Black Friday

So today is Black Friday – there are many different definitions of it, Brian at New York Daily Photo has a fun write-up (with a link to other definitions of Black Friday) you should check out, and picture of the Target promotion kickoff. Ah, to live in New York!

Anyway, my favorite definition of Black Friday is that it is the “make it or break it” day for retailers. Supposedly they operate in the red (aka, at a loss) until today, and then today they catch up and are profitable until the end of the year. I can imagine its a fun day for corporate accountants as they nervously chew on the end of their pencils, hoping that it is make it rather than break it!

At my last company we were working towards our own Black Friday – the day when our books would go from red to black. We were a startup with a bunch of typical startup problems and opportunities, and the standard excitement and dreams. But I wasn’t around long enough to see the Black Friday come. No matter how many long days, weekends, worked holidays, sacrifices, etc. I was shown the door before we got to our Black Friday. One of the hardest parts of getting laid off was feeling that all that I had done and built was going to be enjoyed by the guy that took my place.

Ain’t that life? Honestly, I’m glad it happened. Now, 10 months later, I can say that it is one of the best things that has happened to me. Sometimes career paths that seem exciting are really going nowhere. And progress with JibberJobber has been so swift, so exciting that I’d rather be on this train, my train, than that one.

But it was devastating at the time it happened. And for months following.

As festive as the holidays are (I love this time of the year) there will be tens of thousands of employees laid off. That is, tens of thousands of families affected by some kind of financial impact. Depression (been there), anger (been there), despair (been there)… all of these emotions will have a major impact.

I know its good for companies to fix themselves, and trim costs. For the most part it is better that the tens of thousands are “trimmed” than the hundreds and hundreds of thousands are hurt (think: Enron (although “a layoff” wouldn’t have fixed Enron’s problems)).

But its still a very difficult time for most people. What average person has a nest egg that can carry them through this difficult period?? I didn’t. (I had a little over $1,000… and the next Saturday I spent about $900 to fix my cars :()

I would ask you, if you can, to try and find someone in your neighborhood, or in your circle of friends, or your friends friends, who may be going through a difficult time in this season, and extend a hand. Here are some ideas (from my personal experience this year):

  • Gift certificates to the local grocery store. Aside from mortgage, the groceries was the next biggest single cost, and getting gift certificates was a huge stress-reliever.
  • Dinners. A neighbor brought over dinners from “My Girlfriend’s Kitchen” that were frozen – enough to stuff our freezer. These were so nice because with all the other stuff going on, and the emotions, we could just plop one in the oven and we’d have a really nice dinner within the hour.
  • Lunches. My wife’s friend called one day to ask if she could take her out to lunch. It was awesome because my wife had been quietly bearing a lot of the stress of the layoff (we really didn’t know what or how to communicate early on – it was very weird). This friend had gone through over a year of unemployment with her husband and was just the right person at the time to charge my wife’s batteries. What a great blessing it was for that friend to reach out and spend time with my wife.
  • Other gifts, left anonymously on our porch. During this time of “what can we cut out of our budget” we would open the door to boxes of food or clothes. We didn’t think of needing clothes but our kids were growing and the gifts of clothing for them was much appreciated.
  • Offer to babysit. Sounds like common sense but some people need their kids to be watched, and even spending a few dollars for babysitting can be overwhelming. This may be for a job interview, a few quite hours to study or gain sanity, or go shopping for new clothes for an interview… it doesn’t matter. Offering to watch the kids for free is a great help.
  • Open your network. I had a bunch of friends want to give me advice and help me with my resume, but one of the greatest, most sincere actions was from those that wanted to put me in touch with someone in their network. I’m still reluctant to open mine to everyone, but when I have gained confidence that the recipient isn’t going to mess it up, I will gladly help with my connections.

There are a bunch of other ideas. But note that many of these don’t require money out of your pocket.

One final note – it is really hard for people like me to say “thank you.” It is an embarrassing time, and I figured I’d say thank you once I got my job. But that didn’t happen, and as the months passes, it became more awkward. Please don’t get offended if the recipient doesn’t say thanks – I think most people are used to giving and not getting.

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