The bright side of being fired

Author Michael Deren
October 01, 2009 - 12:00pm

As I stated in my previous column, my former employer “downsized” me. It can be unnerving when the boss calls you into his office and lets you know you’ve been laid off. The reason? “It’s the economy,” he says. You won’t hear: “Sorry, we screwed up. We didn’t plan properly by looking for additional customers.”

A company might have spent all kinds of money on equipment for a customer and ramped up by hiring more employees only to find the customer pulls the plug—without any notification or consequence. Heaven forbid your company should admit that. Then your employer sends you out the door.

The hardest part is telling your spouse. I’m fortunate that my wife has come to expect employment changes and is a good sport about it, as anyone married to a metalworking professional should be. Manufacturing can be a transient industry, but there’s a bright side to being laid off.

No, I haven’t lost my mind! I’m just optimistic, usually seeing the glass as being half full rather than half empty. In my case, I wound up with a few weeks off to do things I wouldn’t have had time for while working full time. Instead of going fishing and probably only catching a cold, I did the next best thing and took a vacation with my wife to visit my parents and daughter in the Midwest.

While there, I even had time to seek and secure a new position. It’s not the best job I could have hoped for, but it will pay the bills and then some. After I landed a job, we found a new place to live as well.

Another advantage of being laid off is you get to look for a new environment to work in. Every position I’ve had has been somewhat different than the previous one. And every new position I took was because my prospective employer was interested in an aspect of my experience. So, gradually, my horizons expanded as I learned new skills during my tenures at different employers. One of my early employers wanted someone with drafting experience, and that’s where I gathered machine tool experience, which proved helpful for landing other jobs. Three of my past employers were looking for robotic experience. One of those jobs led me to programming the robot that decommissioned the downed nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island.

Over the years, I’ve applied large and small cutting tools to make large and small parts. This time, I’ve gone right down to the microtools, including endmills as small as 0.1mm in diameter. Talk about a learning curve. For instance, I quickly learned not to run my finger over the end of the cutter because the tool will break.

My current employer is another one that noticed I had several years experience programming a CAM package. I’m also able to use my high-speed machining expertise. In addition, I’m learning to use new scanning software, which is, dare I say, interesting. That challenge—in addition to a paycheck—gives me a reason to get up in the morning and go to work.

So don’t despair if you’re downsized. Manufacturing jobs still exist. You may not immediately find the perfect job, but, to borrow a phrase from the gospel of Matthew, “seek and ye shall find.” But first, do some fishing or go on vacation—you deserve a break. CTE

About the Author: Mike Deren is a manufacturing engineer/project manager and a regular CTE contributor. He can be e-mailed at 

Related Glossary Terms

  • computer-aided manufacturing ( CAM)

    computer-aided manufacturing ( CAM)

    Use of computers to control machining and manufacturing processes.

  • metalworking


    Any manufacturing process in which metal is processed or machined such that the workpiece is given a new shape. Broadly defined, the term includes processes such as design and layout, heat-treating, material handling and inspection.


Machinist's Corner Columnist

Michael Deren is a manufacturing engineer/project manager and a regular CTE contributor. He can be reached via e-mail at