Have you ever seen the movie Up In The Air? It was the one where George Clooney kept flying around the country firing people. He worked for a company that broke the bad news to employees of companies that lacked the sack to do it themselves. While they didn’t focus on it much, the company also theoretically offered something like “post career services” or some such thing.
When I saw this movie, I figured there was really no such thing as a company like that. I was gainfully employed at the time and the notion of being anything else was still foreign to me. While I can’t say for sure that there are third party pink slippers (the folks that bought my former company happily sent in the bobblehead that took my office to do the job), I have now learned that there is indeed at least one company that will counsel me during this “professional transition to my next career challenge.”
This morning I will be sitting in on my introductory conference call with this company and figured I would bring you along for the ride. I should note, as evidenced by the fact that I will be typing all along the way, that I’m probably not going into this with the right attitude. I am foolishly optimistic that I’ll be able to recover from the fact that my “(insert company name here) is reengineering the way (they) produce traffic and, as part of that process, (my) position is being eliminated.” That may or may not have been straight from the script that the aforementioned bobblehead read from on a day not so long ago. But when the “Up In The Air” company reached out to me, my only question was whether or not the folks that whacked me had to pay for their services. They do, but only if I signed up.
I’m so in!
I dialed into the conference call center and popped on the on-line web-based presentation. There was a time when I liked getting on conference calls. I felt it always made me sound so adult, professional, and important. Just like I once felt very cool for having things like having a driver’s license or a Red Sox press pass, this is a feeling I got over very quickly. While I would happily do them as part of an actually paying position, sitting in on a conference call while unemployed seems a new kind of ironic punishment.
I have enjoyed reliving that wondrous time at the start of every conference call when the speakers get interrupted every seven seconds by someone joining in:
“So we’ll be looking at all the different options in your…”
“SORRY I’M LATE. THIS IS JIM IN DES MOINES.”
“Okay, Jim. Welcome. I was just saying that we’ll be looking at all the diff…”
“MARY. THIS IS MARY. I’M CALLING FROM GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA. CAN YOU HEAR ME? IT’S MARY!”
“HEY MARY, THIS IS TOM IN DETROIT. HOW’S THE BEACH TODAY?”
“OH, HA HA TOM. GAINESVILLE IS ACTUALLY IN CENTRAL FLORIDA. I WOULD HAVE TO DRIVE A WAYS TO SEE THE BEACH.”
“NOT AS FAR AS I…”
“Okay, Mary, welcome. Let’s get back to what we’re saying. The different opt…”
And so on.
We’re finally done with the beeping tomfoolery and ready to get underway with what promises to be “informative” and “helpful” and provide “excellent tools for clarity in my job search.” I couldn’t be more excited.
I am a bit unclear exactly who else is on with me (other than, of course, Tom, Mary, and Iowa Jim.) Are these all people who were laid off? Have some of these people come all on their own?
One of the first questions that Patty, as we’ll call our host, asked was whether or not any of the participants would be starting their own company. Oh yes! Many were and were happy to discuss them.
This takes up a few minutes. Everyone seems to be starting a consulting company. One guy is prattling on about how he already has an e-mail address and a website. I got that, too, but I hardly think TheFourFather.com can really be considered a company. If you’re interested in paying to read this, though, we can do that. Just let me know. I have an e-mail address just like that other guy, so go ahead and drop me a line. I’ll even consult on something for you as added value.
Anyway, once all the consultants have let us know about themselves, Patty takes over again. Up In The Air Associates, Incorporated (as we’ll call them) will be there for me at every step of this process as I move on from the “rightsizing” of my former company. As an aside, do you know how many euphemisms there are for getting fired? Countless. I’ve already heard a few others too from my new right-sized friends:
“Rebalancing the human capital”
“Streamlining the structure”
“Reduction in force” (or RIF, which was the official term given to the action that put me on the street. I was reduced, baby!)
Patty assures us all that we are “clients for life” of UITAA Inc. which makes wonder what they’ll do for me when I’m back at work. Perhaps Patty, having listened to my consulting friends, doesn’t have the confidence in us that we do. Not sure.
There has been much in the way of introduction. So much so, in fact, that I was surprised that, at this point in the phone call, Patty says the following:
“Okay, let’s get started.”
Huh? Apparently this is going to take awhile.
We’ve been “started” for about ten minutes now and I honestly can’t tell the difference between the introduction and the actual event that is now underway.
Periodically, Patty would stop and ask a question of her audience, all comfortably seated in their living rooms (that’s how I envision it anyway.) These would be things from the simple “Is anyone on LinkedIn?” to the inscrutable “Who has a communications plan?” Despite the talkative nature of everyone early on, virtually every question was met with nothing more than the quiet hum of open phone lines over which no one would utter a word.
I would have felt worse for Patty except that she was the only one on the whole call who was actually garnering a paycheck. (That’s assuming none of the consultants were consulting yet. I think we all know they weren’t.)
I am jarred from my half coma when some lady launches into a loud soliloquy about her big plans from the future. She apparently worked in project management in the gas and oil field and was willing to move to water management and maybe, depending on the salary, an entry level position with somebody who “would take a chance on me” in the medical field.
I have no earthly idea what brought on this revelation but it was as in-depth as it was boring. It could simply be that it was her response from the droning nature of Patty’s presentation or that she lives alone, is unemployed, and hasn’t actually spoken to anyone in awhile.
It wasn’t a tremendous contribution to the call, to be sure, but it was something different. Patty, bless her heart, didn’t know what she was to do with our gas/oil/water/maybe-medical friend. After taking a beat, she complimented her on her good line of thinking and encouraged her to take up with her one-on-one consultant.
Apparently, I too will have a one-on-one consultant. I may have missed that portion of the call. Can’t imagine how.
Catastrophe has struck! Patty has been disconnected from her on-line presentation materials. This hasn’t affected me much, seeing as how I have been typing here rather than looking at the on-line presentation materials. I’m sure they’re good, though.
After much consternation and effort, we’re reconnected. At one point, I switched over to watch the excitement as Patty was imploring someone to tell her what they saw on their screen. I caught a glimpse of her Outlook e-mail inbox. Patty’s going on trip somewhere next month. Have fun Patty!
We’re told we’ll be wrapping up soon.
We’re told we’ll be wrapping up soon.
We’re told we’ll be wrapping up soon.
Patty is once again disconnected from her on-line presentation materials. If there is an all-knowing God out there, he was clearly forced to sit through all of this too and has had ENOUGH! Now we’re really wrapping up soon.
Patty lets us know that we can review all the on-line presentation materials at our leisure, as they apparently exist as OFF-LINE presentation materials as well. That is simply awesome news, I tell you. Awesome.
She also lets us know that the next step in this process is to schedule our time with the UITAA Inc. one-on-one consultant. I am encouraged to do this at my earliest convenience. Part of me wanted to call right away and be the first to get that ball rolling. I’ll bet the medical-maybe lady is already doing it, too. Just imagine how in-depth that call will be.
The call is over. There was a little part of me that was sad. During that lost hour and three minutes, it kind of, a little bit, if I squinted my eyes, felt like I was back on a job. Few things embody middle management quite like wasting time on conference calls that do in an hour what could otherwise be done in three minutes and one e-mail.
Of course, the other 99% of me was happy to move on from that mish-mash of people. Of those who spoke, we had three consultants, one IT guy, two people of inspecific career, and our gassy, oily, watery, but not necessarily medical friend. I never uttered a word. Never came close, in fact. Of course, that was pretty much true when I did conference calls for work. I stand by a conviction that there is nothing to be done in a conference call that isn’t better done in a not-conference call. Given that the prime purpose of this call was to basically let me know that I would have another one coming up, well, I could have done without the other sixty-two minutes and forty-five seconds of “information” contained therein.
Maybe I’m too negative. Okay, fine. Absolutely, I’m too negative. About this I am anyway. After all, my primary motivation for taking part was spite. Mature, right?
If nothing else, I did my part to make sure my new friends at UITAA Inc., my new friend Patty, for instance, doesn’t get right-sized, re-engineered, or in any way streamlined. As a budding consultant it was, I think, the least I could do.