Wow, it’s been seven years since G.J. Meyer published his book Executive Blues: Down and Out In Corporate America and detailed how much it sucks to be laid off from a six figure salary and how he couldn’t find a job.
Now Fortune is reporting it’s still tough when you’re white-color unemployed. Especially if you’re white-collar and formerly of high title and high salary.
Once, when I was a young man in college, sitting in the lobby of one of the halls that house classes on the campus of Marquette Univeristy, peddling doughnuts to support a fledgling literary magazine, and undoubtedly trying to win the affection of one of the interchangeable English-major blondes, a security guard imitation cop stopped at the imitation doughnut shop and gave me a bit of advice for which my upbringing and general outlook had prepared me: always have more than one potential source of income. Actually, he probably said “Have more than one pot on the fire,” or some other cliche, but as a recovering English major, I hate to repeat it verbatim.
I can, however. summarize the lesson. The gentleman related his life story, or at least his C.V., while eating a doughnut. He hadn’t gone to college, but he’d joined the National Guard. Throughout his tumultous employment career, he’d had the one-weekend-a-month-two-weeks-in-summer pay as well as a variety of part-time positions in addition to whatever full-time job he held at the time. Although his life, to that point, comprised the period from the 1960s to the early 1990s, he’d seen enough ups and downs to know that the world didn’t owe him something since he was present.
Of course, he didn’t have the $40,000 parchment, so one could easily dismiss the ramblings of an overweight rentacop in a grey parka. But when a security guard talks about security, and not just in the physical sense, perhaps one should heed. As both Meyer and the heroes of the Fortune piece could attest, parchments and titles don’t offer true security in a turbulent, evolving world.
Personally, I have held innumerable positions in numerous fields, including printing, shipping/receiving, grocery stores, IT, and magazines. I have a handy mix of blue collar skills and mad money skills. Whatever the job market, I will find something, even if it means something less than what I have now. I have also dodged the bullet of getting an superdooper title. Many cash-strapped companies will give you an esteem-building title instead of giving you a raise. Becoming Vice-Mechanic of Doc-U-Matics would make it much more difficult to simply be a Doc-U-Matic somewhere else, and I have deked when appropriate.
So I doubt I’ll ever have time to write a book or talk to another writer about being out of work and suffering without my ludicrous paychecks coming twice a month. I’ll be too busy working.
(And as my esteemed spouse has indicated, she has some mad 733t skillz at transcription and biscuit making, so no matter how the economy turns, we’ll have a hovel to call home.)