What color is your cyanide capsule? 


So you've just been let go from your job of several years, and you don't know what to do with yourself. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Almost every American has been forced into an unplanned career change at one time or another. And the phenomenon is all the more common these days, with major firms restructuring their operations and analysts warning that our nation's economic downturn may last a brief decade or two longer than was originally foreseen.

We here at A-A-A Adorable Employment Counseling receive thousands of pieces of anguished correspondence from displaced workers every year. As such, we like to think we know a thing or two about bouncing back. Follow the guidelines laid out here, and you'll be able to maximize your job-seeking success now Ð while your prospects are still as fresh as the imprint of your boss' right Bruno Magli on the seat of your pants.

Hurts, don't it?

Many newly jobless folks spend untold amounts of their time and energy maintaining bitter resentments against their former employer. They whine, they accuse, they subject all within earshot to endless stories of how badly they were treated by a company that had already eaten their entire lives.

We highly recommend these activities. Think about it: You've already suffered the shock and humiliation of being discarded like yesterday's trash. Why should you add insult to injury by forcing yourself to recognize that your firing may have been due to your own substandard performance and/or piss-poor attitude?

Lesser employment agencies will try to con you that termination can be a learning experience. What malarkey. You and I know that learning takes place in school Ð and school is where you go before you're able to get a job. Maybe, a few years down the road, when your situation has sorted itself out and you're noshing on filet mignon again, you'll be in the mood to learn a thing or two. But for now, pig-headed misanthropy is the way you want to go. Start each day with a simple, ritual affirmation: Look directly into your bathroom mirror and recite, "Owning up to my own shortcomings is just letting the terrorists win." Then refuse to shave.

Stay flexible

While rigidity of emotion is to be encouraged, rigidity of imagination is not. It's a common failing of fired workers to be too narrow in their searches, limiting their investigations to familiar environments and skill sets. Often, this behavior denotes a subconscious, unrealistic wish to get their old jobs back. Test yourself for such motivational cancer. Does your résumé begin like this?

OBJECTIVE: To get my old job back.

If so, you may need to widen your horizons a bit. Here's a more practical version.

OBJECTIVE: To land a job extremely similar to my old job, but with shorter hours and at twice the pay. Also, pizza Fridays.

That should let you out of that box you've put yourself in. And remember that the best opportunities often come from unlikely sources. Just because you've spent your entire professional life as a merchant banker, for example, doesn't mean you couldn't be every bit as fulfilled as a carnival barker, efficiency expert or human bomb.

Get it on paper

Speaking of résumés, how long has it been since you last updated yours? Too long, we'll wager. If your list of awards and accomplishments includes a Cub Scout merit badge for CPR, it's time for a rigorous re-edit. Also omit any references to paper routes, unpaid internships or volunteer work for third-party candidates. (You want a job, don't you?) What items remain, reword for maximum impact. Consider the following example.

3/31/02-4/1/02 -- Swept up grizzly-bear shit after circus left town.

There's nothing wrong with this entry, per se. It's just dry and dull. Try this improved version on for size.

3/02-4/02 -- MOBILE-ENTERTAINMENT CUSTODIAN -- Co-ordinated, supervised and executed massive reorganization of ursine fecal inventory, with emphasis on time management and environmentally responsible disposal methods.

See? You're halfway to the boardroom already!

Suck up or shut up

Some people are still convinced that the United States is an egalitarian paradise. In their view, every one of our citizens is born with the same portfolio of privileges and opportunities, with only their hard work and diligence to take them higher than their peers.

How quaint. Our political leaders and captains of industry know the real story: It's nepotism that gets things done. Scratch the surface of our self-proclaimed democracy, and you'll find a thriving hereditocracy, a game in which the spoils go to the players who are born with the right surnames and social connections.

To cry about the unfairness of this setup is to ignore the lesson of Hiroshima: It's only losers who want to change the rules. Instead of ruing your bad luck, there has to be a way for you to get on the gravy train. Think back to your last family reunion. Did any of your relatives arrive in the company of a faithful Filipino manservant? If so, that relative has just rocketed to the top of your holiday gift-giving list. (Send along a snifter of brandy for Kato, too. It's the sort of thoughtful gesture today's decision-makers really appreciate, especially if they're in the habit of opening their employees' mail for them.)

Face time

No matter how qualified you are, how impressive your résumé or how much hooch you've funneled to Uncle Prescott, a badly bungled job interview can send your hopes hurtling south faster than Elizabeth Hurley's head on a first date. This is another area in which traditional employment agencies fall short, advising their desperate clients to "act confidently," even though it's common knowledge that an out-of-work person walks into an interview bearing a stench of failure as indelible as goat's urine. Equally useless is the oft-heard suggestion, "dress for the job you want, not the job you have." You don't have a job. Are we to believe, then, that anything more elaborate than a sock around your genitals will make the desired impression?

Our advice is both simpler and more sophisticated: Interview for the job you don't want. Let your blasé self come through, ace the interview, and you'll be at your new desk by Monday. It may not be exactly the job you were looking for, but it sure beats cleaning up some irritable mammal's excrement with a broom. Just ask your pal Kato.


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