The Jobless Blues

After thinking over my sad situation in this job market, I decided to pull myself in from the window ledge. Had the devastation of the job market devastated me? Well, let’s see now.

Not long ago I was a senior vice president at Young & Rubicam in San Francisco. With that title, my mother thought I was in line for the White House. Then my group—the Lincoln Mercury team—moved to Irvine, Calif. Irvine? Time to quit.

I got a gig freelancing. Jet-setting off to Italy, Ireland and Japan? That was the life, and thanks very much, too. Originally from London, I was just coming up on 12 years of my American dream.

But then, suddenly: whack! I was wide awake in a stinking job market.

The phone went quiet. I checked the ringer. It was definitely on. I stared at the answering machine, but I couldn’t get that little red message light to flash. Oh no, I’d have to start cold-calling again.

All I got was: “Sorry, we have full-timers sitting around doing nothing.” “Actually, we just laid off people.” “We’re sorry. The number you have called has been disconnected.”

I sent out a mailer. It got the same response, but with a new ending: “We’ll keep your work on file for when things pick up.”

I didn’t want to travel for fear of missing an opportunity. In hindsight, I should have taken the first plane out. No, I would have to play the waiting game. But what on earth should I do with all this free time?

Most of my friends were still employed. And working hard, too. What, 9 p.m. and you’re going home? Bring some sandwiches tomorrow and make a full day of it! Don’t agree with management? Thinking out of their box could lead to packing one. Don’t like your new assignment? No, really, I love working on headlines for little plastic urinal floaters.

Fear had set in. It’s not so great being employed in these times either.

As for me, I was on my own in a new life of daytime TV. After a while, instead of just watching Jerry Springer, I thought I might be turning into the perfect guest. Still, there was a bright side. So many more people were available for lunch.

Thinking back, Irvine didn’t seem so bad? Had I gone crazy? Maybe I ate a British sausage I shouldn’t have.

I decided to brush up on my computer skills. I bought a Mac and the gear to go with it. Five minutes in, I was crying for the IT guy. I spent days scouring Web help pages and more days trying to figure them out. It only looks like English, you know. But with every day being a weekend, it wasn’t long before I learned a little animation and created a Quicktime self-promo movie. It’s only a bit of a laugh, but watch out, now I’m in your e-mail.

With large agencies here now little more than large buildings, and with doors closing not just on me but for good, how long will it be before things turn around? And what will it be like? Good people are now seeking jobs at agencies they once wouldn’t have looked at twice. By next year, will their brains have turned to mushy peas? Or will they be ironing their tuxedos?

Can I wait around to find out? Probably not.