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‘I was laid off, now I’m laid on’

Marketplace Staff Sep 4, 2009

‘I was laid off, now I’m laid on’

Marketplace Staff Sep 4, 2009


KAI RYSSDAL: As Mitchell Hartman told us up at the top of the program, it’s likely to be a good, long while before people who’ve lost their jobs find new ones. And given the way this economy has changed over the past couple of years, when they are hired again, those people may well find the nature of working itself has changed.

Commentator Glenn Miller is one of those easing his way back into the labor market. And frankly, he’s not quite sure what to make of it.

Glenn Miller: You might call me an early adaptor to the Great Recession — I was laid off in its first “official” month. Now I seem to be an equally early adaptor to the around-the-corner, just within reach, can-you-hear-it-coming? Great Rebound.

I spent the first months of my layoff composing cover letters, attempting to convince companies that I was their perfect candidate, to no avail. But having worked in communications and video production companies, I was often contacted by past clients.

“We need a series of videos produced. Can you direct them?” they would ask.

“No,” I responded in that early, hopeful phase. “I’m sorry, but I need to stay focused on the job search.”

After my third such request, I came to my senses and took on the project. In time, the project work became, well, just work. I became an S Corporation, set up a home office — pajama attire allowed — and established a Web site. I was back in the game!

But wait. Within the course of one week, two of my clients announced that they had set up desks, cubicles and a nameplate for me. I had, seemingly, been laid on.

“Thank you,” I said meekly. “But, I have a desk. It’s at my company.”

“You need one here, too,” they both said.

But here’s my fear: As I continue to work diligently from my home office, people will see my oft-empty cubicle and wonder where I am.

“Who’s the slacker?” they might say.

So, what’s the protocol here? Should I display family photos? Tchotchkes? Perhaps I could sublet my space to one of my subcontractors? Maybe hire someone to desk sit?

And I wonder, is this just a land grab by nervous managers or a precursor to a full-time job offer? Like letting the car warm up on those cold winter mornings before you actually take it for a drive.

These are the times we live in. Companies with a surfeit of office and cube space, inviting chaps like me to hang with them. In this economy, I’m happy to do so. But one question: Can I still wear my pajamas?

Ryssdal: Glenn Miller is the president of that corporation he named after himself.

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