Worried about your job? At least Pres. Obama won’t be firing you, right?

Think Rick Wagoner is happy that Barack Obama won the presidential election last year?

If you haven’t heard, Wagoner, the former chief executive offier of struggling automaker GM, announced his resignation early this morning. He said this move came at the request of the Obama administration. Yes, the president, essentially, fired the man.

You can read the grim news about GM and the other big U.S. automakers at this story by CNN.

As I look around at the office where I work on a full-time/part-time basis, I’m keeping my eye out for Obama. If I see him sneaking around the halls, I’ll have a pretty good idea that my own boss might be getting the ax.

I’m sure you’re worried about your own job. Everyone is today. But at least you don’t have to worry about Obama himself calling for your head.


Even if you’re out of work, it’s OK to have a good time

This weekend boasted wonderful weather in the Chicago area. That’s a nice bonus, considering that snow and ice storms aren’t that unusual for March here.

Everyone was out. Riding their bikes. Walking their babies. Playing catch. Barbecuing. It was a nice weekend.

I have a friend, though, who’s out of work. He’s been looking, and looking hard, for a job for the last three months or so. He always tells me he has a tough time with days like this.

He wants to ride his bike. He wants to listen to Spring Training baseball on his radio and sip a beer on his front porch. This kind of early Spring-like weather calls for it.

But he feels guilty now that he’s out of work. He should be on the computer, he says, scouring the help-wanted ads. He should be searching for flaws in his resume’. He should be working at the job of looking for work.

That’s a tough one. It’s a natural feeling, I suppose. We need our jobs to enjoy the rest of life, unfortunately. But still, you can’t spend every waking moment looking for work. Sometimes a good bike ride is therapy. Sometimes a Spring Training baseball game offers hope.

It’s OK to enjoy life, even if you are facing the incredible stress of trying to find a job. Remember that. Free yourself from your computer for a bit, maybe a couple of hours, maybe an entire afternoon. You need it.


Economic woes causing us to lose our minds

There are certain studies that seem really unnecessary. A recent Gallup-Healthways poll showing that U.S. residents have become more stressed as the economy worsens fits into this category.

I mean, of course we’re more stressed now. Of course our mental health is on the fritz. We’re all worried about losing our stupid jobs!

The USA Today, the paper that you read when it shows up outside your hotel room door, ran a story on the survey, saying that stress levels shot up throughout 2008. According to the story, the 10 saddest days of the year all came in the final quarter, as the economic news worsened.

It doesn’t say which days actually were the least-happiest. For me, though, it was the three when I trudged outside my Chicago home in below-zero weather to find that my car wouldn’t start. Twice this happened after I’d already scraped a coat of ice off my car’s windows. Those days, I suppose, would rank as extra-sad.

I don’t doubt the health survey’s results. But I’m not sure we need a survey to tell us that U.S. residents are worried about the economy and their emlpoyment options. Unemployment levels are soaring. Salaries are not. And 401(k) totals are disappearing.

What’s not to be stressed about?


Working more, making less

Now that the nation’s unemployment rate has soared to more than 8 percent, who’s doing the work of all those people who’ve been fired or laid off?

If you still have a job, the unfortunate answer is “you.”

Those people lucky enough to still have their jobs are now working harder than ever, picking up the slack for their fired former comrades. And you can bet that the vast majority of these people taking on extra work aren’t getting raises at the same time. Most folks consider themselves lucky to still have a job; They certainly aren’t going to press their luck by asking for a raise.

I don’t want my readers to feel sorry for me — OK, maybe I do, just a bit — but I’m in the working-harder-for-no-additional-money boat myself. The publishing company where I work fired nine people last month. Since then, three writers have been responsible for getting out three trade magazines, updating the company Web site, sending out e-mail blasts and putting together an outside newsletter. It’s kind of a drag. And, of course, I’m not complaining to my bosses about this for one reason: I really want to keep my job.

What’s the solution? I’m not sure there is one. These days it’s all about making it through the recession alive, and employed. My only worry? My bosses will see that we’re able — barely — to get all this work done with a skeleton staff. This might encourage them to keep the staff just as skeletal once the recession ends.


Misery loves company: Laid-off workers take to blogging

When something terrible happens to us, it’s human nature to seek out others who’ve experienced the same woes.

No one wants to feel alone, after all.

This holds true with getting laid-off, too. Fortunately — or, rather, unfortunately — it’s not hard to find someone else who’s been fired after you’ve lost your job.

Just search the Internet. Plenty of unemployed folks are blogging about their struggles to find a new job.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an interesting story about this trend. It also highlighted several interesting blogs run by fired workers. For instance, there’s Tryout for Life and Tales from the Recently Laid Off.

Both are interesting reads. And if you, too, have recently lost your job, check them out. They contain some tips for keeping your sanity while hunting for a new job. They also serve as reminders that you’re far from home. And that, sometimes, is the one thing we all need to understand.


By Monday morning, we’re ready for the workweek to be over

This weekend, my wife and I convinced my parents to come to our house and watch our two sons for the weekend. This allowed us to take a weekend getaway with some friends.

It was a nice, and much needed, break from the sometimes maddening duties of raising kids and making a living.

During our dinner on Saturday night, though, much of the talk centered on the econony and the lack of hope anyone saw for a quick turnaround. Someone was quick to remind everyone that it took the United States 10 whole years to recover during the Great Depression. Try enjoying your bleu cheeseburger with that nose rattling around your head.

None of my friends have lost their jobs. But they’re all worried that they might. One friend, who works at a major banking company, said he’d grown to hate Mondays. That’s when his company holds their weekly meetings, and these days it’s all bad news. By 10:30 in the morning on Monday, he says, he’s ready for the week to be over.

That’s grim. It’s also grim that the U.S. unemployment recently soared to its highest rate since 1983. The rate now stands at 8.1 percent, and more than 12.5 million U.S. residents are now out of work.

Nothing seems to be helping the economy right now. I’m starting to think that it’s just going to take time. The country has to work through the recession naturally. Government stimulus packages, I fear, are going to have little impact.

I did have a nice weekend, though, despite the gloomy job talk. I feel fortunate that my wife and I were even able to afford a weekend away. Many more U.S. residents probably can’t fathom that right now.


How to keep your job: Don’t be a jerk

No one’s job is safe today. We all know this. But there is one thing that every employee can do to hang onto his or her job for as long as possible: Try not to be a jerk.

This sounds silly, I know. But at the publishing company where I work, my division recently suffered nine firings. Considering we had a fairly small staff before the moves, the loss of nine people is a big deal.

I was talking with one of my fellow survivors, and he mentioned an interesting fact. Most of the people let go had been doing a lot of complaining. And not just recently; They’d been complaining — about their salaries, working conditions, the jobs they were asked to do — for years.

Apparently, it was easier for the higher-ups to let the whiners go first.

This isn’t fair. A lot of the complainers were hard workers. Most of them did their jobs well. They just complained about it.

But while it may not seem just, it is human nature for bosses to cut people they don’t particularly like and keep those whom they do. I wouldn’t be surprised if bosses do this subconsciously.

So keep this in mind the next time you feel like complaining about that last-minute change you’ve been asked to do on that rush job. Keeping your mouth clamped shut now — save the complaining for your spouse or buddies when you get home — may keep you out of the unemployment line.


Going from big company to small fries isn’t as easy as you’d think

You’d think that if you spent most of your career working for one of the biggest, most powerful and best known companies in your field that the smaller competitors in the same industry would welcome you with open arms if you came to them seeking work.

Well, in today’s topsy turvey economy, it doesn’t always work that way.

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote an interesting story about the challenges that workers who’ve been laid off at large companies are facing when they send their job applications to smaller firms. Turns out, the people at the smaller firms aren’t always so eager to work with employees who’ve spent years working for industry giants.

The reason? Smaller firms often worry that people who’ve spent the majority of their careers at large companies may be used to decisions being made slower, to more red tape being involved in every transaction. At smaller companies, decisions tend to be made at a faster rate. Employees have to be more flexible, and can’t be thrown by rapid changes.

The Wall Street Journal story highlights the case of a biologist who lost his job at pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. in October. He was interested in a start-up company in the same field. The start-up, though, didn’t even interview the biologist. Its founders feared that a veteran of a large company wouldn’t be able to move fast enough.

This seems like a particularly sad story to me. You’d think experience at a major company would be a benefit. Again, though, nothing seems to make sense in today’s economy.


When you know your job is slipping away …

I have a bad feeling about the publishing company where I work on a full-time/part-time basis. I and a few other writers have survived this company’s first round of layoffs, and management has said that the cost savings from those firings should keep our division profitable. But … I just can’t help but shake the feling that all of our jobs here are on the verge of disappearing.

Maybe it’s what my publisher told me this morning: He had to take the train into work today. That’s rare for my boss, an avid hater of anything to do with public transportation. Turns out, though, that the company bigwigs have decided that employees who drive have to pay for their own parking. In downtown Chicago, that’s pricey.

“They’re cutting everything to the bone,” my pubisher told me.

This makes me nervous.

I’m already jumpy, though. My wife and I did our taxes yesterday. Turns out, I made more money from freelance writing last year than I did in 2007. Problem is, it didn’t feel like it. Maybe that’s because my 401(k) dropped so severely. Or maybe it’s because the value of our home plummetted.

Maybe my nerves are jangled because some of my best freelance clients are struggling, too. One home magazine that I wrote for on a semi-regular basis just folded. Another has slashed its freelance budget. Still another is losing my favorite editor and not replacing her.

These are tough times for publishing, as they are for so many other industries.

Because of this, I know that I should be taking my own advice and be looking more actively for another full-time job. If I lose my current full-time/part-time job, my freelance writing will keep my family afloat. But it’ll be awfully, awfully tough.

It’s nerve-wracking, though, when you look at your profession and realize that it’s dying a slow but steady death. There’s online writing, of course, but that doesn’t pay well.

Now I know how my wife felt when she worked as an apparel designer. She was logging time at Chicago’s Montgomery Ward’s as it went under. She looked at her field and realized that it was dying, with most of the business going overseas.

After raising our two sons, my wife is now returning to school to train herself for a new career. I think it’s a wonderful move. I just hope that I don’t have to do the same thing.


Think it’s bad here? It’s a zoo in Britain

We’ve all seen the long lines of the unemployed on the TV news whenver a company makes the rare announcement that it is actually hiring.

But those lines are nothing compared to what happened last weekend at Twycross Zoo in Atherstone in England. The zoo posted a few help-wanted ads, and attracted about 3,000 people who wanted one of the low-paying, menial jobs available.

Some of the applicants were laid-off executives and boss types.

You know a county is struggling through a recession when former managers line up for the chance to scoop up after zoo animals.

This story is yet another reminder that the United States is not the only country trying to work through a recession.


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