In the dot-bomb era, you’d read the occasional story about how former Internet high-flier employees were working at Home Depot.
I am not certain what happened to those in Wall Street who lost their jobs in the 1990-1991 downturn. I know some got jobs with big corporations, a few went to DC. However, the carnage was severe, and those don’t seem sufficient to have absorbed the casualties.
A story in the New York Times gives the present-day version of income and status decline.
What is sad about this is not just the desperate shape some are in, but here, people who are comparatively fortunate (they have found new work) are troubled because the work is low status.
These individuals are mourning the loss of their former lives. That loss is compounded by the fact that the US is so stratified along income and class lines. A loss of a job tests one’s friendships.
An American I met in Australia had gotten advanced degrees in sociology and discovered she could not get a job. She took her post graduate work off her resume and landed work as an executive secretary, and then an IT project manager for one of the big European banks. She had a series of good postings but when she was in Oz, it became clear that the bank was cutting deeply, and she was let go.
Now she did have the time to prepare psychologically, and she developed a game plan. But it was going to be a while before she could put into effect. She got a job at the cheese counter at a big department store.
She enjoyed it despite the low pay, particularly the fact, unlike a white collar job, when she left at the end of her shift, she did not have to think about work again till she showed up the next day.
Of course, having had once to adapt once to doing something less high powered (being a secretary) may have made her more resilient. But it was also the fact that her social network was not at risk. When I gave her news to a mutual Australian friend and mentioned how some people in the US would drop someone who made that sort of move, he snorted and said, “If anyone tried that with someone here, everyone who heard about it would ostracize him.”
From the New York Times:
Interviews with more than two dozen laid-off professionals across the country, including architects, former sales managers and executives who have taken on lower-paying, stop-gap jobs to help make ends meet, found that they were working for places like U.P.S., a Verizon Wireless call center and a liquor store. For many of the workers, the psychological adjustment was just as difficult as the financial one, with their sense of identity and self-worth upended.
“It has been like peeling back the layers of a bad onion,” said Ame Arlt, 53, who recently accepted a position as a customer-service representative at an online insurance-leads referral service in Franklin, Tenn., after 20 years of working in executive jobs. “With every layer you peel back, you discover something else about yourself. You have to make an adjustment.”….
In just one illustration of the demand for low-wage work, a spokesman for U.P.S. said the company saw the number of applicants this last holiday season for jobs sorting and delivering packages almost triple to 1.4 million from the 500,000 it normally receives….
After applying for more than 100 jobs, mostly director-level and above in marketing and branding, and getting just two interviews, Ms. Arlt said she realized last fall that she had to do something to “close the monthly financial hemorrhage.”
Her new job at HometownQuotes pays $10 to $15 an hour and has mostly entailed data entry. But even though she has parted ways with some friends because she is no longer in their social stratum, Ms. Arlt said she was glad she was no longer sitting at home, “thinking, ‘Who have I not heard from today?’ ”
Her new paycheck covers her mortgage but not her other living expenses. Recently, she cashed out what was left of her retirement portfolio, about $17,000.
“It has been the hardest thing in my life,” she said. “It has been harder than my divorce from my husband. It has really been even worse than the death of my mother.”
Nearly all of those interviewed said they considered their situations temporary and planned to resume their careers where they left off once the economy improves. But there are people like John Eller, 51, of Lee’s Summit, Mo., who offer a glimpse of how difficult it can be to bounce back.
Mr. Eller had been a senior director at Sprint, earning as much as $150,000 a year and overseeing 7,000 employees at 13 call centers, before being laid off in 2002 amid the economic contraction after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
A year later, he found another job, at roughly half the pay, managing a call center in New Jersey. After he lost that job two years later in a downsizing, Mr. Eller found himself out of work for another year before landing a contract position running two call centers in Kansas and Illinois, earning close to six figures.
But after that ended a year later, he was unable to find work for several months. In July 2007, he took what he thought would be a temporary job for $10 an hour as a baker in a grocery store. He was laid off again last October.
Mr. Eller quickly landed a new survival job, working as a supervisor on the overnight shift for a contractor processing immigration applications for the federal government at a salary of about $34,000 a year. But with eight children and a wife to support, Mr. Eller said he was still “below poverty level.” The family has not been able to make mortgage payments in five months and has been on the brink of foreclosure.
“I’m still scratching and clawing and trying to work my way back,” he said
Mr. Cooper now works for $12 an hour as a janitor.