Troubled Times


Market analysts say the economy is recovering from the recession. But it seems that every day we read about another company laying off workers and the tough IT job market. All this has Eileen Strider wondering, in this week's column, how you are faring and what kind of support you are both giving and receiving during these tough times.

Have you been laid off from your job? Are you finding jobs with decent salaries hard to come by? I personally know a number of IT people whom I respect as talented, experienced, and highly skilled who have been looking for employment for many months. What toll is the situation taking on you and your family? What kinds of support have you received for yourself, and what types have you been able to give to others?

Perhaps you still have a job, and you feel a little guilty about it. Maybe you've been expected to pick up the work of laid-off coworkers because there was no reduction in the work to be done and no extensions to the scheduled completion dates. Are you finding that quality has fallen off the radar screen in terms of management attention? Are you feeling used, abused, and maybe even embarrassed about your work quality, yet at the same time fortunate to still have a job?

If you're experiencing any of these situations, please know that you are not the only one. There are many people having similar experiences right now. Yet, in each of these situations, alone and lonely is very much how it may feel to you. There may be a whole long list of feelings that you are experiencing: embarrassment, incompetence, anger, sadness, paralysis, uselessness, and the guilt of being a burden to others. These are all reasonable feelings to experience, but they may still feel very foreign to you. Maybe it's the first time in your life you've felt this way. If so, it can be very unsettling.

A Helping Hand
This brings us to the matter of support. I don't know about you, but when I'm feeling incompetent or embarrassed, it's very hard for me to ask for support. Yet, support is one of the things I need most at these times. And support to others is one thing I can still offer and feel good about giving. Giving support not only can help another but helps me feel better about myself. It's a demonstration of civility in what feels like uncivilized times. It expresses my respect and caring for others and takes my focus off my own situation. I have a teacher and friend who says, "Everything is easier with support." It helps me to realize that everyone, not just me, needs support at some time.

What kind of support would be helpful for you right now, IF you could ask for it? And what kind of support could you offer to others? Here's an example I read about recently in my local newspaper. A Sprint employee started a support group for laid-off IT professionals where they could meet and exchange information and job leads. After the story appeared in the paper, attendance doubled at their next meeting. Here's a starter list of possible types of support you might like to receive or to offer:

  • Listening to a person's story of what happened and how she feels about it
  • Sharing information about job openings
  • Emailing job leads to friends with the skills being sought
  • Phoning a friend to ask how he is doing
  • Passing people's names and resumes on to recruiters you know
  • Reviewing a person's resume for him
  • Going for a walk, lunch, or a cup of coffee with someone—just being there

Support is not about pity. Support is showing you care for another person, not because of the position that person held in the past or their knowledge in a particular field or what he/she can do for you; but simply because he or she is a human being worthy of your respect. Support is about hope—sharing it with another and receiving it in return for your giving.

What other ideas do you have for providing support? I'd love to hear your comments about your own experiences during this business downturn. I'd also love to hear how you've given and received support. What returns have you experienced from investing in supporting others? I imagine we can and will greatly enhance our collective experience of these times through our expressions of support for each other. Let's start documenting it here and now.

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