Monday June 4, 2001

In the company of jobseekers Simon Moore wasn't too upset when his firm was wound up. It gave him a chance to work on his CV

Guardian Unlimited Work

Simon Moore Guardian


I don't understand whether my firm went bankrupt, ceased trading, closed down, or whether it was liquidated or liquidised. All I know is that last Sunday I was using 52 of my four-coloured business cards, with two through to Ace scribbled on each, in a game of poker with a few of my former workmates.

After we heard the news in our sombre Last Boardroom Meeting In The World Ever, we threw a Frisbee around the hotdesking area, where we had once spent many a happy hour standing around waiting for stuff to print out, and kicked a football around the very corridors that we used to sprint along when late for meetings, printouts streaming behind us. Perhaps if we hadn't spent the money on that sporting equipment we could have staved off insolvency for a few more precious minutes.

The signs accumulated ominously in the days leading up to the announcement. Email accounts were severed rather suddenly, virtually in mid-sentence; the managing part ner's weekly updates stopped being full of references to dynamic new task forces and instead started containing a number of amusing attachments that would previously have triggered serious worries about email surveillance.

One of the most frustrating parts of falling into the hands of the receivers was the realisation that all our work over the previous few months had been for nothing. All those phone calls, those meetings, those cost/benefit analyses: now no one would ever see the fruits of that labour. And so, in a gesture of futile perfectionism, we found ourselves diligently spending our last working hours ensuring that the colours on that financial spreadsheet possessed an authoritative, yet understated style - meticulously swapping an overbearing yellow for a softer, more personable sky blue.

Initially, being unjobbed involved an increase in pub visits (this being about the only upward trend in our firm). When the glittering, diamond-encrusted deal fell through, we went down the pub; when our other frayed lifelines successively snapped, we went down the pub; and when the security guards were leering with baseball caps and official lists, we went down the pub.

Post-employment, there is a state of euphoria upon realising that you haven't got to come into work the next day. You see an unrelenting stream of quasi-weekends stretching out before you as far as the eye can see; then follows a state of bewilderment when you realise you don't have anything to do next week, next month or next year.

Defining precisely what you want to do next is tricky, though you have no shortage of time to consider it. You can do literally anything; but on the other hand, these opportunities are hardly going to leap at you, so you may well have to do something.

My main concern now is for the office fish. Two months ago we were exchanging inter-office emails about the dietary plans for the 10 fish that serenely drifted around in our bubbling corporate tank, after someone pointed out that a couple of them were looking a bit peaky. Now they are in altogether hotter water. Apparently, our office is going to be asset-stripped - or, loosely speaking, raped and pillaged by a team of crack accountants - and I don't rate the fishes' chances of surviving the number-crunchers' attentions. They certainly have no documented legal claim to their tank.

I have started stockpiling various CVs. I am currently the proud owner of a one-page version and a two-page version: one that highlights my skills, and another that showcases my experience. Within two weeks I expect to have an encyclopaedia of rainbow-coloured CVs ranging from one to 30 pages in length, in languages from Arabic to Urdu, optimistically displaying different aspects of my person, from my favourite pizza toppings to my inside leg measurement. I soon hope to have these catalogued in leading libraries throughout the world, since recruitment consultants clearly cannot give them the respect they deserve in their stainless steel, retro waste paper bins.

People talk about how leaving your firm provides you with a stellar array of contacts for the future. In my case, however, the only contacts I have are unemployed, despondent and contemplating switching to pay-as-you-go.

Being closed down did offer us one opportunity: a rare meeting with the diligent human resources staff. It felt a bit like the moment when you get off the plane and the stewardesses line up to say "Thank you". The main purpose of the meeting was to receive our "termination letters". These were a great leveller: the managing partner's differed from mine only in having a different name at the top, and, of course, in that the amount of money the firm should have paid him for notice and outstanding holiday - but didn't - was much greater.

Guardian Unlimited ) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001