Thursday, February 21, 2008

GETTING FIRED IS NOW FUN THANKS TO THE NET: Amusing swill tales from the desparate

Daily newspapers often run pitilessly annoying stories about work, the joys of working for a living at an enormous company and how to train to be a master lickspittle.

They're always deserving of satire and fall into a number of intelligence-insulting categories. There's the advice story on having a can-do attitude and getting ready for a life in which you'll be fired at least five times so be prepared to spend all your free-time in continuing education courses to keep your skills sharp. The advice will be dispensed by someone who has never suffered any of this, being a person employed by an industry which serves only to furnish advice no one actually wants.

There's the story on how to polish your resume, be an Internet-propelled bootlicker, and get a job. We've covered that one recently here.

And there's the story on how getting fired is empowering or some flavor of goodness.

It's based on bromides and fairy tales fit for delivery by Zig Ziglar at a time-wasting but expensive motivational seminar.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times ran the latter on page 1. We've taken the title and doctored the rest of it in our usual inimitable (or annoying, depending on your POV) style.

LAID OFF? SHARE THE PAIN: The Web is now a place to seek sympathy and a new start

by Jessica Guynn


"Tell me, have you been sure to notify all of your friends with Tweets?" asked Yahoo's job departure specialist.

When Ryan Kudlerio lost his job last week, everyone knew it. That's because he chronicled the experience of his last hours at Yahoo, Inc. through a stream of electronic dispatches laced with gallows humor.

Using Twitter, a service popular in the Silicon Valley that allows users to broadcast short messages to an unlimited number of people, Kudlerio posted periodic updates of his final caffeine-filled days as a senior advertising manager at Yahoo, starting with his last commute to its headquarters and ending with margaritas at a local bar.

"Ironic that I just got my PC repaired yesterday. Won't be needing that anymore."

"This is a serious downer. Trying to drown it in free lattes. Which I will miss."

"Note to self: Failure is an event, not a person."

"He that is down need fear no fall."

"Dear Blackberry. What great times we had. I'll miss you until tonight when I stop on my way home, buy an iPhone and a copy of Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Love, Me."

Like so many other experiences transformed by the net, getting canned need no longer be endured in lonely desparation. Technology is allowing people to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, making the loss of a job an opportunity to use public agony to win new friends, influence people and get job referrals.

"When one shares failure, one hasn't really failed," said Silicon Valley tech gobble-wallah and futurist Paul Saffo. "Now the whole world can share the experience of losing a job and participate. What was formerly a private moment of pain and trouble is made light through massive text messaging."

"The entertainment value of this isn't to be underestimated," Saffo added. "Think of it -- reading a running dialog of someone losing their living, potentially receivable by millions. You can now be an actor in your own tragi-comedy with people waiting everyday for the next shoe to drop. Will Joe Blow run up $60,000 in credit card debt by the end of the year or not?"

Twitter is a service that notifies friends by mobile phone, instant message, e-mail or on the Twitter website, what you are doing at any given moment. These messages are called Tweets. It's a double meaning: a bird-like chirp of information and a sweet, a "tweet," from an acquaintance.

Though it hasn't broken into the mainstream, Twitter is popular among the self-absorbed technorati. They're at least 1.2 million strong in the Silicon Valley, the number who've signed up for a steady diet of Tweets since December.

Kudlerio began his fateful day as just a regular tech guy with 87 people tracking his Tweets. But word spread worldwide like wildfire, picking up steam as he began the arduous and draining process of handing back his security badge. By the end of the day he had become a minor celebrity with over 400 fans. And a literary agent had signed on to see if the Tweets could make up the first chapter of a book.

"There were even blogs written in Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and Tagalog about me," said Kudlerio. "It was fascinating to Google myself. Wait, I shouldn't have said that; I mean, Yahoo'd."

"The Web has given us a way to connect with others," said Vanessa Fox, editorial director for SearchEngineLand.com. "Dale Carnegie once said people rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they're doing and putting your thoughts out there in your darkest moment through Twitter can be fun and a success, bringing in the potential for responses like a book contract, perhaps the opportunity to land an agent or even free money to a PayPal tip jar from someone who empathizes with you."

No one knows that better than Susan Sweetpea, who was a product team leader at Yahoo Personals with a strong background in social media. One hour after she was fired on the same day as Kudlerio, she decided to test the power of these tools.

She posted to her blog, sent out a torrent of Tweets, updated her Facebook and added some telephone camera snaps to her Photobucket. Her experiment delivered immediate proof of success: 100 responses, some from total strangers.

"Social media accelerated the reach and speed with which I could communicate my firing," Sweetpea said.

The outpouring moved Sweetpea. "Zig Ziglar once said that adversity is what you need to become more successful," she related. "The experience was a positive affirmation of my standing ... It definitely made me feel better about being fired."

Like Sweetpea, Kudlerio is treating the job as an opportunity. He's already looking forward to a potential future in marketing for another company, possibly a lot smaller than Yahoo. "Smaller is better," he continues. "Norman Vincent Peale once said that enthusiasm releases the drive to carry you over obstacles and adds significance to all you do."

"I have gone back a couple of times to look at my Tweets. The great accomplishments of man have resulted from the transmission of information and when you read coverage of layoffs, you don't realize these are people with families, who are going through a dramatic change. This puts a human face on it ... wait, don't print that. It makes me sound like an empty-headed twit. Of course people know that when others are fired it affects entire families badly. They don't have to be told about it in text messaging.

"Please don't print that."

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