Company in turmoil; how to talk myself down off the panic ledge?
October 15, 2014 9:40 AM   Subscribe

My company is undergoing the first steps into being sold. How do I stop panicking long enough to figure out my next steps?

My company is currently owned by a small private equity firm, and they have hired consultants for several key C-level positions. Last week, the "CEO" hired a consulting firm that preps companies for sale. I've been here 3.5 years, and while I probably should have left long ago, I wanted to gain some skills in multimedia, mobile apps and project management. My background is as a PA/POC in TV and film production, but in the old-school way of the 90s and early 00s, and there's not much of a market for that in NYC these days (but if anyone knows anyone, I'm good for being an entry-level line producer - I think?).

What I currently do is produce/project manage audio tours and mobile apps for cultural and historical sites. I don't have a certificate in project management, I just do it. I got a raise recently, also. Not very big, but my boss said it had been long overdue. Let's put it this way; when it came time to learn the company's proprietary app building software, I was jokingly called a "swot" by one of the Brits on the team. I am the go-to for three departments in terms of pulling resources and assets together for sales proposals, process information and coordinating efforts between departments. I may not know the ins and outs of Photoshop/InDesign/Illustrator, but I can discuss with the freelancers I hire to help me do wireframes and content/UX designs for apps what it is I need for them to do. A major client directly asked my boss's boss to work with me on projects. I give good brain.

The company is struggling to make the transition to building mobile apps. The higher-ups haven't hire real UX or graphics people full-time, but we still somehow make good but really basic apps for our current clients. We're people who are skilled in other production types taking the plunge. The bigger clients are starting their own digital media departments, so of course when their current contracts with the company are up... I'd apply to one of those places, but we have a 6-month non-compete clause that includes competitors and clients in our own contracts.

Layoffs have begun in a different department. No one is telling us anything more than "these people were laid off and that location will be closed" (and that news came piecemeal through the grapevine, with no company announcement). The people they let go were vital to the operation, but since the C-folk don't know our business or niche, I'm not sure if that figured into their decision. My salary for what I do is low, but these new C-level consultants don't know me, my history with the company, or my boss (they're super-corporate types), and I'm not going to depend on my low cost as any sort of insurance against a layoff in the next few months. My low salary also means I have no savings, either. We don't even have an office in our biggest location, and I currently work from home.

All that said, the gist is that because I don't know how to figure out my value in the marketplace, where I should be sending my resume, whether I'm going to be discriminated against because of my age, or whether I've fucked myself over for making any better salary than what I have now, I'm frightened. I had already started putting out feelers by sending my resume for a review to my friend's sister who works at a cable network, and to a friend who works at a very popular web store, but now that the writing's on the wall, I'm feeling an urge to DO SOMETHING GET OUT RIGHT AWAY! and scaring myself. How can I calm down so I can think of what I have to do next and maintain the workflow I have with my current projects (which, frankly, are for pretty big cultural clients)? I've never been good at finding a good job, seeing myself as an equal in that process, networking, negotiating a decent salary/package, none of it. And I'm freaking out precisely because I am becoming an older worker now, and am giving myself visions of being in a gutter and starving.

What Little Book of Calm can I swallow here?
posted by droplet to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Based on what you've said above and my own experience at going through a private equity sale, you shouldn't panic but you should avoid panic by beginning your job search right now and trying to work calmly and continuously on finding a new workplace. Just try to accomplish something small towards this aim every day. Whether it's reworking your resume or talking to a recruiter or whatever else, just set small, short term goals you can accomplish. Finding a new job is always daunting but if you take control of the process at a much earlier point than you are forced to and begin the mental transition now you are in a much better spot.

Remember that you have valuable skills and you can do this.
posted by selfnoise at 10:16 AM on October 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Keep looking for a new job while working the old one. If you are feeling more and more freaked out by how things are going at job, channel that into the search. Don't be desperate. I wouldn't jump ship for just *any* job, but if you find something workable, don't hesitate about putting in your notice.

You may be the first to go, or the last to go. Try to make it on your terms and don't burn bridges.

Good luck. You can do this. We believe in you.
posted by PlutoniumX at 10:35 AM on October 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Put your resume online, and create some job searches using some words and phrases you think are significant in your current and future job responsibilities*. See what happens for 30 days. Recalibrate based on what you learn.

*I do not know which service is best for this sort of thing. It seems like Indeed but maybe someone else has stronger opinions.

And while you become an expert on the market (and you may learn new keywords you need to add to your searches), you remind yourself that you'll get unemployment if you're laid off immediately, or you'll get notice because they need you up until X date.

This thing that is happening is an overdue boot in your behind. Embrace it as the gift it is. You should have already been out of there, making a market-competitive salary somewhere more stable, by now.

And you just have to not obsess about your age. If this is a thing you want to do and it will soothe your nerves, keep your haircut maintained and get a couple fresh-looking pieces of clothing for interviews, because there really is a psychological component on both sides of the table - if you look worn out, people will perceive you as a less suitable candidate. If you look energetic and together, people are going to overlook quibbles about your age.

I've never been good at finding a good job, seeing myself as an equal in that process

Then you must learn to fake it. If anything is really offputting on an older (and therefore presumably competent) applicant, it's job-groveling. You have got to pretend to be someone who is shopping for a job in order to choose the one they'll enjoy the most and be the best at. I'll tell you how I pull it off - I act like I'm there as a consultant already and we're just talking about the project at hand. There's no "please love me/don't reject me", there is just "I am being asked for my expertise here, and I need to ask the appropriate questions and give useful answers." Don't be cocky, just be there like you're solving something, not asking for something.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:29 AM on October 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

My company is now, and has been for quite some time, owned by a private equity firm. I've gone through a few sales now, and they all go much like you describe.

You can always be fired. Nothing is ever certain. And I'm not even talking about the whole "you could get hit by a bus" sense of nothing is certain - sometimes people get let go from jobs for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Their salary is too high. Their position is too low. Last person hired. Whatever.

Because these reasons are arbitrary, there is no reason to dwell on them. If you're having trouble getting through the day, make a list of three things you need to do each day, and do them.

If you feel like it, you can use my secret weapon: wish to be fired.

Meanwhile, continue to get your resume together. Network as much as you can. Let people know that you are open to finding new work. Get an updated list of your contacts, links to any projects you can share with people, and make sure you have them available not at work. I don't know anything about non-compete clauses but I do wonder if they are still binding if you are let go.

Don't panic. All will be okay. Good luck.
posted by lyssabee at 11:32 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Put together a resume and have, at the MOST 15 years of job history on it. Update your linked in and be sure to put your resume on there as your profile, with tasty KEY WORDS.

Read job postings and send in your resume for those you're about 80% qualified for. Get a feel for where your gaps are and start filling them. You Tube and on-line tutorials are a good place to start.

I worked for a company owned by a PEF, and it was a nightmare. If you were an employee of the PEF, you were a golden boy and the sun shone on you. If you were just a company employee, you were expendable. I lasted 8 months there. All I hear is how miserable people are there, and they hire fresh out of school people, people who don't know any better.

Don't stay out of fear, leave for something better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:49 PM on October 15, 2014

I worked for a company that was purchased three times by succesively larger corporations and survived all three.

If you want to leave now is a good time. It's fairly ordinary for reorganization to occur as a result of a purchase and prospective employers won't likey look at your departure as indicative of your value as an employee to your old corporation. Use the usual corporatespeak when applying for a new job.

If you want to stay; new managers come in and are looking to make changes so be the person who "goes along" even when they make idiotic changes.
posted by vapidave at 8:05 PM on October 15, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all, and I am doing a lot of these things already. I'm heartened in knowing that I'm on the right track, at least, based on what you're all saying here. The hardest thing for me has been to maintain contacts, but I am reaching out.

Fortunately, I'm not worried at all about looking worn down. In all seriousness, and I am not delusional in the least, I pass for late 20s. Only the HR person who processed my original paperwork at my current company is aware I'm 45, but yes, I'll go against Mr. Thoreau's advice about endeavors that require new clothes and pull together a couple of suitable outfits, as soon as I learn what those are for digital media! I'm sure it's not a black/navy suit-silk shell-sensible pumps-pearls anymore.

Again, thanks. I appreciate your answers!
posted by droplet at 9:11 AM on October 17, 2014

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