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Feeling the economy

Today is one of those days, where it is uncomfortable to be an in-house translator.

From friends I have heard, that they have been approached by clients who asked them to lower (or not raise) prices because of the bad economy. I am pretty sure a lot of people just do that to increase revenue, but it is a simple fact that US companies are struggling - a lot. Here in Michigan, there are a lot of companies in the news. Of course there is the automotive industry - we all know how they are doing, but there are also a lot of small and midsized companies who are struggling. I am not a business major, and generally business/finance bores me - unfortunately, this time it affects me.

My company has announced lay-offs today - no secret, the press release is on our web site. It was actually there before they even told us about it. They had an immediate meeting at 8.30am - tough noogies for me since I usually start at 9am because I am not a morning person. Anyway, I am part of Engineering and we had a department meeting afterward, where we were told that Engineering/R&D is not affected. While it was nice to hear that, it is still unsettling. It don’t like the feeling of not being on control of my fate. There are so many more things hanging on this than just my income. We would lose health insurance - right now, my company covers the both of us. My 401k would stop - and since I only started to work here 10 years ago, I don’t have a lot of retirement savings to show for. I would have to pay back the tuition reimbursement for the last 12 months which would probably eat up any possible severance package so there goes that.

I like X-Rite. Working here is so tightly connected to living in the US, since I came here in February 1999, and started to work in June the same year. I didn’t get here on a work visa - they actually searched for a German translator right after I arrived. Big coincidence! I basically had the job before I even had a work permit but having a job offer helped to speed up the process at the INS a lot. For me, living in the US means working at X-Rite.

I also think we have great products. I work with them when I translate the software or hardware and it really confuses me why we are not doing better. I don’t know if it is our products or business and financial decisions, and I would love to know. But then, hopefully there are smarter (or better, more business-savvy) people solving this issue.

I know that a lot of freelancers deal with that uncertainty every day even if they have a little cushion to rest on - but to be honest, that is one of the reasons why I prefer employment. I am just a little chicken.

Now, the news are on to us, starting with the the local NBC station WoodTV and our local paper the Grand Rapids Press - actually, my “Google Alert” for X-Rite was longer than I have ever seen it before. I remember, after the last lay-offs in April, I left the building only to see the news crew outside. Let’s see if that happens again - in about an hour. I am almost sick to my stomach.

Oh well, before I start to sound like a teenager who got dumped, I better sign off. Thanks for listening!


6 Responses to “Feeling the economy”

  1. Jill on January 8th, 2009

    Hang in there, Susanne! It’s hard but we will all get through this.

  2. Corinne McKay on January 9th, 2009

    It’s definitely a scary time, whether you’re in-house or freelance; I hope that X-Rite stays viable! I think it’s true that when you’re in-house, so much of your life and even your identity is tied up with the job, it means much more than a freelance client does. And as you said, the financial aspect has a lot more impact when it’s not just your salary but your insurance, retirement, etc. I hope it all works out!

  3. Kevin Lossner on January 9th, 2009

    I would start working on “Plan B” just in case things at the company turn sour. If it works out that you can throw the plan in the dumpster because your job is secure after all, at least this may give you a greater sense of control in the meantime. Figure out all the angles - COBRA, etc. - and consider some very limited moonlighting to establish relationships just in case you need them later.

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  5. Judy Jenner on January 12th, 2009

    Yes, these are tough times, but I am delighted that you are safe from lay-offs this round. I have so many friends who have survived round after round of layoffs (one of them since March of last year); so it’s certainly possible to stay on, even in a recession. Do you know how much of your revenue can be traced directly to your department/translation? Sometimes it’s not a direct correlation, but that would of course be good.

    I agree with Kevin on working on Plan B and getting some freelance going on the side. I left my previous travel dot com (one of the jobs that were = USA for me, just like X-Rite is for you) after more than five years last year because I wanted to work for myself and because I saw the writing on the wall (travel business doesn’t do very well in a recession). Sure enough, massive layoffs followed, and they just stopped contributing to 401 K. Now the company is even evaluating who really needs a computer and Internet access! Whew.

    For health insurance, look into options by the National Association of the Self-Employed. And there are 401 K for self-employed folks as well. Given the economy, mine with Schwab is currently in a vegetative state, but can and will be revived.

    I know this is an awful situation, primarily because, as you say, you have no control over it. It usually makes me feel better to regain control by sending out résumés, making connections outside the company (surely you already have many), and getting your ducks in a row for the potential next step. It might not be necessary, but I like to plan for the worst-case scenario.

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