The newspapers have been saturated with stories of federal employees affected by reductions-in-force (RIFs as we have euphemistically termed them). I can sympathize with the bearers of the tales of woe, but give the others of us a chance to tell all.
Having been forced to become a former federal employee, I am here to tell you that there is life after RIF.
It is federal policy that a RIFee receive 30 days' notice that he or she is to be fired. In my case, it was exactly 31 days, only because the weekends were counted.
I received a RIF notice on Feb. 16 informing me that as of March 20 I would become a former federal employee. "Separated" is the term used by the government. Contrary to popular belief, when you are fired by the government you do not receive a pink slip. What you do receive is a standardized government letter typed on agency letterhead with your name inserted in the proper places, for a personal touch.
The personalized letter fails miserably as far as comforting you is concerned. It only makes you wish that there had been a mistake; there must be someone else in the agency with the same name, office code and birth date. In my case, alas, there had been no mistake.
After the initial shock and anger had worn off, I set my sights on securing a new job. When I say "securing" a job, I mean outside the insecure federal government.
The agency that fired me along with 57 others saw to it that "those adversely affected by the RIF" received some training in job hunting. The agency hired a firm on the Friday after the RIF notices were issued to help us sharpen the skills we had and learn new skills to replace the obsolete ones used to get the jobs we held.
The workshops were held every Thursday for the following three weeks. I won't say that the workshops were a complete waste of time. I will say, however, that they provided too little, too late. By the time the third and final workshop was held, the attendance had dwindled to a handful. The only session that was filled to capacity was a special half-day session explaining unemployment benefits.
Many of my fellow RIFees had found other and in most instances comparable employment before the second workshop had begun. By the end of the second workshop, I had "secured" a job at a highly respected publishing company.
My new employer is located in the same vicinity as my former federal employer. I won't have to search for a new car pool: a real blessing in these days of filled car pools and sky-rocketing transportation fares. The benefits offered by my new employer are much greater than those offered by the federal government. The working conditions are more pleasant, the salary is comparable and I even have my own window. For those of you who have never been employed by Uncle Sam, to have a window is the same as being given a key to the executive washroom.
There is more to this RIF story. I have been "separated" from federal employment less than a month and already I have had six job offers from the same department that fired me. I politely refuse the offers. What I really want to tell them is unprintable. So you see there is life after RIF.