Last Wednesday afternoon my position was axed. That is, my campus would be merged with another campus and one of us (in the same position) had to go. From an accountants view, my (much) higher salary certainly pointed the way to a no-brainer.  The new now-being-phased-out campus had only achieved marginally improved enrollment after a recent ultimatum. Why the new campus had a harder time recruiting students than our own campus? Well, that was subject to rampant speculation (I have an idea). But does it really matter? No.
Indeed, our own campus’ enrollment had been declining for some time. But I figured my position was safe. At least another year or two. So when the director called me into his office I had little idea about what was to happen (although shutting the door WAS an ominous sign). With a straight “be prepared for anything” face he let me know what HQ had decided.

My first reaction was to take the news graciously and not bemoan the fact. I had seen plenty of former colleagues appear devastated by such news. Many had been let go in recent months. Several were quite emotional about it – though perhaps not without reason. So I was determined to be magnanimous and adapt to the situation. At least as best I could. I did and have continued to do so. And my director let me know he appreciated my attitude. What a job, having to tell people they’re let go.

For anyone who does not have a Plan B at such times, they leave themselves open to a long bout of quiet panic. That thought became glaringly obvious when the first layoff came. Moreover, I had come to the conclusion that higher ed institutions in general were fighting a rear-guard action with regard to the marketplace.  They had only belatedly adapted to not-so-recent innovation (ie online instruction methods) and were now facing enormous downward cost pressures as a result. And being a fan of economics, comprehending the why and how of the looming student loan bubble collapse is more than a little disconcerting as well.

My wife- the ultimate planner if ever there was one- asked what MY plan was. But she already knew that I had a Plan B and that networking was a big part of it. Still, the urgency for income can focus the mind like nothing else. And getting a part-time job – if not F/T job – may still be necessary. Keeping costs down will also be essential (goodbye Gettysburg vacation). Its amazing that my credit card has not yet been snipped in two.  So my Plan B is all I’ve been thinking about lately.

Capitalism provokes a certain creative destruction in its wake. And all for the ultimate good (well, in general). In my view, its best not to piss and moan about it. Better to stay ahead of the curve and seek an advantageous position.   Thus, in recent years I’ve expanded my skill set (web analytics, web development) and professional connections (through GRAPE) . And of course I’ve prepared myself mentally for this moment – if nothing else by being aware of what was happening in my industry.

My persistence, creativity, and intelligence will certainly be put to the test. I don’t fear it, but I do wonder if I can put everything together in time- time being the most valuable commodity until the severance pay runs out. More importantly, I’ll need to rely on the help of others. Which was driven home to me as I was reading Website Magazine:

What I found was that the real key to success in whatever industry you happen to be in is to find a support system of knowledgeable, capable, helpful and kind people that have already found their own success in the field and are willing to share their insights with you….In the broader business world, we usually call this networking, and there are plenty of easy ways to go about doing it. — Michael Garity, Website Magazine, p.40 (August 2013).

Guess starting GRAPE with Dan Banta and having wonderful board members Gary Ball, Jeshua Lauka, Marguerite Moore, Tracy Bacigal, and Michelle Steffes to help was a pretty good idea after all.

— John M Potter