Recovering from a layoff, one step at a timeby Ambar Espinoza, Minnesota Public Radio
Several hundred people in the south central Minnesota community of Hutchinson are trying to figure out how to land their next job. The city's largest employer, Hutchinson Technology Inc., which makes components for computer hard drives, laid off more than one-third of its workforce company-wide at the beginning of this year. This is the story of how one man is surviving the layoff.
Hutchinson, Minn. — David Rupp vividly remembers his first day on the job at HTI nearly 25 years ago. Rupp was getting a company tour, when his new boss opened the door of the cafeteria.
"I looked in and I saw Jeff Greene, who was the CEO at the time," Rupp said. "He was speaking to a bunch of other people. And the first thing that I heard him say as the door was opened was, 'Do we have any volunteers for a layoff?' And my boss simply closed the door and we went along on the tour."
Rupp learned pretty quickly that no job is secure. But the 52-year-old senior systems analyst had worked for the company for so long that subconsciously he thought he'd be with the company for life even though he had seen many rounds of layoffs.
"I had survived so many, I thought, 'Why not this one?'" Rupp said.
But that changed on January 12. Rupp was talking to a colleague about pending layoffs.
"And my boss comes down the cubey aisle and taps me on the shoulder, and I knew, 'well, this is it,'" he said.
After an exit interview, Rupp emptied out his belongings from his cubicle, turned in his employee badge and went home.
Rupp said his first thought was: What do I do now?
Rupp started his career at HTI in inventory control, and developed an efficient system to track and turn inventory quickly, which saved the company money. He worked his way up through several departments in the company, and ended up in IT. He even traveled to Europe to develop business systems at HTI offices there.
In this recent round of layoffs, HTI trimmed nearly 1,700 positions company wide. The company lost more than $64 million on sales during the quarter that ended in December and senior employees like Rupp were expensive. So while Rupp wasn't completely shocked by his layoff, it still took the better part of two weeks for the news to really sink in.
"I mean, I knew intellectually I had been laid off," he said. "I suppose you call it the emotional part--there'll still be times when I think, 'I haven't got a job. What if I don't get one? What am I gonna do?'"
A few things are helping to cushion the blow. Rupp has no debt besides a small mortgage and he also pays college tuition for his two daughters. He's getting a healthy severance package from HTI because he worked there for nearly 25 years. If he needed to, he could stretch his savings and severance for up to two years. His main focus now is to find his next job.
Rupp stays busy these days updating his resume, researching companies online, writing cover letters, and creating profiles on networking sites, such as LinkedIn. He's gotten tips on how to do all of this from the workshops offered by the workforce center and Ridgewater College. Pat Lang, a project manager in customized training at Ridgewater, works closely with dislocated workers.
"When they've been in a job for a long time, they'll come to us and they'll say, 'Well, you know, I've been doing the same thing for 25 years, I don't have a lot of skills.' That's not really true," Lang said.
Lang said workers don't realize that being a team player and mentoring colleagues are skills employers seek. The workshops try to help people identify those contributions.
Although it's a tough transition, David Rupp is managing his situation pretty well. Rupp goes out to lunch with friends and spends time on his favorite hobbies: reading, singing with a local choir and writing music. He's even learning how to play the violin. He said he can get in a rut sometimes and needs to re-direct his energies elsewhere.
"It's all different ways that I can use to get my mind going in a different direction for a little while and then get back to the issues at hand," Rupp said.
Rupp said there's always a possibility that he may not find a job, but he's doing everything he can to minimize that, a step at a time.
- Morning Edition, 03/09/2009, 7:45 a.m.