Seeing the silver lining

My father joined the Life Insurance Corporation of India in the early fifties. In the seventies, he proudly claimed a citation and a gold plated watch for completing 25 years with them. He retired twenty years later from the same institution, collected his provident fund money and built a small house.

By P.g. Bhaskar (LIFE)

Published: Fri 17 Aug 2012, 10:37 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 3:30 PM

How different life was then! Among many other things, no ‘pink slips’!

The first time I came across that term was after the Nasdaq crash in 2001. Brimming over with ‘irrational exuberance’, technology firms had gone on a hiring spree, convinced that they were riding the wave of a ‘new economic order’. In the stratospheric era of the 90s boom, all you needed to set up business was a licence and a vague business idea. Tech companies stopped just short of putting up boards saying ‘Trespassers will be recruited’. Pensioners uplifted their fixed deposits prematurely to invest in shares of ‘the next major thing’. People sacrificed secure jobs for start-up ventures where salaries got substituted for shares valued at zero but potentially worth millions. Investors already having brokerage accounts were much sought after, and had cash thrust in their hands to buy potential triple bagger tech stocks on behalf of others. People couldn’t wait till they opened their own accounts.

In March 2001, the party got over. ‘Pink slip’ is a metaphor used in the US for a notice of termination of employment, though there is no clear evidence that pink coloured letters were ever used to issue these. But pink or not, they were issued and employees the world over, left in droves.

I too joined this group. When it came, it did ever so swiftly. One is never really prepared for the sack, I think. It is always far too sudden. I woke up the following morning feeling hollow. There was nowhere to go. Briefly, I toyed with the hope that it could simply be a bad dream and closed my eyes. When I opened them, the agony of the truth hit home with added vehemence. I got up unsteadily, with shoulders drooping and morale at half-mast. It was the perfect day for a second round of coffee and a prolonged session with the newspaper or my email, but it was not to be. The ‘pink’ could well have referred as to the blush of shame. ‘You have no job!’ my conscience seemed to shriek at me. ‘So what?’ I defended myself. ‘It happens to the best of us. It’s just a question of time.’ ‘Well, it hasn’t happened to some of your colleagues’ the fiend shot back. ‘Maybe you are special. Well, enjoy! Meanwhile, your family can live on water and fresh air.’

It took me months to jump on to the job bandwagon again. The economy had rammed into a roadblock. Most industries — including the banking business of which I was a part — had gone on a massive recruitment drive the year before. Potential employers’ favourite buzzword seemed to be ‘headcount freeze.’ In the meantime, my wife and I played badminton and learnt swimming. Well, sort of. Given a modest sized pool, I can still manage to clamber to the edge –though my wife claims that what actually happens is that I splash all the water out and walk across.

It was during that time that I first gingerly trod into the world of freelance writing by sending my first article to KT’s ‘Weekend’ magazine. It was accepted and a dormant interest turned into a lifelong passion. I continued to write and one thing, thankfully, led to another.

Since that period of unprecedented uncertainty, the world economy has turned worse and many of us may have come perilously close to being in that same awkward position. The corporate world has been ruthlessly deleveraging, downsizing, and outsourcing. A friend of mine who recently faced the same predicament as I did, has come up trumps by setting up his own training and consultancy firm.

At the institutional level, as companies fight volatility, retrenchment is no more taboo. And at the individual level, loss of a job is the new norm. It happens to the best of us; in various disguises, but sooner or later, it does creep up in some form. The reasons could be many; from office politics to industry slump, from changing technology to acquisitions. Not everyone leaves with million dollar bonuses.

It’s never easy, but it’s good to try and see the pink slip as a red-hot opportunity.

P G Bhaskar is a freelance writer and the author of ‘Jack Patel’s Dubai Dreams’

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