It was an ordinary day in the middle of May. As a product engineer, I worked for a US company that manufactures electronic parts for the tech industry. After the lunch break, I got an e-mail asking me to attend a meeting. It came from the human resource office. I was the only name on the e-mail. I felt a chill because I had recently observed a couple of co-workers leave work after being summoned to the HR office.
In less than ten minutes, the HR Director read aloud the terms and conditions of my termination. Her voice was very dry, low-toned, and serious like a priest at a catholic funeral. My supervisor and I stared at each other. It felt like an awkward moment between strangers, although we’ve known each other for years.
Thousands of questions flash through my brain – or maybe I just imagined that. I know I lost all my words in a kind of mental black-out. Afterwards, there was no time to say goodbye to my colleagues or co-workers because I was barely allowed to pack my personal belongs, before being escorted out the door. It was the last official day for me as a member of company.
I had been laid-off for the first time in my life.
In Asian countries, such as Japan or Korea, an occupation is more than a method for a daily meal. You are obliged to work. This is written into the constitution in each of these countries. Your work makes you a part of society. Through work, you fulfill your obligations and find self-satisfaction.
Some people attach more meaning to their job than to their personal life. For example, while an owner of company is considered a provider of work, employees are called “family members” of the company. As family members, they must show respect and follow instructions. In return, companies normally offer a life-time employment commitment. This is a reflection of the imperial leadership model seen in Korea and Japan.
But capitalism has brought aggressive ups and downs to the business world from broadened competition. Easy hiring and firing has become more common as a way of creating flexibility for management. However, most of Asian companies are still reluctant to lay off employees without any notice, or in an abrupt way.
That is how my brain understood things—until the day of the shock.
Even though it was ordinary process of an ordinary company here in US, nobody I know was familiar with this weird, cold experience. I felt as if I was falling from a high distance. Half an hour changed my life and sent me in a totally different direction.
I am now faced with a serious problem. I am a legal resident, newly unemployed in the United States.
Vague and unforeseen challenges are waiting.