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Layoff tales: They can happen anytime; be prepared

Last updated on: August 22, 2013 20:03 IST

Layoff tales: They can happen anytime; be prepared

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How to survive a layoff? A BPO employee who was sacked twice -- once, when the economic meltdown had just begun to gather storm in the US in 2007 and later when Lehman Brothers collapsed in October 2008 leading to massive layoffs the world over -- and is perhaps preparing for another one, reveals his successful fight against pink slips.

It is never easy to talk or write about layoffs.

Be it 2009, when the Indian job market suffered a huge setback because of the economic meltdown in the US after Lehman Brothers collapsed in October 2008, or now in 2013 when employees -- fresh and experienced -- are once again facing the axe.

Layoffs seems to be haunting India's youth yet again.

While companies looking to prune costs and improve profitability cannot always be blamed for layoffs, employees who get the sack should not doubt their abilities and blame themselves.

Bad times come and go. It's like the karmic cycle.

But the experience they leave you with stand you in good stead.

Like, this story of a call centre employee who despite getting pink slips twice, has survived to tell his tale.

Rajesh Puthran (name changed to protect privacy), who has seven years of experience working in sales and marketing in various call centres, is preparing for a third one.

Two sackings and the likelihood of a third one soon has -- as you will learn when you read his story -- failed to break him down.

Instead, he has emerged stronger and wiser. He doesn't get restless at the thought of yet another layoff.

"You should be always ready for layoffs," is what this doughty 29 year old advises all those fearing the axe.

At Rediff.com even as we sense that India might face another cycle of layoffs as economic growth and job creation stutters, we wish to prepare those who have been laid off or may get the pink slip in the coming months to fight it out and emerge victorious.

In the first part of this series, Rajesh reveals how he coped with layoffs, how these sackings initially dented his confidence, and how he dumped his negativity to survive and tell his tale.


Name: Rajesh Puthran
Age: 29
Company/Sector: BPO
Educational qualification: T Y BSc
Work experience: 7 years

Background check:

In 2006 I flunked my T Y BSc exam. As the sole bread earner I had no option but to work for my mother and brother who was then studying in college.

During college too I would take up odd jobs in marketing and sales to pay for my education. After I flunked, I opted to join a BPO.

In 2007 I began working for Respondez (now, Spanco Telesystems). I used to work for international clients servicing their mortgage. After six months I took a month's leave to prepare for my final exam.

The day I joined office after this study leave I was asked to leave because the client had pulled up that process. This was in 2007.

A year later I was also given a pink slip from GTL (Global Telesystems) as the client there also closed down their processes. At that point I used to work for Washington Mutual in the banking domain.

I worked there for just two months and the client pulled up the process because of the recession in the US.

Coping with job loss

To be very honest, two job losses in two successive years was not easy to cope up with. I was the only bread-earner in my family at that time. My father had passed away when I was in college.

All my income would vanish in no time taking care of household expenses and my brother's education. I had no savings then.

Normally, I don't give up easily, but when I lost my job the second time, it is then that I realised how terrible it is to lose a job.

After losing my job at GTL I gave a number of interviews, but nothing was working out in my favour. I don't know why, but I couldn't succeed in of those interviews.

Maybe I was very stressed during the interview; maybe I always feared what if I didn't get the job.

After losing my second job I faced a very hard time for almost a month trying to keep my emotional balance.

Finally, in late 2008, I got a job in Zenta.

Please click NEXT to read how Rajesh motivated himself in his hour of crisis


Image: Coping with job loss
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

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How I motivated myself

For the first 15 days I kept telling myself that I would soon get a job, but after that I actually lost it.

I found myself alone, crying on my building's terrace. Then I told myself that I cannot keep crying and let life pass by.

I had a family to support and as they say the show must go on and the show will only continue when you have enough strength to motivate yourself at such critical times in your career.

That was the first time in my life I actually understood the importance of having enough money as back up. Though I had two to three months of cash to pay for household bills, it wasn't going to be easy managing with just Rs 30,000 in three months.

To add to my woes my brother got admitted to a hospital for a tooth condition and we had to spend Rs 14,000 for his medical care. I chipped in with Rs 10,000 and thankfully my mother's brother contributed the rest of the money.

Nobody in my family had Mediclaim then and that made me feel very insecure about my family's health costs. At that age (Rajesh was just 24 in 2008) I was not much aware about Mediclaim and it was only my uncle who told me about it.

Cracking the interview at Zenta

The biggest issue that I faced at Zenta was my split experience.

I had just four to six months of experience wherever I worked and the interview board at Zenta probed me many times about it.

Interviewers think you are unstable and don't stick with a job for long time if your CV doesn't show that. Twice I lost my job because of the recession in the US and clients closing down their processes.

I had to explain to the interview board in detail about what happened at Spanco and GTL. It was not that I was not good at what I did. I lost at these places because the processes shut down.

To be honest, I think they hired me because I spoke the truth and I was very good at selling and marketing. They also needed people who could handle a process that convinced customers to avail of their credit cards.

Also, I backed all my work experience with certificates of excellence that I had earned in my stints with companies like Spanco and GTL.

They realised that I was very good at selling and since they wanted somebody that good for their credit card process I got my job at Zenta.

In the BPO industry you don't stand a chance if you are not very good with your soft skills, especially if you are part of some voice process.

From 2006 I have been gaining experience in selling and marketing and that has given me confidence to face any interview board.

Of course, that confidence was a bit shaken when I could not land a job immediately after I got my second pink slip.

Please click NEXT to read what lessons Rajesh learnt from his layoffs


Image: Motivating oneself
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

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Lessons learnt

1. You should be always ready for layoffs

It can happen to you right at this moment; it can happen to you tomorrow.

Right now I am working for a company which has been in the BPO business for more than 27 years now, but despite its reputation and standing in the market the process for which I am working currently is expected to shut down.

I don't know if the people working on this project will be redeployed or if the company will give us two months' salary and hand over pink slips.

2. Save enough

This time because of past experiences I have made sure I have enough money to take care of my family's and my expenses for the next 12 months.

When you get a new job, don't think you will not see bad times again. Save for such a time.

3. Buy a good Mediclaim for your family and yourself

I have made sure that all of us -- especially my mother who is 52 now -- have Mediclaim. I can breathe freely even if I don't have a job for another six months or so. Not that I will sit idle for six months, but I have learnt my lessons the hard way.

I know for sure my family's medical emergencies are secured, at least, to the extent they are insured for. And this will help me focus on the battle ahead in case I face another layoff.

4. Keep away from loans and consumption

I personally don't have any loan. My father had run a debt of Rs 100,000, but I repaid the entire amount in 2010.

5. Be in the company of people who will inspire you when times are bad

It is very important to have the support of family and friends when you don't have a job. I was lucky to have a great family and very understanding friends.

I remember I have cried only twice in my life in front of my friends. But those two cry-sessions helped me vent my frustrations and gave me strength to fight the battles ahead.

Sharing your frustrations with family and friends is very important. It helps you bust your stress.

Friends' and family's support gives you strength to face any major setback in life.

Your advice to people facing layoffs right now or who have been laid off...

Young employees should be smart enough to avoid splurging on expensive gifts or gadgets for their girlfriends/boyfriends.

They should be smart enough to use their credit cards wisely so that they don't run up a pile of debt. At such times it gets impossible to repay credit card debts.

What I can say with confidence is: Whatever be the situation, remember that it is momentary. It is like a storm that will soon pass away.

Be calm and quiet. Bide your time with patience. I know how difficult it is to preach than to practice. But then people who face a layoff or have been already laid off don't have a choice.

As told to Prasanna D Zore. Illustrations: Dominic Xavier


Do you have a layoff tale to tell?

Have you lost your job? Do you know someone who has lost her/his job recently and is trying to come to terms with the situation?

If you, your friends or relatives have a layoff story to tell, to inform readers about the lessons that you have learnt, please write to us at getahead@rediff.co.in. Your name and identity will not be disclosed unless you want it to.


Image: Lessons learnt
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

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