Life on the verge of a dot-com breakdown

We've got our r

Published January 25, 2001 8:00PM (EST)

Last year at this time the NASDAQ was soaring and dot-commers thought they were the second coming. We were all going to be rich, hip and young forever. Lo! How the mighty have fallen.

The bad times have begun. I've managed to survive three layoffs. I don't know if I'm doomed or invincible, but I have seen all my friends get axed one by one. They may claim to be optimistic about it ("Despite the slowdown, the hiring market is still as hot as ever"), but all that uncertainty has started affecting their lifestyle. And mine.

First, it was the little things. I started checking over my chai each morning, hunting for any mention of my company. I scoured all the major business papers for hints that our venture capital might be drying up.

I set up job agents on HotJobs, Monster and the local paper. Not that I was looking, of course -- it's just that I wanted to know what's out there.

Then the paranoia began to mount. A friend who'd been the victim of "restructuring" called, trying to reconstruct her bookmarks and e-mail addresses, lost when she was refused access to her computer after getting a pink slip. After helping her, I decided to forward all my personal information to my HotMail account. While I was at it, I transferred my résumé to a floppy disk instead of leaving it on the hard drive.

These days, my friends and I accept it as a fact of life: Dot-coms are trimming the fat and at any time, any one of us could be considered expendable.

When we get together, we compare severance packages instead of stock options. We sit around and discuss post-layoff etiquette: After reading about layoffs at a friend's company, what's the best way to ask if she's still employed? We swap horror stories: Did you hear the one about the woman who got laid off over her cellphone in the produce aisle? We study quarterly earnings reports before we make a commitment on a two-year lease, and no one is even thinking about buying a BMW nowadays.

And everyone has at least three months savings in the bank, "just in case."

By Amanda Nielsen

Amanda Nielsen is a freelance writer.

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