day in late February my cell phone rang, and it was my boss's boss.
He and I never really, you know, saw eye to eye.
In fact, when he became
my boss's boss, I felt a twinge of panic.
"He's gonna find a reason to get rid of me," I told the
paranoid and fleshy reflection in the mirror.
But I'd been with the company for seventeen years, much longer than he'd
been around, and had weathered many a storm.
It didnít take much effort to convince myself everything would
He asked if I could meet him for breakfast the next morning. There was
something he needed to talk to me about, and couldn't go into it over
the phone. I sensed just the tiniest bit of anxiety in his voice, and it
sounded like he might've been calling from an airport.
It's worth noting, I think, that this guy is based in Southern
California, and I'm in Scranton. So
it wasn't exactly common for him to drop in like this.
Something was up, I knew, something I probably wasn't going to
And so, over scrambled eggs and bacon, I was gently fired.
After seventeen years, in three cities, and across two divisions
of the company, it was over. Just
like that. They'd decided
they only need one facility on the east coast, and mine was the one they
were closing. It was a very
difficult decision, and we're prepared to offer you a generous severance
package... blah blah blah.
I felt like I was going to vomit. I'd
been working at that place my entire adult life, it seemed.
It was part of me, and I was part of it.
And here they were telling me they didn't need me around anymore.
I don't even remember driving home.
Now a few months have passed, and it seems like a hundred years.
I've been through the full spectrum of emotions:
shock, denial, anger, the contemplation of throwing my face
through plate glass, etc. And
for some unknown reason Iím now feeling the need to perform an
What follows is probably more for me than you, but hopefully it's at
least semi-useful, or entertaining. Or something.
Here are some of the things I've learned since losing my job...
Internet job sites
everybody else in my position, I reflexively threw together a resume and
posted it to Monster, CareerBuilder, and the other well-known job sites.
I figured Iíd make it the heart and soul of my search for new
employment, since thatís the way itís apparently done these days.
I foolishly expected to receive a few nibbles on the very first
day. After all, I'd posted
my information before noon.
When that didnít happen, I told myself not to panic and began applying
for jobs listed at each site. I
fired off dozens of resumes, and filled out scores of applications, in a
wild frenzy of activity that left me feeling exhilarated and certain
better days were ahead.
And I might as well have climbed to the top of an elevated bluff
somewhere, unzipped my pants, and begun urinating directly into a
I have never received a
from anything Iíve done at an internet job site.
Since my ďbreakfastĒ in February Iíve been on six
interviews with three companies, and exactly zero came about because of
Monster or CareerBuilder or any of those outfits.
As best as I can tell theyíre a complete waste of time, something akin
to typing up a resume and cover letter then throwing it all into an open
For the most part, Iíve now washed my hands of those websites.
Oh, Iím still receiving their emails every day with a list of
exciting new opportunities for me. And
itís usually stuff like spinal cord surgeon and assistant key-person
at Lids - nothing in between.
Iím convinced internet job sites are the biggest scam this side of
One of the
reasons the sites donít work, I believe, is because resumes and
applications get dumped into human resources departments.
And human resources is where resumes go to die.
Itís been my experience that many HR folks are beaten down with a constant
all-consuming concern theyíre going to screw up and allow their
company to be sued somehow. Theyíre
absolutely averse to risk, and will not take action of any kind unless
thereís almost 100% certainty it wonít come back to haunt them.
Therefore, resumes are scanned (sometimes electronically) for a reason
to reject it. Thatís their
function: to provide HR an
excuse not to take further action. Every
resume shitcanned is a problem solved, and another risky decision
I have no proof of this, but I believe the only reason anyone ever gets
hired anywhere is because an executive finally blows a gasket and tells
HR to quit their freakin' stalling. And unless you come onto the scene at the exact time that hissy-fit
is being thrown, youíre screwed, brotha.
And thatís why Iím doing my best to avoid human resources, and going
straight to the execs themselves. If
my new method bears fruit, you can rest assured Iíll soon be
ďfreeĒ seminar about it at a Ramada Inn ballroom near you.
Watch your newspapers for details.
Four year college
I donít have a degree, and was convinced it must surely be one
of the more popular shitcan-triggers amongst HR folks.
But, to my surprise, it hasnít been as big a deal as Iíd feared.
Certainly Iíve encountered companies that dig in their heels
about such things, and there have been some unpleasant experiences
because of it.
I attended a job fair, for instance, and approached a corporation I was
(am) interested in. The
woman seemed friendly, and took my resume with much enthusiasm.
Then I watched her skip over my entire work history, and go
straight to the education section.
My seventeen years of real and relevant experience were just tossed
aside, and all she wanted to know is whether or not I have a four-year
degree. It didnít seem to
matter if it was in Physical Education, Herbology, or the Dark Arts.
Once she received my answer, I was treated like a man wearing a sash of
sewage. She handed my resume
back as if she believed it to be smeared with post-pub diarrhea. It was
quite a demoralizing afternoon for your corpulent correspondent.
But, for the most part, companies seem to require a degree or
a comparable amount of experience.
And thatís been one of the more pleasant Things Iíve Learned.
employer offered to pay for six months of career counseling, reportedly
to help ease the pain of transition. Iím from West Virginia and donít usually go in for such
fancy-pants things, but my wife convinced me to give it a try.
And itís been extremely helpful. Since
I hadnít really been on a job interview in more than seventeen years,
I had a lot to learn. I
didnít know (or believe) I had a lot to learn, but I did.
Those folks got me prepared for the ďmodernĒ job interview.
They also helped with my resume, rejecting it four or five times and
making me crazy. It
irritated me while I was doing yet
of the thing, but the final product is very good indeed.
I sat through several classes and seminars there, during the early days
of panic, and it helped me mentally. I always came away feeling hopeful and optimistic, and found
myself clinging to the place like a life raft.
Now Iím at a point where I just call my contact for advice and
opinions when needed, I donít attend many of the seminars these days. But it remains a valuable resource.
The man knows his stuff, and is a good person to have in your
Iím glad I was talked into it. I
wouldnít have gone on my own. You
know, because Iím from West Virginia.
family and friends One
of the more frustrating consequences of this ordeal is the way some
folks insist on treating me. Thereís
a slight pitying
tone to their voice, and it seems like theyíre being very careful with
the words they choose, etc. As
if Iím teetering on the edge of sanity, and one wrong move might be
all it takes.
Iím sure they mean well and all, but I donít much care for it. Iím
no delicate flower, and donít need to be tip-toed around.
My job was eliminated, and thatís certainly a kick to the eggs,
but it hasnít affected my DNA. Iím
still the same person I was on February 25.
My mother-in-law visited us a couple of weeks ago, and told my wife she
worries that I might be ďsuicidal.Ē This is some kind of Oprah crap she brought with her, along with
her water-driven lung machine, and it has no basis in reality.
I busted out laughing when I heard about this latest drama.
Suicidal, my big riffled ass. Her mind was made up about it before she even left her house.
On the other end of the spectrum is a guy at my old office, a person I
once considered to be a friend. As
soon as the work-bond was broken, our ďfriendshipĒ ended.
I called him a couple of times after I left, and we didnít
really have anything to say to each other.
Apparently it was a relationship built entirely on bitching and
mockery, and now weíre all misaligned.
And so it goes.
People like to tell
you that losing your job is an opportunity. I think thereís some truth
in that. Lord knows I wasnít very happy the last few years, and now
have a chance to make things right.
While looking for better
employment, I'm also having crazy and terrifying ideas about striking
out on my own, and maybe starting a business of sorts.
If Iím ever going to do it, nowís the time.
At least that's what the demons are telling me.Will
somebody please make all my decisions for me, and tell me where to
report every morning, and at what time?
I'll be getting
hammered on potato vodka in the corner if you need me...
Yeah, these things are exciting in the abstract, but they donít make
it any easier in real life. I
sometimes feel like Iím going in twenty directions at once, and
standing still as a result.
By definition, of course, options complicate matters.
Some days I have a powerful urge just to get this episode behind
us and find another job to complain about - get back into the "real
world." Then I become
angry with myself for being weak, and get all fired up about the small
business ideas again.
It's the kind of thing that causes communism to take hold around the
A watched cell phone never rings, and I don't much care for it.
around the house
Remember that unlikely episode of The
Andy Griffith Show
where Howard Sprague dreamed of escaping the hustle and bustle of
Mayberry(!) and moved to a Caribbean island where he planned to lie
around in hammocks all day, and build ships in bottles?
Yeah, it turned out to be one of those be
careful what you wish for
situations. Once he actually
got to the island he was bored to tears, and seemed ready to cast
himself into the sea (which would've really spiced up the show, now that
I think about it).
When I was working and mildly miserable, I had my fantasies like
everyone else. Man, I
thought, if I didn't have to go to the office every day I'd be the
happiest person alive. I'd
get so much important
work done, and not waste all my time on meetings and conference calls
and rolling my eyes behind people's backs.
And now here I am feeling like Howard Sprague about twenty minutes in.
Sure, economic uncertainty taints the whole thing, so it's not really a
valid comparison. But I
don't think I could do it, long-term, under any circumstance.
In fact, I'm writing this on a laptop computer inside a Panera
Bread, just to shake things up a bit. The walls were closing in on me, man.
Hanging around the house all the time, ďdoing what I want,Ē is a
sure trip to Howard's island, I've learned. If you're not careful it'll
be Sudoku in no time. Which,
as everyone knows, is the beginning of the long slow decline to death.
newspaper ads According
to the books I've read, and the things I've been taught, replying to
Sunday newspaper ads has one of the lowest success rates of them all.
But I've had good luck with it so far.
No, I still haven't been hired, but I've been on interviews, and come
very close on two occasions. The
problem? You're going up
against dozens of other people, and the odds are long.
Also (and here's where the paranoid and fleshy reflection returns) I
believe many companies, when given the choice, will gamble on a young
and cheap candidate over a seasoned and more expensive veteran such as
myself. In fact, I'm almost
certain it happened to me recently.
On the other hand, I remember being young and believing the exact
who the hell knows? One
thing I do
know is that I'm watching the papers every day, and firing off resumes
and cover letters when appropriate.
The ďexpertsĒ can kiss it. I
will be exceedingly smug when I prove them wrong.
At your age,
they say, networking is the key. I
don't much care for that statement. For one thing I'm not exactly an extrovert; I'm much more
comfortable operating in the background.
I'm less a ďperformer,Ē and more of a guy who shows up every
day and performs his duties well.
Some folks seem to be perpetually campaigning for the next promotion,
playing golf and laughing real loud and acting like assholes. That's not
me. Oh, my inclinations have probably cost me a pay-grade through the
years, but it's cool. I have
my dignity. Sort of.
And so, I get nervous when so much emphasis is placed on networking,
because it's calling for me to do things which go almost exactly counter
to my personality.at
I was recently at a neighborhood block party and decided, against my
better judgment, to give it a shot. Everyone's a potential networking contact, they say, so we'll see
how it goes.
And it was right
back to the sash of sewage. When those guys found out I was unemployed, they almost literally
recoiled in horror. I believe I would've met with a more receptive crowd
if I'd asked for some of their teenage daughters' used underwear.
I probably wonít be doing much more networking,
I attended several interviewing workshops after being
restructured out the door by my old company, and they scared the
crystal-clear ice water out of me. They
told us we could expect almost anything, then fired off horror story
after horror story. Everything's
changed, they said. The traditional interview methods most people know
have been almost completely abandoned.
Traditional, of course, is you and another person sitting on either side
of a desk. The hirer asks
questions, and the potential hiree answers them.
That doesn't happen anymore, they claimed.
It's been replaced by New Methods.
You might, for instance, be subjected to an environment where you're on
one side of a giant conference table, with a freakin' team of people on
the other side, tag-teaming you and sitting in judgment.
I didn't like the sound of that one, not one tiny bit.
Or they might send you from office to office, talking to four or five
different people over many hours. That
would be OK, I thought. Better
to get it over with.
Or they might ask you to explain - in excruciating detail - a certain
problem you've encountered in the past, and how you dealt with it.
This one scared me the most, because it can supposedly drag on
for the better part of a day, and you're required to recall every tiny
inconsequential tidbit about the event. It would probably be like going into "the box" with
Pembleton on Homicide.
There are others, but these are the ones that jump immediately to mind.
And what kind of interviews have I actually encountered?
That's right, traditional. For
the most part, anyway. Once
there were three people on the other side of a table, but only one
spoke. I think they were
just trying to screw with my head. I'm
not sure the other two folks even worked there; I suspect they were
So all that worrying and stressing about unorthodox interviewing methods
has been for naught so far. Except,
of course, that I always feel a rush of relief when I realize it's just
going to be me and another person talking. Conclusion
bottom-line to all this? I'm
prepared; I'm horribly unprepared. I'm
doing the work necessary; I'm not doing nearly enough.
I'm calm; I'm freaking the hell out.
I know what I'm doing; I'm stumbling around with drool on my
chin. My background is
solid; who would possibly hire me?
Maybe it was the counselors' sneaky way of helping us, some kind of
they led us to believe we'd likely be eaten alive, so we'd be happy
about only losing an arm? I
just don't know.
all work out in the long run... but what if it doesn't?
Yeah, it's under control.
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