Saturday, May 2, 2009

Be thankful that I have a job right now?

Warning: this post might make me sound like an arrogant person. I'm going to try to make my case without coming off as too self-centered, but I might not be able to pull it off. For that, I apologize in advance.

I can't tell you how many times I've been told to be thankful that I have a job since everyone finally realized that the economy is beginning to resemble the Great Depression. It bothers me every time I hear it for several reasons.

First, if it did not make business sense for my employer to keep me, I'd be gone. It's that simple. If I did not help to bring new revenue into the company, if I did not work to lock revenue in through technology offerings that can't be replaced easily or inexpensively, if I did not work hard enough to exceed expectations, it would make sense for my company to let me go. However, I fought hard to get this job in the first place. They rejected me. I worked to find out why, because my interviews went very well. It turned out that my employer at the time, who fired me because I was looking for another job, vindictively gave me a bad reference. I produced three new references for my employer, and I ended up with the job. I worked hard to get good at what I did, became a go-to person in my department in a matter of months, received a promotion in a few more, moved to the field, was promoted four years earier than the company standard for my position, and brought in many millions of dollars in new revenue for my company by helping to close business through the integrated technology solutions I offered.

Secondly, there's the implication in the statement, "Be thankful you have a job," that I should be thankful to some sort of deity for my employment. I have three problems with that notion. The first is that I am an Atheist, so I find it offensive on that level; why should I be thankful to something I consider a myth? The second is that no deity is doing my work for me; I am responsible for the excellent work I'm doing for my company. The third is that the responsibility for all of the unemployment that currently exists rests squarely on human beings, and telling me to be thankful to a deity for my job is taking that responsibility away from them. They need to be held accountable if they committed any wrongdoing, and the mistakes that they made that caused the current economic conditions need to be identified in full and corrected.

Finally, I worked my ass off to make myself stand out in my company. I went above and beyond with nearly every account I've touched, only refraining from doing so when the company had limitations on how I could implement their techonology--and even then, I provided excellent service. I pride myself on the job I do, and I wouldn't want to be associated with mediocre work. Now, that said, there is a scenario I can imagine where my company would get rid of my group altogether. I think they would be shooting themselves in the foot, and my colleagues in sales agree with me on that point. Even if it would happen: what? Am I supposed to be pissed off at someone because I don't have a job anymore? I would be, but it would be at the human beings who caused the mess in the first place.

I truly feel sympathy for the people who are currently unemployed, who are competing with so many people for the very few jobs that are out there right now. I have been unemployed and dirt poor, so I know how it feels. When it happened to me, I at least had minimum wage jobs available to me. Now, people are competing with hundreds of applicants for the same entry-level job. People are competing with a couple thousand applicants for professional and management positions. It's a grim situation, and I am sort of lucky I made the right decision to get with the right company when I did. The reality of the situation, though, is that I would still be able to find work in this harsh environment with my unique skill set. I wouldn't want to try; I'd rather keep my current position, but if I had to find something to do to survive, I could.

It is my assertion that anyone who is willing to be productive should be gainfully employed. The way to get to that point is through sound economic policy. We are responsible for coming up with that policy and enforcing it--we humans, and no one else.