Take this job and keep itWritten by Jim Harpen | | firstname.lastname@example.org
On January 22, my little (42-year old) sister sent this e-mail to me, my mom and my older sisters.
Subject Line: Ken Not Laid Off:
“If you watched the news this morning, you saw that Microsoft is doing a big layoff. Just wanted you to know that Ken is not a part of this layoff.
My brother-in-law Ken works at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash. It was almost like my sister had written, “If you watched the news this morning, you saw that a plane crashed on takeoff from Seattle. Just wanted you to know that Ken escaped from the wreckage unscathed.”
The economy is taking on the look of a plane crash or an earthquake or a direct hit from a previously undocumented comet. We’re surveying the scene and counting the casualties, with some of the dispatches reading, “Just want you to know I’m OK, for now, but everyone around me is toast.”
The daily drip of friends and acquaintances being laid off is just plain eerie. Sometimes the hint of bad news comes when you send them an e-mail at their workplace, and the e-mail is returned as “Unknown Recipient.” Or you call and ask for them at their place of work, and the person on the other end starts with “Uhhh …”
For my generation, a job market like this one is an unknown equation. A lot of our parents and grandparents were little kids during the Great Depression, and they remember the soup lines and hobos and cramming three families into houses that were built for one. But us post-boomers, we’ve got a sense of entitlement about having jobs — at least some type of job — as long as we’re willing to suit up, show up and do good work. No longer true.
There were periods of time in the professional lives of my generation when the economy was on the skids, but we of youthful indestructibility were blithely unaware and gainfully employed. We didn’t know, or care, what was going on. When I got my first postcollege job, the nation’s unemployment rate was higher than it is today — 9.8 percent in August of 1982. For all I cared, it could have been 98 percent. I expected to get a good job, and I got one.
But there are some big differences this time around: The credit crisis (companies can’t borrow money to stay afloat). Plummeting home values (people can’t sell or refinance and save money). Evaporation of retirement savings (people won’t spend the money they still have). And the forebodings coming from the White House itself that things are going to get worse before they get better (the federal government can access money, but it’s gonna be a long while before it finds its way to you).
It could scare Stephen King.
I’m no expert at getting a job, which might explain why I’m self-employed. But I did some searching on the Web for tips from experts on keeping your job:
Be politically neutral at work. Don’t suck up to the boss. He might be the next one to go. Putting all your eggs in the “teacher’s pet” basket might be a real bad move.
Don’t Complain. Nothing will get you on the pink-slip short list like being a whiner. About anything. From the slushy parking lot outside to the crummy copier inside.
Wear a Mask. This one from Chris Kalaboukis of AdviceTrader.com goes against my grain completely, but his recommendation makes sense: “Every morning, before you go to work, put on your “work mask.” Keep a SMILE on that mask! It is never unhappy. At worst it’s neutral. Smile, be happy, and never give anyone a reason to say “What’s wrong?” That, my friend, is the beginning of the end.”
Take a salary cut gracefully when offered. Your response should go like this: “I know that it’s all for the good of the company.” That’s the right answer even if you know the boss is leaving for his vacation home in The Keys the next morning.
Remember Johnny Paycheck’s song “Take This Job and Shove It”?
Delete it from your playlist. Replace it with the rock band Cinderella’s line “You don’t’ know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
E-mail columnist Jim Harpen at email@example.com.