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Illustrations by: Ja’Rell Dawson Layout by: Joram Clervius

By: Anamarie Shreeves

Re-runs of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and commercials encouraging viewers to get off their butts and enroll in vocational college flashed across the television screen. Sun rays blazed into the small room highlighting an outdated Michael Jordan calendar and No Limit Records posters that clung to the wall. Sean Smith, a 2007 business administration graduate of Florida A&M University, sat at a small desk in a room that smelt of teen spirit and BOD body spray. Many years earlier, Smith, 24, peered at the bulky monitor s p e l l c h e c k i n g assignments on the Cold Wa r

and “The Great Gatsby.” Now, the chunky box-like computer is pushed to the edge of the desk; in front of it lay a sleek silver laptop with fingerprint protection and a built-in Skype camera. Smith’s eyes glared at the images on the laptop screen, displaying a listing of jobs. Another tab on the tool bar was Smith’s idle e-mail account; he was composing a message to a human resources manager whom he had promised a copy of his resume’. Slouched in the rolling desk chair with his head rested atop the cushion, Smith shifted left to right reminiscing about living independently in St. Louis. Smith, who was employed as a marketing specialist at an alcohol beverage company for one year, was notified on June 2 that he was being laid off. “I was notified on the second of the month, but the effective date was the 30th,” Smith says. The company offered Smith a severance buyout, which meant he would receive the remainder of the year’s

salary within a three-month span. Smith and many other recent graduates are being laid off every day. According to Jenna Hall, an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate increased 63 percent since September 2008. In September 2009, the unemployment rate reached its highest national percentage of 9.8 percent, since 1983. Ubaldus Raymond, an economics professor at FAMU, says businesses spend 65 to 70 percent of their operating cost on employee payroll. Payroll is usually the first expense to be cut. Young alumni are subject to the economic fray. Some were laid off because of the “last one in, first to go” rule or they were not working on any projects at the time human resources departments began downsizing. “The company went under a massive restructure,” Smith says. He says the company’s staff was notified about the possibility of layoffs two months prior, but the company did not specify which positions would be removed. In November 2008, two new administrators replaced the entire executive staff at the St. Louis office where Smith worked. He says before he was laid off he observed the company’s changes, and assumed the staff would undergo a downsize. “My position was created by the five people that were let go,” Smith says, “And now that they are gone, who’s going to stay on the island?” Crystal Thomas, a former human resources generalist at a commercial real estate firm in New York City, says decisions are objective

when a company is downsizing the number of employees in each department. “Usually the CEO or chief financial officer will look at the budgets on a monthly basis and make predictions for the company,” Thomas says, “It’s all financial based.” Thomas says she was laid off because she had the least impact on the department. “In my department I was the lowest person on the totem pole,” Thomas says, “I didn’t report to anybody.” Thomas says layoffs are beneficial to the company because they can cut back on the payroll budget, but it also strains the remaining employees. “There’s an understanding that you want to save your budget by cutting some people,” Thomas says. “But then in the long run that could mean the people left behind have to do more work.” Professor Raymond says downsizing the company’s staff is temporarily beneficial for the company, but damaging for the nation’s financial state. “Manufacturing companies will not produce because no one is buying anything,” Raymond says. “The only person that wins is the business that decreases employment.” Because Smith had already assumed he would lose his job, he altered his spending habits to set aside cushion money. “If I have to start living off the money that I was saving from the compensation I can do that until I get a new job,” Smith says. Paula Levermore, a current international total rewards consultant at Turner Broadcasting Systems and a FAMU alumna, says she changed her spending habits after being laid off from the Deloitte Consulting firm in Atlanta in October 2008. “I was definitely looking at where I was spending money unnecessarily because I didn’t have disposable income anymore,” Levermore says. She says she stopped traveling sporadically, converted to basic cable, and tried to prevent impulse buying to make up for the shortfall. The current state of the economy has many consumers in a static situation, and people are beginning to think inventively. “At FAMU its not just regular students that graduated from high school,” Raymond says, “But older people who leave the job market.” Thomas is now a student at New York University studying for her M.S. in human resources management and development. She says when she was laid off in November 2008 she enrolled in graduate school to become more marketable. Since his layoff, Smith is practicing independent work habits. “Most of my time is spent behind that

computer looking for the next opportunity or following up on a lead,” Smith says. “Every Monday through Thursday my mindset is ‘these are my days’.” Smith says between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. he anticipates every anonymous phone number that alerts his phone. He sits in front of his laptop working diligently, as if an imaginary boss could peek into his cubicle at any given moment. His phone alerts an incoming call, and he quickly grabs for his phone. It’s an unidentified number, and instantly he puts his ‘game voice’ on. Smith hits answer and utters with precise diction “Hello, this is Sean Smith speaking.”

You’re Fired! Some of your favorite “you’re fired” moments.

Tia Landry (Sister, Sister) After trusting her twin sister, Tamara, to lock up Rocket Burger, Tia takes the blame and loses her job. Watching Tamara get promoted was the worst part of it all. James Evans (Good Times) James Evans has to stop his son J.J. from enlisting in the military after both of them lost their jobs on the same day. Ron Burgundy (Anchorman) Sticking to the script isn’t always the best thing to do as a San Diego anchorman. Especially when a feisty, feminist reporter is coming for your spot. Frankie (Set it Off) When a neighborhood friend unexpectedly robs the bank where Frankie is employed, she is automatically blamed for “collusion.” Where dey do that at? Craig (Friday) Craig planned to pick up his check and spend it all weekend on frivolous things, but instead of leaving his job with a paycheck he left unemployed. “How do you get fired on your day off?”

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Out of the frying pan into the fire