In the almost 4 months of my run of unemployment, I have learned a number of things about human nature, business principles, and the value of foresight.

First and foremost, if you're working for a company that seems to be on the verge of implosion, there is no benefit to loyalty or charity.  Self preservation is the name of the game.  Update your resume; Reconnect with any and all contacts; Find recruiter(s) (ideally, you already have at least one who knows your career path and status); Begin looking for empty boxes to pack up your shit, because once they drop the hammer most companies find your presence to be about as welcome as a fart at a funeral. 

One of the key hypocrisies of Corporate America is that any company demands of their employees unquestioned loyalty and dedication, however, these are two of the last things they're willing to offer you.  Too often, the singular focus of a corporation is the bottom line, regardless of the efforts and sacrifices made by the people assisting in fattening the wallets of the guys in the corner offices.  No more are the days when a person can expect they'll retire with a company.  No more gold watches, retirement parties, or good-luck balloons.  My consolation gift was that my boss told me that I could 'finish out the season' with my fantasy football team.  This was also basically the extent of my severance package.  For 5 1/2 years of loyalty and dedication, I received a firm handshake, a couple paychecks, a month of insurance, and the use of Payton Manning every Sunday for a few more weeks.  So, being the mature-type who doesn't hold a grudge, I quickly changed my fantasy team name from the Bayonne Wife Beaters to the Poughkeepsie Pink Slips.  What can I say - I'm a 'high road' kind of guy.

When it was my time, as described, the writing had been on the wall for months.  Sales down, quarterly revenues sliding sharply, non-billing consultants being let go, and one douche bag sales guy trying to save his own ass asking the CEO 'Do we really need marketing?' when the boss asked for cost-savings recommendations (another tell-tale sign of a doomed company).  And being that I was the entire marketing department, he was basically saying 'Can we get rid of Bill instead of me?'.  It's amazing how some people's survival instinct works.  In a burning building you can either attempt to create order and marshall people to safety, or you can create chaos and attempt to save yourself at any cost to those around you.


Thankfully, there were more people than not included in that 'cost-savings' meeting who insisted it would be a mistake to get rid of marketing (i.e. 'yours truly'), confirming that my job was getting done.  I was achieving what I was getting paid to do.  The disconnect was elsewhere, and in all honesty, caused by the state of the economy.  So, when the economy wasn't improving and clients continued to not spend money, the seed that Old MacDouchebag planted had grown to full bloom and finally and inevitably the CEO called my into his office and asked me to close the door.

What has happened since has been at times surprising, typical, awkward and infuriating.  Here is a brief collection of true stories from my time on the Unemployment Frontline:
  • At that closed door meeting with my boss, after telling me that letting me go was one of the hardest things he's ever had to do professionally (what do you want, my sympathy?  Save it - To me, your empathy can be measured only by the size of the severance package you give me...which wasn't much.  So spare me your pity and give me something I can use), told me to go meet with HR.   I've never been downsized before, but I'm pretty sure it is not professional etiquette for the HR Director to shed a tear while going over your package.  That, however, meant so much more to me than the empty words and condolences that I just got from the corner office.  At this company, many of us were accustomed to being left out in terms of consideration and being rewarded for our efforts.  So the employees, for the most part, were a pretty tight-knit crew.  Unified by a foundation of abuse: Like hostages; kidnap victims; cult members - A band of brothers were we.  And so it was will sincerity and thanks that we hugged and promised to stay in touch.  And we have.  And I have been taken to lunch and been offered assistance from a number of other ex-coworkers who know what it's like to be in my shoes, and are anxiously awaiting a set of similar shoes themselves.  It really is a shitty situation to go down with a sinking ship.  You see lots of people you know, and sometimes even care about, dealt significant personal and financial blows; witness the often selfish and predatory nature of business and humanity that makes you really wonder why you subject yourself to the shallow world of Corporate America (something I've asked myself for years), and you really start to consider what your options are outside of the crooked streets and dark alleys that seem to form the landscape of CorpAm.  But the camaraderie and genuine outreach of support from (ex)co-workers, family, friends, and fellow victims helps to affirm the positive qualities of humanity.  In a way, I feel naive to want or accept their help, because honestly....there must be a better way to make a living.  But I have truly appreciated everything that people have done for me, be it through assistance, encouragement, or the donation of beer.

    And sometimes the "assistance" you receive is hysterically inappropriate.  Which brings me to my next true story...

  • I received a call early on into my "situation" from a recruiter.  Someone who was a friend of a friend who wanted to help me in my search.  I had never heard of this guy before or spoken to him on any level, yet when he called he acted as if we were old pals: "Billy.  I heard what's going on, and I feel terrible.  I can't believe your company did this to you...but don't worry, we're going to find you something".   At which point I said, "Great.  Who is this?"

    He went on to explain who he was and how he was referred to me.  But his persona was so obnoxious and off-putting that I knew early on that I would not be using him in any way to represent me or guide me in my career growth.  And after an unsolicited and unfruitful 45-minute phone call, I was just about fed-up with his act of charity and kindness.  But had I hung up when I wanted to, I never would have heard the greatest piece of advice I've ever received from a recruiter....or anybody, for that matter.  EVER. 

    As he went through my resume and offered suggestions for how to improve it, like, for example, shortening it to 1 page, which in case you didn't know is (cover your eyes Ms. Palin) retarded.  Or, that maybe I should include a picture of myself on the resume.  Do you know who submits pictures of themselves during the interview process?  Models (which I am choice), child molesters (which I am choice), and (one more time Ms. Palin) retards (which I am chromosome).  Seriously, what kind of recruiter recommends doing this?  But it was in his final recommendation that almost made me happy to be unemployed.  Because if I hadn't been, I never would have heard this piece of advice: "You know what I've noticed that you should probably add to your resume?  You should say somewhere that you're married...because then the company would know that they're not talking to a queer.  Which would make them feel better."  This, I swear, is 100% true.  And he wasn't doing it for a laugh.  It was a sincere recommendation to help in my job search...and to help shield potential employers from having to speak to queers.  As soon as he said it, I was filled with uncharted levels of joy, satisfaction, and amazement.  I may have just spent close to an hour on the phone with this idiot....but it paid off with one of the most fantastically inappropriate and hysterical sentences I've ever heard.  And I may be unemployed, and I may be feeling bad about myself....but it could be worse.  I could be this guy.  I mean, seriously...who says 'queer' anymore.  That's so silly.  Everyone knows they're called 'homos'....right?

  • Interviewing has been a series of highs and lows. 
    The highs have come in seeing some companies that are structured well, seem to know how to treat employees and reward their sacrifices and efforts.  These have been rather few and far between...but they're there.  Unfortunately, one that I really liked came down to me and one other person for a great position that really fit my background and had a well established and well managed marketing department.  However, my lack of experience in working for large organizations was the factor that shifted the scales towards the other candidate.  It was infuriating that I have a successful and referenceable background doing all of the projects that the position required, yet it was my lack of exposure to supporting a salesforce of 100+ people that was the deciding factor.  My background is in supporting closer to 15-25 sales people.  They knew this before I met with 6 different people....but decided to wait until I got my hopes up before they let me know.  But that was still a relative 'high'.

    A moderate-low came when a recruiter set me up for a well paying marketing position at a nearby technical consulting firm.  I got to the interview about 15 mins early, told them who I was there to see, and was told to have a seat.  About 10 minutes later, a very confused and frazzled assistant came to me to confirm who I was there to see.  She then asked if this meeting was confirmed by the person I was meeting with.  When I told her it was, she explained that her boss, the person with whom I was scheduled to be interviewed by, was on a call but would be with me "very shortly".  Then she nervously drifted away.  So I stayed in the lobby area, but looked out into the sea of cubicles to get a view of the work environment.  At which point it occured to me that it was completely silent.  Nobody was on a phone.  Nobody was talking to anyone else on the floor.  Nobody was playing music.  Nobody was smiling or doing anything but staring at their computer monitor.  Oh, and EVERYBODY WAS INDIAN.  This wouldn't be a big deal usually.  I'm very culturally friendly to any and all nationalities, races, and religions.....except black Irish jews.  I hate them.  But I would be the ONLY white person amongst 100+ Indians.  Kind of like General Custer....except I'm talking about the other kind of Indians.  All of whom didn't talk, didn't smile, and didn't make a noise.  And anyone that knows me knows that I do all of those things....a lot.  It just didn't feel right.  Not so much the ethnic difference, but more that there was no pulse in the office.  So, I continue to wait and wait...and wait.  Every so often often someone would come around and ask who I was waiting for.  Ask if I would like something to drink.  The assistant came back to confirm that the person was still on the phone.  Finally, after a full hour of waiting, I left a very polite note for the person who had kept me waiting and said that I could see she's very busy and maybe we should reschedule for another time.  I went to my car, called the recruiter who then called the person who stood me up.  The recruiter called me back and explained that the woman was so extremely sorry and truly apologized for wasting my time, and would like to reschedule ASAP.  I explained to the recruiter that the vibe didn't feel right and that I didn't think I was interested in rescheduling.  And then, on my way home, I stopped somewhere for some awesome tikka masala.

    The low-low came via a job search that lead me to a company that provides virtual and visual networking services.  My expectations upon visiting their website were quite low.  Their site was shit, their profile of services was vague, and their overall corporate identity was lacking.  But, I figured, I could use this as good interviewing practice.  So I went to their office, was asked to wait in the dimly lit lobby and fill out an application (some places, both legitimate and bullshit companies, still require people to fill out resumes which is so demeaning and tacky in my opinion), and then I waited for the interview to begin.  I waited in the dark for 20 minutes.  Finally my interviewer, an HR rep, came for me.  He graciously apologized then led me to a conference room.  We sat for about 10 minutes, talking about my background and the position.  He then got up and said, 'OK, I am going to see if I can find someone else to meet with you'.  This resulted in me sitting alone in the conference room for 30 minutes.  However, when the next guy came in, he was surprisingly sharp and interesting and actually tricked me into thinking the company might have something going for itself.  So when they invited me back for a second interview, I reluctantly agreed.  This time, the interview didn't start until 6pm....a very bad sign.  What kind of overworked employee(s) are expected to go through an interview process so late in the day, versus going home to their family?  What kind of corporate philosophy is behind that?  So I show up, and again I wait in the dim lobby for another 20-25 mins.  The same HR dope came out finally, with another candidate for what I assumed was the same position.  Again we met for 10 minutes while he went over all the same questions again.  I asked him who I would be meeting with during this meeting.  His reply was, 'We're going to have you meet with a few people'.  Specifics were not this companies strong suit.  So he excused himself and went to go see if someone was available to meet with me.  Each time he left, it was clear that there was no agenda for who I'd be meeting with.  If Brian from Accounting was not actively crunching numbers, I would surely meet with Brian.  If Janice from IT wasn't actively playing Minesweeper, I would meet with Janice.  If Dan from Sales wasn't actively working for a decent company, i would meet with Dan.  So of course...I met with Dan.

    "Dan" was a 60 year old sales guy that I could only compare to The Simpsons' character Gil.  A dead-end guy in a dead-end job.  Nothing goes right for ol' Gil...and the same was true of Dan.  He was a broken and depressed man who, if I had to guess, was one lost sale away from killing himself and everybody in that office.  We met for about 30 minutes, and when it was over, I found that I had been involuntarily attempting to slice my wrists with my thumbnail for the past 15 minutes.  Suddenly, Dan got up and said. 'Oh, I need to see somebody about something before he leaves for the day...I'll be right back'.  After 30 minutes, I knew he wasn't coming back.  Honestly.  I waited for 30 minutes.  All I wanted to do was leave, but for some reason unbeknownst to me, I stayed.  Clearly, that was a mistake.  Finally after 45 minutes (it is now, 8pm - I got there at 6pm....I've met with 2 people for a total of 45 minutes in these 2 hours) the next person comes it.  It's the HR guy again with a man who was about 5 feet tall, had a platinum-dyed crew cut, and was clearly hooked on some form of steroids.  This addiction was clear by his physique, his overly aggressive personality (with potential hints of cocaine), and the acne all over his face.  This, as I find out, is the CEO of the company. 

    Our conversation started like this:
    Steroid Douche: "Brad?"
    Me: "Bill"
    Steroid Douche: "Bill.  Sorry.  Ok, you've met with my guys.  They like you.  They say I should meet you.  If you were me, what would you ask you?"
    Me: "I'm sorry, what?"
    Steroid Douche: "Yeah, I don't do "normal", you should learn that about me.  So, this is how we're going to do this interview.  I ask you, 'what would you ask you if you were me?'"

    (I saw this was going nowhere, so I decided to see if he a) had a sense of humor, and b) understood sarcasm.)

    Me: "Well, if I were you asking me a question, I would ask me: 'If you were me, what would you ask you?'".

    He had no sense of humor.  What followed was a very awkward and ridiculous view into a warped man running a company full of warped personalities.  We exchanged some ideas about the position and some strategy Q&A, and when it was all over, I thanked him for his time and he said they would most definitely be in touch.

    To my surprise, they never did contact me.  I wasn't sure if I should be upset or relieved.  Either way, I was never going to pursue a job with the company...but it's nice to be asked.  It always better to be the dumper than the dump-ed, and after the time, effort, and awkwardness they put me through, I really wanted to be the one to dump them.  Oh well, always a bridesmaid never a coked-up platinum-haired Napoleonic sociopath.
Well, that's what's going on at the Frontline of Unemployment.
I suppose I could have made this a few Blahg! entries instead of one long one, but I'm still learning about how and when to post these things.  So you'll just have to deal with it.

These stories are 100% true and a glimpse into insanity behind trying to find a worthwhile way to spend over 50% of your life.  Finding a job is not something to take lightly.  I'm resigned to not take the first job offered, or the highest paying job, unless it happens to be one that I feel I will get some satisfaction from.  I have already wasted way too much time working for people that do not appreciate my time/effort, and receiving little fulfillment from the job to boot. 

Success, to me, is the guy that wakes up everyday and enjoys the job he's going to and has personal time to appreciate his life and everyone in it.  Money has very little to do with it.

Hopefully I'll be able to write about the stress and anxiety that comes with a new job soon, but until then...

Blah, Blah, Blahg!
2/23/2010 11:17:45 am

Too funny! Don't worry-I'm sure your luck will turn around!

2/23/2010 10:27:23 pm

There are a lot of laughs in this one. If you had to put a headshot on your resume wouldn't that make it 3 pages long. Queer.

3/1/2010 01:34:58 am

Still laughing from your Blagh's oh and Adam's comment.


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