Lana (not her real name) had quitted her job at the startup where we worked.
She left because her job was taking a toll on her health. But quitting brought new uncertainties.
She fretted about not having enough marketable skills or strong passions. She wondered about how hard it might be to find a job as a foreigner in Singapore. Also, Lana was sure she didn’t want to work in sales again.
Where to from here?
Over a lunch time conversation, I advised Lana as best as I could, telling her about the concept of precession.
We barely kept in touch after she left.
The startup laid me off. I was one of two people who had to go. The shame, the embarrassment, the anger. Above all, the worry.
Where to from here?
Thankfully, it did not take too long for me to find another job. A much better opportunity at an established tech company. After one month there, I was ready to update my LinkedIn profile to reflect my new job.
Lana saw my update.
We met up in the neighbourhood where our old office used to be. Over tea, she filled me in on what happened to her after she left the startup.
Lana was jobless for a long time. She kept busy with decorating her new home and doing some volunteer work. But she knew that she could do so much more. “When I moved from my country to Singapore, I was determined to achieve a much better life,” she told me.
The challenge was that she was here on a spouse visa, so she didn’t have as many opportunities as a Singapore citizen.
Then, COVID-19 happened.
It became even harder to find a job. One of the offers that Lana got was paused and never revived. She was so worried.
Fortunately, Lana did find a job, at an established global tech company. She’s back in sales, and is much happier with this sales role compared to the one she left.
“You’re lucky to have found a new and better job despite the pandemic and recession!” I told her.
Lana smiled. “You too.”
I hesitated, and admitted, “I left the startup because I was laid off.” I still felt the sting of stigma, even though I knew layoffs were common this year.
Lana did not seem surprised. “I had the sense that things were not going well at the startup.” There were signs, she explained.
“Looks like we both dodged a bullet by leaving,” I said. Lana agreed.
A few weeks after our meet up, the startup conducted a second round of layoffs.
I had some free time on a Sunday and wanted to catch up with someone. I thought of Lana.
For the first time, I reached out to her.
I visited her at her neighbourhood and she took me around. We had lunch at one of her favourite eateries in the area, a homely Japanese diner. Followed by coffee and a slice of pecan tart at a historic shophouse.
Inevitably, we talked about the second layoff. The shock and sadness of it all. We were once proud to be part of the wonderful team. That startup is now a shadow of its former self.
We also talked about what makes a flat white different from other coffee types. How a popular dish is prepared in the north of her country, versus the south. The pandemic and military-run quarantine camps, the iPad and the Apple pencil, dried rice noodles and the freshly made ones.
There was plenty of warmth, joy, and laughter in our conversations.
All too soon, it was time to leave. We wished each other well and promised to meet again.
My heart was full. That’s a good feeling to have after meeting someone.
I thought of how far we’ve come, from that lunch time conversation two years ago.
How we’ve both struggled, grown, and moved on to bigger and better things.
What other wonderful things await us in the future? The stories we’d tell!
The next time we meet, I’d like to tell her that I’m glad to know her as a friend.