Friday, August 7, 2009

When Professionals Say Goodbye

As fast as this summer has flown by, today was one of the few important days that I actually marked on my calendar. I knew it would be here sooner than I wanted, but I also thought August was so far away that I semi-blocked the day out in my mind. The importance of this 7th day of August is due to the fact that it was supposed to be my last day with Philips Design. Fortunately (and unfortunately) today is not my last day, but it is for just about everyone I have worked directly with in our office here in Atlanta over the last 9 months.

Only a few months ago (late May to be exact) were we told that our jobs were being targeted as part of corporate-mandated global downsizing efforts, and that we should prepare ourselves for life after Philips. The shock of the news hit hard for all of us, but we all were in the same boat and somehow found comfort in knowing that we all would survive this together. In the 10 weeks since that announcement we all seemed to find humor in the amount of job searching, networking and portfolio/resume updating that we all have done together. We even forwarded job postings to each other in hopes of helping at least one of us out, and that personal touch alone really brought us closer together like family.

Of course, sometime over the summer my pending layoff was voided thanks to the incredible support I received from both my senior level managers and even clients. It was very motivating to know that I was needed and would actually be kept around instead of facing another layoff. However, now that the final day for everyone on my team has actually arrived, I'm trying to find words to describe the feeling. I guess the best word right now is bittersweet because here I am...still with a job...while also the lone survivor of what used to be the visual communication team. In the midst of now empty cubicles I think it's finally sinking in that things will never be the same. And there's some humor in that because when exactly has my professional life not endured change? For those that know me, my professional life has guided me from here to there over the last few years. I mean, this is the 6th office and 5th design job I've worked at in 7 years (and this isn't including the catering side gig or bar manager job I had while living in Birmingham). Hard to say that change is new to me. Just doesn't make it any easier to endure.

What's next? Heck, your guess is probably as good as mine, but right now I'm still somehow positive about the future. Our office appears on the chopping block as we've already bid farewell to half the workforce, but our senior director is an incredibly optimistic guy who is working hard to keep our office relevant. For me in particular, I am the only structural packaging designer within all of Philips Design. When you consider that there are 500+ employees globally, I think that's both overwhelming and great at the same time. It's a good thing to have clients who specifically ask for my design input on their projects, and if that can continue then there are more possibilities out there for my future either with Philips or elsewhere. Only time will tell what is truly next, but the unknown is what should inspire me to do as much as I can with the opportunity given.

For now, though, I'm going to let this day soak in as much as it can. It needs to because this day will shape my future in one way or another. The hugs and goodbyes (a few tears, too) that I've shared today have been tough, but we all know that its experiences like this that make us all better people in the long run. While watching familiar doors close for the last time are never easy, it's the new doors that begin opening that make life the journey it is.

On Friday, we lost a lot of people who's hands help build our office into the award-winning design center that it has been for many years. Now it's time to pick up the pieces and work harder to maintain what they help build.