Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The bench

My job is project centric. I am assigned to a project for its duration, which can range anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. Sometimes I'll even work on multiple projects splitting my time between them. When I'm not actively working on a project then I'm considered 'on the bench'.

I've recently completed a project. I was slated to move onto another project; but, at the last minute, it lost it's funding. Normally I'm supposed to be given 60 days notice when my services are no longer going to be needed so that I can find a new project to work on. But, because of these particular circumstances, I was given just a couple of weeks.

Now, for the first time in 28 years with the same company, I find myself sitting on the bench.

It's very lonely sitting here on the bench. Every day I sit here, I am a liability to the company as they continue to pay my salary, benefits, etc. While I'm trying to keep myself productive as best I can, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that eventually, if I sit here long enough, they are going to cut their losses and lay me off.

I've been fervently searching the job listing my company publishes. I've applied for many new projects. But, these are rough times. The same environment that caused my other project to lose its funding is hanging over other projects as well. Upper management is hesitant to release funding, many projects are on hold. Other projects are being transferred to low cost countries. I send my resumé, but, most often I never hear anything back. Even when I try following up, the best I get is a 'still reviewing your resumé' sort of response. The silence is driving me crazy - I wish they would just tell me that I don't qualify or meet their needs or something - that would still be better than silence.

I'm good at what I do - at least that's what the project managers I've worked with have told me. But, I do lack certain skills du jour that are in demand. If I had experience with SAP, Siebel, or Cognos then I probably wouldn't be sitting here. But, these are not the kind of skills where one can simply buy a book and teach yourself. These are tools which cost $1,000's, well out of reach for an individual to acquire to install on their own PC as a sandbox to learn with. These take months of training; it can take years before one can claim to be an expert. It's often just being in the right place at the right time to be assigned to a project willing to invest in such training. I've often found myself being in that right place at the right time to pick up and learn new skills. But, this is a fast paced industry. Skills that were hot and in demand just a couple of years ago are now passé.

And so, I sit here. Every day, I check job postings, most every day I send my resumé to someone new. But, it's all beginning to seem so futile. I feel like I might as well be tossing my resumé into the round filing cabinet.

To think that nobody wants me is taking its toll on my self esteem. I feel like a worthless lump of manure that not even dung beetles will touch. Some days, I wish I were dead. No, I'm not suicidal - I don't want to kill myself, I just want to be dead. It just seems like it would be so much easier that way. As long as I'm still employed I have good life insurance; so, my wife would be well taken care of - a simple and eloquent way of fulfilling my responsibilities as a husband and father. But, I can't take my own life as said life insurance would then be in question.

Last week there was a glimmer of hope - my manager went to bat and got approval for me to go take some classes - and indication that they are still willing to invest in me. As soon as I got the approval I went and tried to register for the classes - but they were already full. What is this, some sort of cosmic joke?

I've considered going to counseling to see if they could help me deal with these feelings of worthlessness. But, if I do get laid off then I lose my insurance - my ability to pay for those counseling sessions. I don't want to start down that path only to have the rug pulled out from under me.

To add insult to injury, many of the appliances in my home seem to be self destructing. The air conditioning in my home office quit working. Our TV sometimes shows just a line across the screen - a slap to the side of the box often brings it back, but it's only a matter of time. The door latch on the microwave in our kitchen is acting finicky. The ice maker in our freezer quit working. The ceiling fan in one of our bedrooms no longer functions. Our color printer only shows flashing error lights whenever we try to print something. With my future being so hazy right now, I'm hesitant to invest any money to fix or replace these. Or, maybe it's a sign from God - maybe I'm an obsolete fixture the world doesn't need anymore.

I wish they would just lay me off and be done with it. I'm at a difficult age - too young to retire and collect my pension yet unlikely that I could find another job with the same salary and benefits. Being laid off could devastate me financially. But, at least, I could take my stripes and move on with my life. Instead I'm in a holding pattern. Time is frozen while I sit here ...

Searching ...

Hoping ...

Waiting ...

Wondering ...


playasinmar said...

I'm surprised it took me this long considering the amount of clues you've been dropping but here goes:

You develop ice cream flavors for Blue Bunny.

Abelard Enigma said...

Close, but no cigar.

I work for a large computer company that makes everything from itti-bitty machines to incredibly big machines.

MoHoHawaii said...

I hate the mid-career squeeze that is so common in software. It's really unfair.

Other projects are being transferred to low cost countries.

I've spent about 3 of the last 12 months in those low-cost countries doing training and consulting. I feel your pain.

I'm sure something will turn up. You have a lot of history with your company, and as you said, you've never been without a project before.

Good luck.

Sean said...

Sad story Abelard. I hope that everything works out. You might want to go see a counselor even if it is for a few sessions because you might only have to go to a few to help you out.

I'll keep you in my prayers.

Beck said...

Somehow telling you that when you find the door closed on you there is always an open window of opportunity around the corner - such as going off to India to train those very people who were just assigned to your next available project - just doesn't seem to cut it.

I'm truly sorry. My prayers are with you.