Pink slips meet the digital age

A woman text messaging

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

TESS VIGELAND: You know it's been a terrible year when the good news is that only 247,000 jobs were lost in July. I say "only" in quotations. That's the latest unemployment news. The pink slips are still coming for large swaths of the work force. But as commentator Lisa McIntire tells us, in this recession, the pink slip isn't exactly pink. Or a slip.


Lisa McIntire: Have pink slips gone the way of typewriters and telegrams? In my Silicon Valley bubble, getting laid off involved every web 2.0 cliche and not a trace of colored paper.

Itching for a break from the jargon-filled video conferences of my high-tech job, I went on vacation to Belgium. Determined to not let work disturb my sightseeing and beer tasting, I refused to log into my corporate e-mail account. After a night out, I stepped into the lobby to check personal e-mail on my smart phone, using the hotel's WiFi network. "Would like to have a call with you" was a subject line of a message from a director at work.

Panic and fear immediately set in. My department head was not in the habit of checking in to chat. I quickly posted a twitter about the frightening e-mail, then signed onto instant message to get the scoop from my colleagues. "It's hitting the fan," they pinged back. "You better call."

It was past midnight in Brussels. Knowing sleeping was impossible, I dialed the director's phone number and got the news I had not expected in the least: I was being laid off. I had worked at the company for nearly four years, practically a life time in Silicon Valley. So this was no "last in, first out." And getting the axe wasn't personal. A formula decided who got canned. An algorithm figured out how to reduce department costs and I was a result.

It never occurred to me to give my family the bad news over the phone. Letting them know through an e-mail listserv was second nature by now. Once I was back in the States, my father advised me to get letters of recommendation on company stationary. "Paper?" I thought, "How adorably quaint." I was busy soliciting feed back from my LinkedIn profile, reconnecting with contacts on Facebook and commiserating with fellow layoff victims over Twitter and blogs.

These days, I'm still sending PDF copies of my cover letter and resume. I can only hope that eventually they'll result in an offer letter. On paper.

Vigeland: Lisa McIntire lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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