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That's right--my annual planning session with my Regional Manager turned into the Big Adios for yours truly.

What was really bad is that I had to drive 2 hours through a snowstorm to get there for the meeting.

So now, economic issues that were once theoretical are now very, very real.

My first response: HEY OBAMA--WHERE'S MY DAMN HEALTH PLAN?!

I am not pimping for sympathy, since there are only a few million other Americans having the same problem. But as a community we tend to share our significant life experiences, so here is mine.

I am 55 years old, and have held a variety of positions during my working career, from high school teacher to manufacturing supervisor to clinical exercise physiologist to fitness/healthcare management to commercial sales. For the past 25 years, I worked in fitness-related jobs--mostly hospital based clinical departments or hospital-run fitness/wellness centers, 10 of those years in manager/director positions. Around 8 years ago, I joined a company selling commercial fitness equipment to schools. That was actually a nice blend of ideals and monetary reward. I could use my fitness background to design facilities and recommend equipment for schools and I got paid 2-3 times what I was making as a Fitness Manager.

Unfortunately, after 4 years, the company went under and we were hired by the equipment manufacturer as direct reps (they just took over the territory and accounts in lieu of unpaid debt). The company is a major (the major?) manufacturer of fitness equipment in the world. It was good to have a job, but it was a struggle at times to deal with the increased bureaucracy, and this company is extremely dysfunctional in the way it does business. After 1 year they changed my territory from schools to a general set of markets, and there were no existing leads or relationships, so I had to start over from scratch. It takes a good 2-3 years to develop a territory, so I was always a little behind the eight ball. My numbers were OK, but not as strong as before. Plus, this company has kind of a "rah rah" culture, a "jockocracy" you might say. I am more of a consultant than a sales guy, so I never quite fit in.

My company is a division of a larger Fortune 500 company. Our company did great, but the rest of the corporation has been hard hit by the economy and has shed 25% of its workforce and manufacturing capacity in the last year. Although we accounted for virtually 100% of their profit, they needed to generate cash, so we were expected to reduce our workforce as well. There were 2 layoffs last year, and this time it caught up with me.

Actually I thought they were going to get rid of me last year because I had some issues with my manager. But we smoothed things out, I did my quota, and I thought this year was going to be fine. I was looking forward to it because I had a lot of big projects in the works. So I was really shocked we I got the news.

I am getting some severance pay--an insulting amount really. They calculate it based on your base salary, which for sales people is about 25%-30% of what you actually earn. So I am getting $12K, plus they are keeping my health insurance premiums at the employee level for six months. I have some commission coming from last month's sales and orders I had already booked. I am fighting them over a $95K order that I worked on for a year and was being booked while I was at the meeting notifying me of my termination. They are going to try and refuse to pay me the commission ($3800). So I am going to walk away with $15K to $$22K. With a house and two stepkids going college, that don't go very far. Luckily, despite my wife's best efforts, I also have about 6 months of expenses in savings and a little left of my inheritance from my mother. Luckily--and I do mean luckily--my stepson who is a high school senior was just awarded a 4-year full-ride scholarship to a college in Michigan. My wife's ex is supposed to pay $1500 a month in child support, but he owns a real estate business and claims he is broke. He hasn't paid child support in a year and a half. My wife makes $43K teaching school.

So, that's where I am now. I worry because of the economy and my age, obviously, and also because I think I am a crappy job hunter. I have a lot of skills and varied experience, but not that one marketable "skill" that stands out from the crowd. I haven't really had to look for a job since 1993--I was promoted internally and then was recruited for the sales position by the company owner, then absorbed into the big corporation. Despite my fitness background, 8 years of a 2nd marriage and 80-90 hour work weeks have taken their toll on my previously "athletic" appearance ;-(

So today, I am just going to kick back and reflect. Tomorrow starts the next phase of my life.

If any of you over-50s out there have any job hunting tips, feel free to share.

Originally posted to Azdak on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 01:04 PM PST.

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