Swimming for Shore
by Kathy Watson
Circle the "Dot-com Deadpool" at fuckedcompany.com, and the venom is thicker than the creative ways responders use the word "fuck."
But there, under the potty-mouth postings, lies the anguish of laid-off souls who brave the poisonous atmosphere to moan, "How did this happen to me?"
Amber Campbell, age 30, can relate. On Nov. 1, she was laid off from Libida, a women's Web site based in San Francisco.
"I put my heart and soul into that company — called in personal favors all over town and lived and breathed their mission," says Campbell, the company's director of communications and fourth person hired. Without any notice, she was handed a two weeks' severance check.
"Imagine the roller coaster ride," says Bob Rosner, author of Working Wounded. "It's from 'we're gonna change the world' to 'now you're on your butt.' There were promises made and opportunities implied. The ride was higher on the up side and the crash much harder on the downside."
That was certainly Campbell's first reaction. "The bitterness of putting so much into an employer and having it end the way it has for so many has created a sense of detachment," says Campbell, now an account manager for Tenth Dimension. "Most of us have decided to treat jobs as jobs — work 8 to 5, get out, and live your life."
With the everyday litany of dot-coms announcing layoffs, it's easy to lose perspective, especially if you've found yourself recently unemployed.
But Campbell and many others are quickly moving to other jobs, even as they plaster bandages over hurt feelings. As the shock wears off, they are learning lessons about themselves, and about what it will take to manage a career in today's marketplace.
Now is the time, Rosner says, for these workers to take his mother's advice. "Dust yourself off and get going again. Many will need to change their expectations, realize that a career is a little more involved that they thought it might be."
For those who remain out of work and outraged, Rosner suggests they should get over their sense of entitlement.
"The real victims are the people who thought they had it made," he says.
Rosner believes that though 2001 will not be a great year, there are still plenty of opportunities, if you're willing to let go of the quick-money mind set.
"How hungry are you? Do you have skills people want? Are you feisty, are you getting your name out there? How quickly can you recalibrate yourself for the new game?"
That's exactly what Campbell did. "During my downtime, I had quite a posse of dot-com laid-off pals to commiserate with. We used the computers, printers, phones and fax machines of a dying dot-com office to help with our job search."
What are Campbell's friends searching for? Those who aren't taking extended international trips to rethink their lives are jumping to consulting and moving to less-expensive cities than dot-com meccas. One even took a job tending bar. They're skilled, but gun shy about the new economy.
Yet even for those who bit the Internet apple and ended up outside the garden, the allure of the new economy is still there. For many, it's still the future, the way to change the world. Campbell agrees.
"I wasn't opposed to doing the dot-com thing again. I just wanted it to be more stable. I didn't want to go to a company that isn't going to make a profit for five years. I don't want to put myself out there again."
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