Earlier today, I shared several lists of recession-proof jobs. The experts who created these lists don’t agree on much, but they do seem to think that both jobs in IT and the health-care industry are fairly safe. That doesn’t mean that all of these jobs are safe, of course.

I have two friends who combine both of these: they’re IT workers for health insurance providers. One of my friends still has his job. The other will be laid off at the end of the year. I’d be scared in his situation, but my friend seems to be taking it fine. In fact, I thought about his attitude when I read an article on layoffs recently.

Over the weekend, USA Today ran a fascinating story about the lives of 15 people who used to be managers at a Louis Rich turkey-processing plant in Visalia, California. These folks lost their jobs during the recession of the early 1990s, during which parent company Philip Morris closed the plant and laid off 1,450 workers.

USA Today has been tracking these former managers for the past 16 years, publishing updates on their situations whenever the economy declines. From the most recent article:

The economy has turned down again, but the lives of the former plant managers in Visalia indicate, anecdotally, that those who lose jobs in recessions can land on their feet, and even thrive. They say being jobless can steel and motivate people to work long and hard hours, teach them to be self-reliant and to distrust safety nets, and to spur them into fields they are passionate about. The result, at least in this instance, is success and contentment, financially and otherwise.

For many of these former managers, the layoffs were a blessing in disguise. After the initial shock, they took steps to pursue their dreams. They went back to school, opened restaurants, became lawyers and stockbrokers, started their own businesses. Some of the wisdom to be gleaned from this article:

  • Mike Neff: “Layoffs are always going to happen. You can move on or sit and wallow.”
  • Mike Wilson says people mistakenly believe they have more job security in a corporate job, but you’re actually better off working for yourself.
  • Your spouse can be an important safety net, both financially and emotionally. When these managers lost their jobs, their partners offered critical support.

This is a great story, but its sample size is small and select. As the article makes clear, these men (they’re all men) were hand-picked to be managers at the Louis Rich plant because they possessed certain traits, traits that seem to have encouraged them to become entrepreneurs after the layoffs in 1992.

Though their situation may be exceptional, I think there’s a valuable lesson for even the average person who loses his job. Layoffs suck in the short term, but they don’t have to be a bad experience — they can be an opportunity for growth.

For further reading:

When Kris was laid off from her job several years ago, it caused us a great deal of stress. Things worked out in the end, but for a time we were very worried.

Have you ever been laid off? Do you worry about being laid off now? What would you do if it happened to you?

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik.

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