This past weekend, I attended a major convention event that drew more than 1,700 people to a hotel/conference center in New Hampshire. (It will certainly come out quickly enough that I am a geek. One of my major hobbies is the Society For Creative Anachronism, a group that holds its events in the context of the Middle Ages. But that’s another blog).
Until that point, I had only told a dozen or so folks; I am using this blog to tell the rest of the world. But at the event, especially when people as “How are you?” What I noticed, as I told people what had happened — starting with “I got laid off from the Unemployment Office” — that there was a far different reaction than I think I would have gotten five to 10 years ago. When I was growing up in the 1970s, and as I made my way through my two careers in the 1980s and 1990s, hearing that someone was unemployed was usually very awkward.
That stigma started to lessen as we got to know people in the computer industry. These were folks who threw in with startup companies and either made good money or found themselves looking again. But like the traveling tinker, they were almost always able to find something else.
As we moved later and later into the 2000s, layoffs became more and more common. My wife was out of work for nine months, and now it’s my turn. A lot of my friends either were or are out of work. It’s not uncommon at all to read my blogs and see another person out each week. The “I Got A Job!” posts are fewer and farther between, but it does seem as though there are more of them these days.
People are usually sympathetic, but not patronizing when they hear about your job loss. Several folks I know, some of whom I only know through the Internet, immediately said, “Well, here’s what we’ve got at my company. I have to make sure I tell them how much I appreciate it.
Folks are understanding and will often want to be able to share their own experiences. I really believe this is different than it was before. Note, I am talking about people who are recently unemployed. I think that even with the economy the way it is, there are people who are quite vexed by those who are out of work for a year or more. Sometimes, I think this vexation is reasonable and sometimes I think it is not.