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My Laid-Off Life

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No. 3: Denise Durham Williams
Age: 50
Job: Global director for diversity of the Global Consumer Group, Citigroup

I’d just gotten back from a cruise to the Riviera when I found out that I’d been laid off. The days of having vacations, I knew, would be over for a while. I’ve been in the finance business for almost 30 years, so I was a little shocked, very disappointed, but not completely surprised about the turn of events. I had to remind myself about two things: not to take it personally, and that I’m not alone.

I’m a workaholic, so it’s a little hard to step back and enjoy this free time. I’m going back to things that I enjoyed when I was younger. I’ve been cooking up a storm. I’ve been really diligent with Pilates and have taken up knitting again. I’m almost done with a little blanket for my cat.

I actually don’t talk about it that much with my family. I’ve been looking at a job in Boston. As stressful as it is to relocate, my husband is supportive and willing to do so. The more troubling thing for me is that my stock at Citi took such a dive. We lost a lot of money—that was our child’s education. My daughter goes to Smith, which is an expensive school. Now I think, “How do I make sure her future is well established?”

We’ve definitely put ourselves on a budget. I’m a shopaholic, but now I don’t go into stores. No more Neiman or Saks. The only thing I’ve purchased is a new interview outfit. We are eating leftovers—we never did that before. If we want to see friends, we have potlucks. We even implemented Christmas limitations. We have a specific dollar amount that we can’t go over. It’s much less than we usually spend.

You have to maintain a positive attitude. I’ve been through something like this before. It does pass, but it takes time. Many people who were laid off from the big banks may never go back to the financial industry; they just don’t realize that yet. You have to ask yourself, “What is the talent that I offer, and where can I put that to use?” I’m reinventing myself. I want to go into the not-for-profit sector and do something more meaningful with my life. I want to work with disadvantaged women and children. In my mind, as of that day, I retired from the investment services. It just wasn’t satisfying as far as giving back to people, and the current system is not the industry I remember. I’m looking for more now.


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