Thursday, April 16, 2009

The higher up you are, the worse the layoff

I read with some interest a story in the New York Times Sunday edition, about the woes of out-of-work CEOs. I was about to pass it by - after all, who cares about laid off upper echelon when we have so many regular joes in the unemployment line?

But the photo of the fired CEO that the writer was profiling beseeched me: He looked so downtrodden. I read on, and found out that this gentleman in his mid-fifties was newly laid off after giving his heart and soul to build up a corporation.

He drew a healthy six-figures from this company that services the pharmaceutical and bio tech industries, traveled the world for them, was fluent in three languages. He essentially constructed and launched their global quality assurance program, taking the company from a fledgling effort to an international force. It's fair to say he was good at his job.

So good, in fact, they canned him. And that's the reason they gave: now that the company was trading at its current caliber, they didn't need his skills anymore. Sure, they offered him a severance check and an impeccable reference, but where the heck was he supposed to go with it?

Where do all the unemployed CEOs, COOs, CIOs and CFOs go, with their five-page resumes and oft-intimidating pedigrees? You can't just place a senior executive into an entry level job and expect them to succeed. These are baby boomers who've reaped the rewards of a magical, uninterrupted stream of success. In very bad times, they're trying recapture the magic. Quite the quandary.

And in truth, there really is no answer. Just like the regular joes, they're getting stonewalled. National services like New Directions in Boston offer the laid-off execs classes in prospect networking, seminars on business network sites like LinkedIn, and office space for them to make their calls.

But they caution that it will take well over a year to produce any leads. When the severance money runs out, and these unemployed bosses dip into their savings, they are faced with the same issues that plague many American households, like how to pay the mortgage and where to go for health care.

Hopefully, this is not another dreadful sign of the times. It's not refreshing to know that CEOs aren't safe from the axe. In fact, it's disturbing to know that the bursting bubble has reached the top of the ladder. It means things are bad all over.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Clothing swap success reveals a deeper need

I applauded the success of the clothing swap held in St. Petersburg today, while watching the coverage on BayNews9. Spinderella's Steals closed their store for the afternoon to host the swap of donated clothing, sponsored by Localshops1.

The three-hour swap saw hundreds of participants, hunting through the piles of gently used stuff to take home some new treasures. I was glad to see that families showed up, and were able to get some good things for their children. And, I'm sure, some folks walked away with GREAT clothing pieces for their donation.

But what struck me was the tone of the comments made by most of the people interviewed on the news; their words had a hint of desperation in them. One woman said that it is "the right time" for an event like this, that hooks people up with necessary donated items.

It sure is the right time. The beleaguered economy has left everyone drained, some people to the brink of bankruptcy. Relying on nonprofit groups has made the difference between having a home and being out of the streets for more than a few. Living paycheck to paycheck means people are just one small event away from being in a financial crisis. I know; I've been there.

Another woman said it gave her hope, that she was trying to change her life around and make a new start after some setbacks. The way she was clutching the clothes under her arm, you could tell that the items were much-needed. And her smile spoke volumes.

And three cheers for Spinderella's Steals, for missing a Saturday afternoon's worth of sales to make sure an event like this could help so many. Proceeds and leftover clothing went to a nonprofit group that relies on every penny to provide a roof over the heads of the down and out.

So maybe this can start a trend; maybe more businesses can partner up with Localshops1 to put on more events like this, maybe even with other needed items, like small household things. The more people that step up, the more our community as a whole benefits. We can see each other through this bad times if we stick together and give just a little.