Brother Can You Spare a Job?

I may be an Omnipotent Poobah, but I'm unemployed.

Sure, I haven't lost my home or family like those in the wake of Katrina. Sometimes I even feel guilty for getting pissed off over this state of affairs. But still, I am losing quite a bit and I'm quite pissed off about it. Especially since I didn't do anything, other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It can happen to anyone. Ask the folks along the Gulf Coast, they were really in the wrong place at the wrong time. DefSec Rummy has a saying for this, "stuff happens", except apparently, to him, Dear Leader, and many another CEO or politician who works for their ego rather than the money.

Perhaps some background is in order.

I used to work at a large and famous company. Several years ago they decided that "efficiencies" could be had by spinning off the Information Technology (IT) portion of the company into a privately-held, stand-alone company. The shareholders were the various international regions within the company. How these "efficiencies" were to be gained wasn't exactly clear. Questions to company executives typically received suitably vague, corporate-speak answers full of "optimized synergies" and "right-sourcing" our labor force.

Over the next few years, modest "efficiencies" did come, but only through layoffs and after radical changes to the corporation's business model, business processes, and corporate governance. Little wonder that most employees saw their already bruised morale sink even lower. Over a five year span the ownership of the new company was transferred among partners no less than three times. Not exactly a recipe for stability, eh?

The final change in ownership came more than a year ago now. Initially, "nothing will change" became, "it'll change a little", and then, "we're spinning you back into the parent company again (albeit a different part than the initial part)". A "re-merger" if you will.

When asked about this in job interviews I don't even try to explain anymore. Too many looks of utter amazement. I'm afraid the prospective employers will think I'm a nut case and making it all up. A company as well-known as mine couldn't possibly be that fucked up they must think. Unfortunately, it can and it is.

As the merger unfolded, the CEO of the newly-combined company did lots of posturing and sent his underlings off to tell everyone what a swell deal this all was. About two months after announcing the re-merger he announced something else - his retirement. I guess this last bit of "management" was his parting gift to us as he stepped from the deck of the Titanic into a waiting lifeboat. He's now on his way toward a multi-million dollar stint at a venture capital firm. We are collecting unemployment.

Go figure.

Why was I laid off? Well, I have no clue, despite many questions. None of my managers would reveal that secret to me. Phone calls, e-mails, and requests for personal meetings were always unanswered (unless they needed information from me to keep things moving). My performance apparently wasn't the issue. I routinely received good reviews, bonuses, and cash performance awards. Members of my client group lobbied with the company's top executives to keep me. I did my best to cooperate with the new regime, even as they kept a decision about retaining me in the works for nearly 10 months before making a decision. Finally, they laid me off - but not before posting my old job on their job board (it remains unfilled today).

So today, I'm looking for work and blogging to keep up my spirits and keep my writing skills fresh. Despite slavish attention to the lessons I was given by the "experts" included in my transition package, I am still looking. I send out plenty of resumes. I network. I go to interviews. I go to job fairs. They all go very well. But, I don't get callbacks for second round interviews once they see me.

My temptation is to question myself about this failure and I do - constantly. But, given that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing (according to my "experts") and the fact that my resume obviously works, I have to look to other reasons as well. I'm 50 years old. I'm "over-qualified" for most open jobs. In fact, in most cases I have more experience than the younger - and presumably lower paid - managers that interview me. I previously made a relatively high salary and I've repeatedly offered to take a dramatic pay cut - one that lowers my asking price to parity with someone with about one-third of my experience and knowledge - because I know jobs are hard to come by. I don't expect charity, but I would like some respect.

I know I'm not alone. I know there are thousands of people in my position - or in some cases - much worse positions. I know the economy is stagnant and likely to get worse, despite what the Chimp-in-Chief says. But I also know something else, everyone is expendable - even the grossly overpaid CEOs and politicians, those employees of privilege, who make poor decisions and ruin people's lives. I also know something else - I work because I have to, not because it's an ego game about who gets the most money. And therein lies the difference between me and an employee of privilege I guess. They need never work another day in their life because of the amounts they salt away each year as they manage their self-made sinkholes. I still have to work - just as soon as I can find something.

Yeah, "stuff happens." I only hope it doesn't happen to you.

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Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, September 07, 2005

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