Dot-Bombed

"Were you expecting it?" is the first question that people keep asking me. "Are you okay?" is always the second.

Well, yeah, I guess I did. Revenue had been dropping like a lead weight for months. Contracts with major supporters weren’t getting renewed. And new contracts were just not pulling in as much money as former contracts were.

So at a Board of Directors meeting a couple of weeks ago, the company was ordered to slash thirty per cent of its budget. Every department had to cut thirty per cent. In some departments, such as Marketing, that meant cuts in materials and so on. In my department, where no money is spent on printed material or travel, the cuts had to come in personnel.

It’s the curse of the dot-com, and, I think, another stage in what my friend Evilpheemy has described as my downward slide into yuppiedom. Losing your job is just part of the whole process, I suppose.

My co-worker B. had spent a lot of time worrying. We both knew that cutbacks were coming, but while I figured it would be the content manager and possibly the QA-manager-who-doesn’t-ever-do-QA, B. had a gut feeling that he would feel the axe. I told him he didn’t need to worry, that his technical skills were good. "That doesn’t mean anything," he said. He told me that I was safe because my communication skills were good. "That doesn’t mean anything either," I replied.

And so when the axe fell and the Director of Development had to cut someone loose, it was me. I’ve joined the ranks of the unemployed now. It’s one of those things that you figure happens to the nameless and faceless thousands of workers at, say, Hewlett-Packard or Agilent, or Motorola. It wasn’t supposed to happen to me, that’s for sure.

I’m trying to maintain a positive attitude. After all, a negative attitude probably won’t get me anywhere useful, and I learned a long time ago that life just Moves More Smoothly when you look at it positively. My former manager told me that he would give me glowing references, and the production manager up north told me the same thing. There are hints that I might be brought back on for contract work from time to time.

It’s hard to feel really good about being laid off. Really. No amount of "Better things are ahead for you" or "You weren’t really all that crazy about that job anyway" or "Now you’ll have the time to find something that you Really Want" can really overshadow the fact that you’re now Unemployed. Yep. Now when I’m filling out those on-line forms asking for demographic data I have to mark "Currently Unemployed" in the "Employment Status" field. I’m told that Carl Jung, when meeting with a patient who had recently lost a job, would exclaim, "That’s wonderful news! Let us celebrate now!" No, not even that can overshadow the little box in the demographic section of the on-line surveys.

My co-worker — okay, former co-worker — B. tells me that I’m an example to him of how to handle such things. I’m doing my best to be graceful about this. I admit that the temptation to write an e-mail to the entire company saying, in big bold letters, "I’M ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES! IT’S A SINKING SHIP! IT’S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME AND YOU’RE ALL DOOMED! DOOMED, I SAY!" is very, very strong. But, I suppose, that might just lower the odds of getting a good recommendation out of my former managers and boss. So, I’m being a good citizen and saying nice things, thanking my former co-workers for a good year and all that. And it’s all true; there were times when I wasn’t getting all that I was hoping for from the company, but there honestly was no one there that I didn’t enjoy working with. And the product is a decent one, if only the target audience would use it.

I returned to the office one last time today to clean out my desk, return the laptop computer I’d been using, and finish up any old business that was there. I think that my co-workers were genuinely sorry to see me go, and that helped a bit.

Right now my confidence is good and I’m not worried about finding something within a few months. I know that there will be times when I’ll be feeling sorry for myself and that my self-confidence will plummet to abyssal levels, but I’ve been there before and I’ve always survived. I’m more fortunate than I can say to have a loving and supportive wife that I love more than anything, not to mention parents and in-laws and friends who have always been there when I needed them, in good times and bad.

And, so… Yes, I’m okay. And I fully intend to stay that way.