When I wrote my piece on HuffingtonPost last week about losing a job, I never imagined it would get the response it did. I was leery about portraying myself as someone who got fired -- I don't want to be known as the "guy who lost his job"! -- but I felt it was important to give a voice to the actual experience that winds up as a statistic on a sheet at the Labor Department.
Arianna Huffington, whom I profiled in my book, was kind enough to give me that opportunity, and what overwhelmed me was the broad spectrum of good wishes from people I've never met.
It's obvious that what's different about so many of the unemployed during the Great Recession -- when you lose your job, it's still a recession -- is that it has touched people who are used to succeeding, not being on the wrong end of a termination. Millions of well educated and accomplished Americans are finding themselves in a place that used to be considered -rightly or wrongly -- the home of the lazy and uninspired.
"You said what I couldn't say," said one former colleague.
Ironically, I wasn't trying to make it about me, but about the millions of others who on first glace -- and possibly second, third and fourth -- didn't lose their positions because they were doing a poor job, but despite the fact that they were doing a good job.
- "My husband was let go just a few weeks after being singled out for an "astounding" sales accomplishment... He was commended by the same guy that demanded he be terminated a few weeks later."
- "No one is immune. I lost my job in September, a month after my new 'boss' started."
- "This is the new reality of the American job market, where there is no security for anyone under the executive board..."
- "After getting a Ph.D in my field (education), and being the backbone of the department for five years, I was called to the college president's office and separated from my employment by a reduction in force."
- "My husband was the sole bread-winner in the family and lost his job in Oct. Big company, great job... fired by a corporate management team that had never even MET him personally. Boom. No warning, just like that... and he's over 50."
My intent was not to skewer my employer, whose name I didn't -- and wouldn't -- specifically mention, but to express the frustration that is being felt in an economy which looks pretty good on paper.
Interest rates are low. Inflation is down. The stock market is up over the past two years. The economy is growing.
But the number that remains painfully high regards the unemployed. More than 15-million Americans are out of work, with a national unemployment rate of 9.8 percent. And if you take the entire year of 2009, more than 26-million people were unemployed at some point. That doesn't, of course, take into account the additional millions of workers who are working part time or at a job making a fraction of what they used to make.
If you're glazing over as I mention those numbers - that's why I wrote the piece. There are stories attached to each one of them. For the longest time there's been a widespread and unspoken belief that if you lost a job, you probably had it coming. But that suggests that in an expanding economy everybody's doing a great job and in a shrinking one millions of workers are doing a lousy job.
That seems unlikely.
What's more likely is that the excesses in our economy during the past decade, fueled by easy money from a financial industry that we had to bail out in 2008, created jobs prematurely. And when the funny money punch bowl was taken away, the party was over, and the hangover began.
Now there are people every day who are experiencing what I lived through.
So I will continue to post some of my experiences. I won't mention names of prospective employers or embarrass anyone but myself. And I hope people will continue to share their stories in their comments as well. Perhaps we can find a way harness those in some productive way.
When companies do start hiring more employees they will find a treasure trove of workers who are skilled and hungry and ready to contribute. At that point perhaps the American ideal where people work hard and are rewarded for their efforts will manifest itself once again. I'd like to think so.
In the meantime, here's my ad: "Television anchor/reporter/blogger. Slightly used."