Okay, a little background, first. I get laid off. A lot. About once every three years, in fact. Well, the first time (1995) was an actual firing and the fourth time was kind of a self-imposed preemptive layoff/resignation type of deal, but you get the idea. Fifteen years, five job searches. I'm good at being unemployed. I don't panic, I don't mope for more than the first day, I catch up on a few projects at home and I find a new job, better than the one I lost. The whole process usually takes no more than two months.
1995. Involuntarily liberated from a customer service job turned all sales-y on a Friday. I had a friend whose employer needed a temp, so I was working again by the following Tuesday. Temped there and at a couple of other companies for six months before his company hired me. They were on the cutting edge of gene testing technology, and the job was way better than the one I'd lost. For a while.
1998. Biotech employer go boom. Tiny company, tiny layoff - so it felt kind of personal, but whatever. Two months later, I had wrangled not one new job offer, but two - and that's with no internet whatsoever! Again, this job was cooler than the last - training and supporting users of brand-spankin' new internet technology. The unfettered access to the golden age of worldwide webbiness was just the icing on the cake. Until...
2001. The president of the once-promising web-based start-up gets fed up with his nay-saying senior management on the technical side of the house, as well as anyone who happens to report to them. A couple of "silos" of us are gone, tout de suite. Another layoff with a slightly personal feel, and I'm disappointed to report that it took several more years for the company to completely die, but no worries. I was temping full-time within a couple of weeks, and had found another even better job within about two months. Moving away from customer service and into the strange little niche of order management. And it came with a 10% raise, too. It's all good. Right?
2004. After surviving seven rounds of layoffs, a six-month trip through Chapter 11, four new managers, two office moves and constant upheaval, I get sucked into the vortex that is a toxic workplace full of "we said, they said" games with a far-flung division desperate to bring their order management function back from HQ to their old pre-acquisition house. No thanks. For the record - to this day I don't know exactly who said what, but I left skid marks leaving that place. Also - I was right. My job was being performed by the far-flung people within months of my departure. Probably would have been laid off anyway. Again, I was employed within weeks. This time, it was a heinous, just-temporary-whilst-I-look-for-a-long-term-employment-solution, type of gig. It was bad. I don't wish to discuss the work, but I will say in its defense that it paid the same as the last job and had great benefits. I continued interviewing - shopping, really - for a better job, throughout the nine months I was there.
2005. I found that job - or rather, it found me. A prospective employer who hadn't hired me had passed my résumé along to a friend in need of a me. Best. Job. Ever. I was The Guy in this operation, doing 100% of their order processing and invoicing. If I didn't show up, the whole operation just ground to a halt. Best Boss Ever had needed someone to take ownership of a somewhat broken process, and that's just what I did. Raises, bonuses, praise and fun ensued. As 2006 gave way to 2007, my body's warranty expired and I got *very* sick. Hospital sick. Surgery sick. You should have seen the panic on my stoic boss' face! I was, like, a Key Employee! I lived, and things got even better. Until...
2008. As it turns out, nine years old is just Too Old, for a start-up. [Okay - listen up, "ChildFund." Are we really the audience you're targeting? I mean, it's 2:38am Tuesday morning. Seriously - if we HAD money to give to Asok and the other sad homeless street urchins, we'd mostly likely have jobs, and if we had jobs, there's a very good chance that we would not be watching Comedy Central at 2:38am on a weeknight. Just sayin'.] So - the holders of my dream employer's purse strings merged us together with another of their floundering start-ups and laid off 100 of our combined 300 employees, then set about the ugly task of finding a company willing to buy us. By September, the deal is done. As a member of the relatively sheltered Finance/Accounting group, I rejoiced at the extra two-and-a half months' notice, a small bonus and better than expected severance. I'd be working again in a couple of months. Right?
This job search was different from all that preceded it - even before my last day on Thanksgiving Eve, 2008. Difference number one: A couple of months before the end, I engaged a handful of recruiters from area placement firms, a resource I had not utilized in previous searches. More on recruiters, later. Difference number two: I had an amazingly well-networked boss leaving at the same time - one with a track record of consistently either bringing her employees with her when she changed jobs, or at the very least helping them into positions with colleagues. This was an immense source of comfort. Difference three: Between the accrued vacation pay, bonus, severance and some preparatory savings, I had a few months' worth of funds before I would even begin to feel unemployed - more time than I'd need to find another job. Also, my wife [Maris] was earning more than ever and although her company was also doomed, it wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Difference number five: [SPOILER ALERT!!] As I write this in mid-2010, not only am I still jobless, but now (for the past six months), so is [Maris]. I know! That's why it's "Double-Barrel!" Funny! [EVEN BIGGER SPOILER ALERT!!] This ridiculous stint of joblessness ended humanely in November of 2010 (a few months earlier for [Maris]. But still...
Anyway... economy go boom. Unfortunately, there was one other massive difference between this layoff and all of my previous ones. This time, I was set adrift on the sea of joblessness just as the United States found itself mired in the worst recession since the big "D" of the 1930s. Now, I'm not about to attempt to blame one administration or the other, this policy or that for this near-collapse of our economy. I majored in business and was therefore unable to avoid at least a couple of courses in Macro-economics. And although - like Lewis Black - I had the misfortune of trying to absorb macro-economics "through one blood-shot eye" at 8:15 in the morning on Fridays, I picked up enough to know that our economy is an ocean. I know an ocean is going to do what it bloody-well wants to do, that oceans don't stop and turn this way or that based on some tweak or another to a country's fiscal policy. Our leaders would do well to stop attempting to take credit or assign blame for our economy, and instead just adopt a more honest approach wherein they shrug a lot and say things like "what are you gonna do - it's an economy." I will say, however, that this recession had shitty, shitty timing and a lot of nerve being as big and bad as it was.
DISCLAIMER. Okay, I hear you out there, getting ready to pummel me with a flurry of "Oh boo-hoo - we have problems, too!" and "One in ten of us are also unemployed - quit whining," and whatnot. I know, I know, I know. It is NOT my intention to just sit here and bitch. In fact, I know that in spite of all that has happened and where I am now, I am still one of the more fortunate ones, and I am well aware of how blessed and lucky I am. I get it. I'm not a homeless meth addict in a 35-year old Ted Nugent t-shirt, being chased down the street by a "COPS" crew and Montgomery County's finest for stealing hot dogs from the 7-11. I complain because I'm nowhere near the high of 2005-2008, but I know it could always be SO much worse. I'm not whining; just telling a story. Right now, this story has no ending, so I still operate under the assumption that its eventual conclusion will be a happy one. What choice do I have, right?
Anyway. Come along with me for what has become a much longer ride than I had thought possible. I'll post the stories of these jobless days on the main page of the blog, so they can mingle with the rest of the drivel and feel better about themselves. I'll use titles that include the Day Number, a la "(500) Days Of Summer," and like the nice people who brought us that movie, I reserve the right to not only mix up the order of the days, but also skip some of the boring ones. I mean, how many times are you going to read "Day 188: Slept" before you get painfully bored and wander off to find something more interesting to do? What do you MEAN, you're already painfully bored? Oh, poop. Fine. Go, then. It'll make the writing just that much easier.