Home > Economy, Humor/Satire > On the Front Lines of White Collar Unemployment

On the Front Lines of White Collar Unemployment

This will be the longest job-wanted ad you’ve ever read. Really, it’s not that I’m desperate. When you’re a laid-off executive at a major broadcasting company, they take decent care of you for the short-term. But I thought it might be instructive and perhaps morbidly entertaining to put a bit of a flashlight on how I came to be in this position and briefly chronicle what it’s like to be in it.

First of all, I have discovered I have lots of company. The broadcast industry is going through some serious convulsions. But you know what? That’s just my sad, little story. Every damn white collar industry in the country is going through stage 5 contractions (I don’t actually remember if contractions come in stages but it sounds convincing). The Digital Age has put a lot of us out of work.

Fortunately, I have the benefit of an excellent career transition service. The place in midtown Manhattan is crawling with them; a virtual bed-bug infestation of discarded executives. We attend meetings and network a lot with each other. We shake hands in our open collared, tie-less shirts, thinking in the back of our heads, “WTF? Am I really here?” We write snazzy new resumes and fashion “marketing plans” to “extend our brand.” I have become a product! Robert Garcia Incorporated, steamrolling his way into a vast, exciting, new and heretofore unimagined but tremendously wonderful new future.

It’s hilarious, of course, because we’ve all laid off people. It’s pretty much part of every executive’s job these days. I’ll bet a ranch (ok, don’t have one), many of us had the same Human Resources people with whom we laid people off a year ago, helping to gently lay US off on a late autumn afternoon. Whatever happened to laying people off on Fridays anyway? Did somebody run a focus group that found it feels better to be laid off on a Tuesday? Well, thank God it wasn’t a Wednesday.

Hell, I know a fellow; a dear, slightly demented and unnamed friend/executive. who actually keeps a list of the people he’s laid off or fired on his cell phone for easy reference during twisted cocktail conversations. It’s a badge of honor that occasionally puts you in the position of remembering that old Paul Simon song, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.” Or that saying about being on top of the world until it rolls over and squashes you. Eventually, we’ll reach a point where we will all end up laying each other off at least once. Instead of refraining from burning bridges because you never know who will hire you, you remain civil at all times because someday they may give you a good exit package.

So here is Robert Garcia Incorporated, accomplished veteran of the mainstream and traditional media, browsing through jobs on the Media Bistro and SPJ websites. Oh my God, three-fourths of them are web design, web writing, social media, digital this, digital that. Ok, damn it, I’ll digitize. Truth be told, I stubbornly resisted learning anything about Twitter for the longest time before realizing what a powerful tool it could be for misinformation and exaggeration. Facebook has been comforting. It’s great to see the actual pictures of the people who are praying for you.

But back to the career transition service, the collection place for discarded executives. As we sit in our cubicles researching this or that company and pass each other in the halls, it’s vaguely reminiscent of a hospital ward. Everybody in there has got something; the unemployment virus. But truly, people are good. There are a lot of helping hands in that place working very hard to cure us of this awful disease.

It occurs to me, as the national unemployment rate hits 10%, that there will be many of us who will have bonded through this experience. Years from now we’ll form legions and hold conventions; the survivors of the Great Recession of ’09. “Damn, we were at the top of our game,” we’ll hear one octogenarian tell another, “ Then Caploohey!” Wise and grizzled laughter will follow. “Yeah, but, man, did you recover- ha! Genius! Virtual, web-based, interactive, social media-enhanced windshield wipers! You were a friggin’ genius!” Then we all get on our gliding scooters and go home to the small, little apartments we can now afford with our 50% reduced Social Security checks to sit on the couch and watch digital TV while we eat government cheese.

You see, one of my career goals has always been to be a writer. At the Great Recession of ’09 Survivor Convention, I want to be able to say I got cured of the jobless thing by writing about being jobless. There will be laughter and some old fart will bellow, “Genius. Fucking Genius!”

  1. John Matthews
    November 4, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Godspeed, Robert… As someone whose name is on the list of that unnamed executive, I can tell you that life DOES go on… But you already know that! Good thing you've picked up on Facebook and the other digital trappings of today's world… That way you truly CAN see everyone you've met on the way up, way down and everywhere in between. 🙂 Good luck!

  2. Dar
    November 5, 2009 at 2:34 am

    …"a virtual bed-bug infestation of discarded executives"? Brilliant. I love reading these! Yay you!

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