By France Griggs Sloat
The first Tuesday in November 2009 started out like any other for Ron Vogler. His wife left for work. Their son left for school. Alone, Vogler grabbed his coffee and sat down to his computer. This was one of the days he worked out of his house in Mason, Ohio, overseeing online orders for Grainger, an industrial supply company.
At age 46, Vogler felt comfortable with his mid-level manager’s job, the position he worked himself up to since starting there in 1985, only two years out of high school. Grainger was a large company that offered additional opportunities for loyal employees like Vogler to move up or around, so he had no intentions of leaving. Grainger was a company he loved and from where he wanted to retire.
But around lunchtime, his phone rang—and life as he knew it changed forever. It was his boss telling him their department was merging with another and his job had been eliminated.
“I almost got sick,” Vogler says. “Then HR got on the phone, and the conversation shifted to a very legal one. They said I would get my severance package the next day. When my wife came home, I told her I lost my job today, and she broke down. I was the bread winner; she was a part-time consultant and managed the family.”
At first, he didn’t know what to do. He got somewhat depressed—“It’s like losing a loved one or getting divorced”—and worried about how he was going to get a job as good as the one he had.
“I didn’t have a degree,” he says. “I was 46 years old. I thought about it every day, all day. I would sit in the house and was just paralyzed. I felt scared wondering, what am I gonna do?”
But with a decent severance package, Vogler realized he could scale back their spending and they’d be fine for awhile. He also realized he would need at least a bachelor’s degree if he had any hope of finding another job similar to his job at Grainger.
So he decided to turn the layoff into a positive by going to school full time. He’d been picking up courses at Xavier for almost eight years and needed four more courses to finish his bachelor’s degree. He signed up in January 2010 and completed the last course in August.
On his last day, he walked the academic mall from end to end, thanking and saying goodbye to all the people he met and befriended. But he wasn’t done. He felt so grateful that he wanted to give back and was directed to the Career Services Center’s mentoring program. There he was paired with a student who would become like a daughter to him. Samantha Bodner was a senior graduating with a degree in sport marketing. They clicked as a mentor-mentee pair and began helping each other look for jobs.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Bodner says. “We emailed back and forth frequently and would meet in person for dinner or coffee. The overall benefit was to not feel I was going through the job hunting process alone—and to feel I’ve made a lifelong friend.”
By June, and with Vogler’s help, Bodner landed a job at a small software company as the marketing administrator. Vogler nominated
her for Xavier’s Mentee of the Year Award. She won.
“He was a big help,” she says. “I think I got a lot of second interviews because of his guidance.”
Vogler felt he could share the story of his job loss with her, and she picked up his proactive, positive approach.
“You could tell he was worried about it, but he was very proactive. He taught me you need to be proactive about everything. He pushed me to get my résumé out on every website because you never know who’s looking at it. I did, and I had companies call me.”
And, before they even got halfway through the year, Vogler got a call from Grainger. They had an opening and wanted him to apply. A little over a year after being laid off, Vogler was working again at the company where he always wanted to be.
The salary is about half what he was making before, but he’s grateful for the job and the degree. Now, he says, he has more of a future.