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James Ferragut, Published December 06 2009

Ferragut: Booted, ousted, fired …

I’ve been living as a statistic for five weeks. The statistic is full of negative connotations, false assumptions. It comes with a bag of misconceptions and prejudices. On Oct. 20 I was downsized – ousted, let go, shown the door, given the boot, handed the “pink slip.” Pick a euphemism for getting fired.

Oh, I am in good company, because I wasn’t the only person who was downsized by my former employer; I know we won’t be the last. I became a part of a fraternity that grew by 558,000 in one month. Our growing club now represents 15.7 million Americans who have lost their jobs since January. That’s a comforting statistic because we all know how much misery loves company; it appears that I have a ton of company.

Getting dumped is played out in one of two ways: Either you know it’s coming or you don’t. If you suspect and if it’s dealt with honestly, that is, in the open, with clear communication, the certainty of being jettisoned can be less traumatic, less harsh and a bit more manageable.

Then there is the other approach, the “blind side.” It leaves you slack-jawed from a surprise left hook. It’s typically the work of stunted minds. It’s the knee-jerk reaction to a profit-and-loss statement, the method in which there are no indications, no private conversations, no “worst-case scenario” discussions.

Ultimately the end is the same: you are left holding your hat in your hand hoping and praying that you’ve been handed a blessing in disguise. But it’s a damn big pill to swallow after you’ve been kicked in the gut.

Family, friends and former work associates, consider this: We are unemployed, we don’t have the plague. You can still talk to us. You don’t have to say anything deep; it’s just cool knowing you care. Don’t be afraid to send a note, an e-mail, leave a voice mail, because just a little gesture will do wonders for someone who’s living with anxiety and uncertainty.

And for my unemployed and soon-to-be unemployed brothers and sisters, I say: Keep the faith, stay busy, keep talking to people, keep sending out resumes, and never give up. If you get knocked down, get up.

There are bromides that give us strength as we navigate uncertain waters. A quote like: “Whatever the struggle, continue the climb. It may be only one step more to the summit.” is OK, but does it address the urgency of our situation? Probably not, but there is one thing we can be certain of:

Something good will happen. We will find work. We will emerge from the darkness. The struggle has made us stronger. We are tougher than we thought. We have more talent than we knew. Our view of the world has become more calculated and we’ve become more protective in how much we give of ourselves. But that will change with time and with a better employer.

Hold no grudges. What goes around comes around. We got ours and they’ll get theirs. Karma is real. Just ask Bernie Madoff.

Ferragut is a regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary pages. E-mail jferragut50@gmail.com