I’ll never forget the morning that I found out my old company had been acquired. While getting ready for my day of volunteering, I turned on Denver’s 9 News just like every morning. But this day was different. Business reporter Greg Moss, usually entertaining me with market and local business news, was telling me that my company had agreed to be acquired by a competitor in Louisiana.
I was out in an elementary school that day, volunteering with hundreds of other co-workers around the city, teaching a class for a day of Junior Achievement. My co-teacher, a woman from the marketing department, was afraid she might lose her job. In finance, I was a bit more realistic to what my future would hold.
That was the day I knew I would eventually be laid off.
In my old position in the treasury department, I knew something was up. Our entire senior finance staff was off in New York on a secret meeting. But still, on April 23, 2010, just like most of my colleagues, I found out from a news story like this:
I had figured we were going to be buying a smaller company, but I was backward. We were the company being purchased, and I worked in the well-known Qwest Building in downtown Denver. My first thought, I probably need a new job.
The True Meaning of Synergies
Almost every time I read about a big merger or buyout announcement, one of the first words in the article is synergies. Here’s a snippet from a press release about the recent Zillow/Trulia acquisition, making use of a favorite business buzzword:
By operating independent consumer brands through one corporation, the companies expect to realize synergies to improve overall operational efficiency over the long term. By 2016, management expects to achieve at least $100 million in annualized cost avoidances.
So, what exactly are these synergies that Zillow expects to find to save $100 million per year? Layoffs. People are expensive. Think about it, in addition to salaries that can easily pass six figures, there are bonuses, 401(k) plans, paid vacations, and insurance costs.
Both companies in a merger have an executive team and headquarters functions like finance, human resources, accounting, marketing, and legal. They only need one set of people to do that work, so headquarters staff is usually the first to go.
I Started Looking
After the big news, I knew that my Senior Treasury Analyst job might be on the chopping block soon. It would be a little while before the government would approve the merger, so I knew I didn’t have any urgent need to leave.
But I started looking around. I didn’t look very actively, but I knew that I would most likely be laid off shortly after the merger closed. I updated my resume and LinkedIn profile. I browsed some online job openings. I started to get a feeler of what would be available. Then I got a note from a friend from my MBA program:
I hope you’re having a good summer.
I wanted to reach out to you see if you have any interest in possibly interviewing in our FP&A group here at my company? I don’t know if you have an idea of how things are shaking out at Qwest, but there is an opening here that they are looking to fill with someone with some telecom/finance background and you immediately came to mind. Please let me know if you have any interest.
So I wrote back. And not too long later, I was in for an interview. And I didn’t get the job.
I wasn’t too disappointed. It is common not to get a job after an interview. It happens. But I was surprised a couple of months later when I got another call from that company that another position was open on the same team, one step higher than the first one. I went back and interviewed again. And I got it.
I Landed a $6,000 Raise
Moving companies is always a big risk, so I always advise my friends and family not to leave a comfortable job that they are good at unless they are leaving for something significantly better. I thought $6,000 a year and no pending layoff were a pretty good deal.
While everyone doesn’t have a friend calling with a new job opportunity regularly, there are some lessons we can all take from this story and apply to any career.
Always Keep Your Professional Face Forward
I updated my LinkedIn profile with all of the best selling points of my past jobs and positions, and the message I received came in through LinkedIn.
While that friend already knew me, sharing that LinkedIn profile with the boss was the first impression he had of me. If I had a weak profile, I may never have had the opportunity to interview for that job.
Don’t Neglect Your Network
That friend from the MBA program was part of my network. It took me a while to fully appreciate what “networking” means for business, but it really just means keeping your relationships strong. Whether you have friends in similar career paths from school, professional groups, or elsewhere, don’t forget about them.
I likely never would have found my way to that company, where I worked for three years, had I not maintained that particular relationship, I may never have had that opportunity.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
Most importantly, when dealing with your career or anything else in life, never discount yourself and your abilities. I worked hard and spent a lot of time (and money) building up my skill set. I know I am great at what I do, and I’m worth a salary for an in-demand finance professional.
When I moved, I was not going to jump ship for a few hundred dollars. I wanted 10% or more. With this move, I got it.
Your Career Change Stories
How have you navigated tough situations in your career? Have you ever moved jobs with a raise of 10%, 20%, or more? Share your experiences and best tips in the comments.