless.

I cannot say too much, but my director and I had begun to clash on a number of different issues that I consider to be of ethical import.  I was ripe for layoff anyway, given that I’m 59 years old, white and male.  Those same things would appear to prevent me from being hired today by virtually everywhere I apply.

This was all made worse by the fact that I simply will not be unethical in my work.  I will not tell unjustified lies (Rahab’s lie was just, most are not), I will not violate my ethical obligations as a registered professional engineer, and I certainly will not communicate material false information to the federal regulator.  My clashes with my upper management chain were becoming burdensome.

. . .

I am not asking for sympathy. I’m not asking for anything, really, except that you learn from my mistakes and ensure that you don’t make them. But I do covet your prayers for my examination preparation, and if you think about it, that God would bless my efforts at finding meaningful and fruitful labor.

There’s more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.

This can happen to any of us, at any time.  It happened to me when I suffered a disabling injury, and after a year of therapy, was medically retired as a prison chaplain.  I did not have enough money to live on, and had to find new ways to make a living – hence, this blog and my books.

I’m grateful to Mr. Smith for writing as openly and honestly as he does.  I think all of us should pay heed, and follow his advice.



  1. It's a warning too… As we age and get paid more and more, companies WILL look at getting rid of high wage earners, regardless of expertise to lower the costs…

  2. perhaps he could go into consultancy in his narrow field.
    also, pray God to lead him. might turn out to be a ples=asant adventure

  3. Has anyone noticed that humans seem to be treated like commodities lately, especially as they age? One would think a nuclear engineer with such expertise would be precious, but instead they dump him. I find that a major signpost of a collapsing civilization.

  4. Lately, been that way for years. I commented on Hershels blog. Out of work 3 years ago, no one going to hire a 53 year old. Haven't worked since. Not as exciting as I planned for but have found peace not slaving for the man. I quit looking after a year, no real good jobs out there for what they would have to pay me. Glad I was saving for 40 years and did not have to worry about it. Told my kids let this be an example, large percentage of America would be homeless as we would have. You better save some money. I owe that to my father and some other older people when I entered the workforce after college. Even at 56 I treasure the older generation more than I ever have, it was a blessing to spend a lot of those 3 years helping aged family even as hard as it was.

    It is salary discrimination and age discrimination but neither can be proved. their loss, I take comfort in the young bucks they hire who know nothing for several years just as I did.

    ps thanks for the gun cases

  5. Old business proverb: After accepting a new job the second thing you do is begin training your replacement because the first thing you do is begin looking for your next job.

    This is based on finding the next job within the same company because if you don't have someone who is ready to take over for you it won't be possible to transfer to the new position. These days staying within the same company is only one option, and frequently a poor option at that.

    As a self defense measure one now needs to be constantly looking for the next job, no matter where it is or with what organization, and self employment should not be ruled out. Too many business changes are constantly in the works to place any trust whatsoever in any organization.

    Example: It was recently announced that Suntrust Banks and BB&T Trust are going to merge; both are larger mid-sized banking institutions concentrated in the southeast US. There are many communities in which branches of both are within a couple miles of each other, and those duplicate branches will be closed and the employees "given the opportunity to pursue new challenges." There's no way to predict which of the duplicate branches – Suntrust or BB&T – will close, but 50% of them will.

    The only way to survive if one works for an organization is to stay out of schrapnel range and that requires motion. Just as "shoot and move" is the way to stay alive in combat, "work and move" is how to stay employed.

    It's all "business combat" now.

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