Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bend, bend, and then be grateful

As those of you who stop by regularly already know, I lost a job--okay, I'll admit it was a life's passion--last November. It was a journey I had traveled for more than twenty years with one company which ended. Many changes had transpired in those decades, and the last of those changes were ones which no longer allowed me to continue to contribute. Short version: laid off.

For some time, I was bitter and angry about it. After a few months, though, I came to understand that it was a blessing to be let go and to be presented with a separation package as I was, when I was.

The separation package, thankfully, was one which will cover our expenses for a number of months. I'm a healthy, hearty and smart guy who can do lots of IT-related jobs, but I am not one who can accept an entry-level job easily, because I have commitments to family which make it impossible for me to start over at that salary level. The numbers don't work when I consider helping two kids in college and also meeting our monthly obligations.

That's not to say I was not sending in applications for jobs I was qualified to fill many years ago. No, I'm not letting my pride get in the way, not at all. If someone is willing to pay me to show up every day, I know they will get way more than their money's worth. As each month goes by, I have broadened both the range of jobs I have applied for and the geographic area within which I am willing to work. One must bend in the face of this gale.

It seems that, given the sheer volume of responses to any job ad in Denver, most of those who are hiring, are hiring those who have only a bit of experience and who are in a position to accept a job for very little money. It's not hard to understand: when it is bargain time, why would any reasonable shopper pay retail?

Here's the thing: folks with more experience are, at least sometimes, worth a dozen times the additional cost. It's not rocket science at all to calculate that employees who know what they are doing are actually a bargain. They can avoid pitfalls which can cost companies many times the difference in salary of a rookie versus a seasoned professional, or discover efficiencies which can save just as much. It's the reason there is a huge need for silverbacks, those of us who are graying but also vital and experienced.

Try selling that to the bean counters.

My strong and soul-inspired preference is to have a job, to amaze my employer with my talents and devotion, to be someone who quickly becomes critically important.

At the same time, I know that there are barriers to reaching the decision makers, to even getting an interview.

As I work through this challenge, I was stunned to receive a letter this past week which informed me that, thanks to the portion of the stimulus bill which addressed those who were laid off, my family will now pay $700 less per month for health insurance. Interestingly, the letter arrived only hours after I made my NOW post, which is just before today's. [note to self: when inspired to make big pronouncements, don't hesitate even if I have no idea what they mean at the time]

Here's where one can easily discern the difference between philosophy and reality: some governors are making a big deal of turning away stimulus funds, while folks like me are paying our bills thanks to the very same money. I used it yesterday to buy groceries, which helped pay the folks who work in that store so they can pay their bills. It helped the store to buy more stock so there's plenty to choose from for the shoppers who came after me. Needless to say, we could trace that 88 bucks I spent through the hands of dozens. Economic stimulus, it's called.

Sorry, but I just don't get it. If the people in your state are suffering, how does it serve your constituency to deny them the federal assistance the rest of the country is receiving?

Seriously. I'm not asking as a joke, I really am curious to know why some governors are taking the stance they are taking. I have heard it said of one governor in particular that she is ignoring the needs of the citizens of her state in order to make a decision which will be popular with the folks who are already looking for their next candidate for the presidency. If nothing else, it gives her a lot in common with the last president from that party. He did a great deal which harmed the very people he was sworn to protect, too.

Maybe I'll revisit that topic in greater detail another day, after I get a clue what the heck those folks in that party are up to. You know who I'm talking about: the No Party. The party of "We all vote 'No'." The party which is proud to obstruct while offering no viable alternative.

Today, though, I am writing for one reason. It's to say this:

Thank you, Mr President!


Lynilu said...

Ah, Rick, I don't get it either. I can't help clear your confusion. I also don't understand those who blame our new President for what is going on, as if he has single-handedly created this mess when .... helloooo? .... most of the losses to my retirement fund was gone before he was in office. In fact, much of it before he was even elected! In some ways, I think those who still have income don't understand what you and I do. I'm thankful that Mr. O is doing all he can to halt the plummet, and those who naysay need to open their eyes and ears. Or perhaps that should say "open their brains."

Julie said...

It's very obvious to me, since at least two of the three leading the way with this turning away of the funds are posturing to be the next big Rupubs in their party. Alaska's drop out rate is 40%, and we ALL know what shape the folks are in in New Orleans. They are politicians and far more concerned about their career paths than their constituants. In the meantime, they can sit back and blame the Obama admin for everything bad, and a large group of the idiots suffering don't understand economics well enough to see the cycle.
Re: the hiring situation - I've had several conversations with clients about this. There are folks who speak about getting "great, overqualified people" to work for them at a steal due to the economy. The smarter of them know that this is foolish. You are going to spend all of that time and energy training someone that you don't intend to keep? Find the money to pay for quality and you win in the long run. At our office, the one thing we focus on when hiring is the length of employment at prior positions.

Angela said...

A lot of us are wondering the same thing, Rick. I think it's a case of old paradigms, paradigms that OBVIOUSLY no longer work, die hard. I actually have begun to consider myself lucky in that I was laid off over a year ago so I feel a little ahead of the curve with the reality of what it's like out there. I, too, have been offered jobs at pay that is way more than 50% less than what I was making when I was laid off, and that wasn't a huge amount to begin with. I've decided what my bottom line is and it's 1/3 of what I was making and I just can't go under that. I'm still bringing the same skills and experience to the job.

As for those governors of which you speak, by the time they "get it" it will be too late for them, with any luck. :)

Take care and hang in there. I think of you often!

Rick Hamrick said...

Ladies, thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Lynilu--I feel for you! The timing of this economic debacle is particularly harsh for those who are retired already or are close to retirement age. While my 401K was hit hard, at least I have some years to recover some of the losses. I have seen stories on people here in the Denver area who have had to make dramatic changes in their lives as a result of losses in their retirement fund.

Julie--My suspicion is that you nailed it: these are people with aspirations for higher office, and their constituents are merely an inconvenience.

Angela--I, too, have calculated the absolute rock-bottom amount of money I can bring in the door. As long as the separation package holds out, I can afford to take a low-paying job and have applied for many. Once we have exhausted those funds, the flexibility lessens.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it, either.

Jane said...

Hi Rick,

Just popping in to see what you've been up to...quite a bit :))

Health insurance is a huge thing to worry about in this state of our nation. I'm glad you've got that covered. I recently got married and went on to my husband's policy which is much better.

Thankfully, I've still got my job but the economy hit us hard and who knows how long it will last. I keep thinking I have to really look at my God given talents and work that angle should I find myself needing to find a new way to bring money in.

Hope all is well at your end.