Observations on the IT Job Market

Feb 27 2009   4:06PM GMT

The first 48 hours: Shock and Denial

MarkHolt Mark Holt Profile: MarkHolt

In a familiar conference room with people I knew as friends I had worked with for thousands of days, I was being told goodbye. They all had their game faces on – the HR look of detached concern, the stolid manager who didn’t want to be there, the expert demeanor of the benefits analyst. My face was glassy-eyed, quizzical, disbelieving. I could only manage stunned silence at first, then lamely searched for a way to respond before finally picking myself up like a kid with a bloody nose in a schoolyard and smiling weakly as I was escorted out of the lobby for the last time as an employee.

I drove in silence, radio off, returning along the familiar route home except it was mid-morning when traffic was light and the sun high in the sky. The thoughts kept piling up on top of each other: what to say to my wife; should I call her now; it was nice that I got some vacation in first; what about my car payments; can I protect my kids from this; do I have to call my dad; I should get a new job before the severance runs out; what do I do tomorrow morning; they must all know by now at the office; why didn’t I see it coming?

My career in IT spans the era of the Internet. Most of that time at one company, which meant suddenly more than a dozen years of personal contacts ended in that conference room. By 10 o’clock Monday morning the many friendships, associations, habits, familiar routines and casual acquaintances vanished. My E-mail, phone and Blackberry, windows to my workday, were shut down and left behind on the desk. To enforce the separation, I could only return to get my belongings after hours, when no coworkers might see me. The silence was deafening.

That night I still couldn’t process what had happened and kept running the conference room scene over and over in my mind. I was in shock, struggling to deal with the constant loop of disbelief and anger that spiraled around me. I spent a sleepless night trying to figure out what this felt like. I hadn’t had many experiences like it to compare. We signed legal paperwork and there were the legal divisions of property; a settlement had been reached. It felt like a divorce. In its finality it was exactly like a divorce, with the surreal prospect of never again seeing people I had grown to love.

The Kubler Ross model of grief says there are five stages we share in the face of great loss: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The loss of relationships is something we all grieve, and these are the stages many of us can expect to go through. The challenge is to record the changes I see, and the impact on my little world. This is the arc of my life for the foreseeable future.

Next time – Bargaining

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  • Kedarterdalkar
    Denial - No, Shock - Yes ... I totally agree with you when you talk about shock, but maybe not with denial. I am from that category of people that now a days are like the punching bags used by boxers before they enter into the boxing ring. More importantly are here to be hanged and punched to no end without any hint of relief or let down. If you didn't get what I trying to say, then I will speak it out loud. Yes, I am from the shameless category of people to came to US on an H1 visa. Don't get me wrong, coming here and working here was a great experience. The reason I am saying shameless is due to the fact that I know what some people do to get an H1 and a chance to enter US. Anyways, I am not concerned about others. I do appreciate your worry or concerns about H1 guys taking away your jobs, but have you ever imagined the kind of underlying discrimination that guys on H1 go through. The biggest discrimination is meted out right by the Govt. of US, leave alone the private sector. Do you imagine a scenario where you don't have a right over your own hard earned money!! I can actually go on and on and I am sure you can too for putting across your point. But here is the thing, you are an American Citizen and I am an outsider, "ALIEN" as categorized by the govt. of US. You are more protected when you are in your country than when you are outside. You guys don't have to worry about us, coz' we are kind of expendable. I hope you do understand what I am trying to say and have some compassion who are "Aliens" in US. Hope to be on the good side of everyone.
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  • Manshal
    Mark, That was very well written. I was in the same position few years back. The only difference was that I was asked to go not becoz of recession or non-performance. I was asked to go becoz I just had a baby, and guess they were prejudiced against new mothers. Anyhowz my point here was to help you overcome the situation. Don't panic. Take this break as an opportunity to acquire new skills. Stay positive and remain calm, otherwise your worries will rub onto your family too. Look out for a part time job. Take up writing. You write pretty well. Have faith in God. Hope the very best for you.
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