Lost your job? Maybe that’s a good thing

With unemployment in what’s left of the world’s leading economy rising to its highest level in 25 years today, a lot of people are going to suffer as the tidal wave aftermath of Wall Street’s latest greed bubble washes over the rest of the world.

But losing your job isn’t bad news for everyone.

douglas-germany-luneburg-cameraTake the case of my friend and fellow Canadian Douglas in London. We met in Hong Kong in late 1995 when he was being hired for a new weekly show at the station where I was working. Because they the management twits picked Douglas instead of me to host the new programme, I first saw him as a rival, but after a couple of days on the desk with him I soon got over myself, and we’ve been tight ever since.

Douglas has had a real Hong Kong career. He first worked in radio, then TV, then switched for the big bucks of public relations ’til he – quite understandably – couldn’t stand the stench of all the bullshit any longer, then went back to TV.

About two years ago, he got a job producing for a world-famous provider of television business news in London. I remember how excited he sounded on the phone from Hong Kong about landing the position, how he was finally getting out of this “small town” and hitting the big leagues to work on what’s happening in the heart of old world finance.

But like all expats who’ve already paid the price once for leaving home and establishing another one overseas, in moving to London he had to pay all over again, because in the meantime he’d built up such a good life over a dozen years in Hong Kong.

Douglas had good friends, a loving, long-term partner, a comfortable home, even a rag-top car in a city where driving is a luxury often associated with the very wealthy. And let’s face it: as a successful, white, middle-aged gay man in Hong Kong he was still a hot commodity. In London he’s as common as the man on the platform waiting for the 8:15.

So when Douglas told me yesterday that a show he’d been working on had been cancelled and he’d taken the buy-out they were offering him and his colleagues, I said to him: Fantastic!

Getting bought out is the best news he’s had to deal with in ages. Wu Hu! He can now take the cash, travel a bit, visit family back in Canada for a while before taking up a standing offer to return to the station where we met way back in the mid-nineties.

It’ll be the third time in a decade he’s gone back to them, but that’s OK. It not only demonstrates how highly they value his skills, it shows all of us how important it is never to burn your bridges and to remember who your friends are.

cockatoo-hong-kongAnd instead of moaning about another dreary London morning, he’ll once again be able to enjoy breakfast on the terrace in the middle of February amid lush greenery, warm breezes and maybe even the sight of a passing cockatoo before heading out into the sunshine.

Nice life if you can live it.

16 Responses to “Lost your job? Maybe that’s a good thing”

  1. March 6, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    “And let’s face it: as a successful, white, middle-aged gay man in Hong Kong he was still a hot commodity.”

    Pity I’m married.

  2. March 6, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    That’s a great story. I don’t want to be a wet blanket but here in the U.S. I have several friends who have lost their jobs and their outlook isn’t so cheery. Instead of enjoying breakfast on a terrace, they spend their mornings scouring the internet for work.

  3. March 6, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    It’s true. I know so many people who’ve gone from being laid off to the best times of their lives. It’s about making choices positively; we may not be able to change the tidal wave, but we CAN learn to surf it. Which sounds totally corny, but you know what I mean.

  4. March 6, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    I’ve been getting sort of tired of all the “silver lining” articles, yet this one is not only silver but gold. Can almost feel the early morning sun on my face and taste the fresh papaya and lime…

  5. March 6, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    I never get tired of silver lining stories. There is so much fear floating around, understandably, but fear does not lead to good things. Hope clears the cobwebs.

  6. 6 Jeannine
    March 7, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Ian, you are one of life’s happy people. Just the kind of person you want to sit next to at a dinner party.

  7. March 8, 2009 at 12:13 am

    that’s a great story. I’m happy for your friend

  8. 8 Jeannine
    March 8, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    A great article in the NY Times today that ties into the theme of your post, called Generation OMG. This quoute from it – ‘. . . the 1930s, too, were freeing for a particular kind of young adult. There was no art market to speak of, so artists felt less constrained by commercial expectations. . . The economic contraction. . . can give people more room to be creative.’

  9. 10 Jeannine
    March 8, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Ag sorry man, shoulda done that in the first place. And, sorry too, that I don’t know how to do a link thingy, so am just pasting it below.

    • March 8, 2009 at 6:55 pm

      Hey, no apologies required! If you did put an embedded link in the comments with this theme, you don’t notice it’s there until the cursor is hovering over it. I prefer it this way because it stands out.

  10. March 8, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    … lost my job… it’s worse than that, I think I’ve lost my mind… wait no, I mean my car keys!

  11. March 9, 2009 at 7:32 am

    I had that happen to me once and it took me a long time to see how wonderful it really was.

  12. March 10, 2009 at 11:51 am

    One of my old friends at IBM was let go around the age of 50 – this was years ago. They gave him a lump sum – but it’s since run out. No chance in the world of him finding anything else. He’s 56 now.

    • March 10, 2009 at 12:05 pm

      It’s not going to be easy on a lot of people this time around given the worldwide scale of it, but even in a good market, if you’re above a certain age, you get discriminated against.

  13. March 17, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I hope I can go from redundancy to something much better… but I work in finance in London, meaning it is a fair bit more difficult. Glad to know somebody an expat in Germany actually is fine living in Germany! Have lived close to Hamburg before, and missing the country now.

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