The Refugees

When Your Sector Has 'Gone to Shit'

For laid-off dotcommers, this should be the darkest hour, but things aren't nearly so bleak as that. At the latest of the ever popular Pink Slip parties, doting girls stand by the entrance at Rebar, passing out bracelets to the patrons in line as if this were a USO party for war-weary soldiers. "Looking for a job? Have a job? Recruiter?" one girl asks, kindly directing people inside, where five other reporters clutch notepads and swim through the mass of netizens with newfound time on their hands. Survivor plays on the monitors above, but no one in here looks as if they got booted off an island.

"The job market's really good; you just have to see where you want to go," says Kabe, clutching a beer. He had worked for an Internet advertising firm. Now hanging out alongside the manager who gave him the ax, he wryly states that his sector had "gone to shit." He says he'll probably go back to banking. "About two years ago, we would have been millionaires," he says. "We got in a little late, that's all."

Angling for a pickup, recruiters have come in early. These parties have become their testing ground for finding fresh talent, hopefully desperate to work again. But pitching your company in the midst of blaring speakers and party-hearty prospective employees is not without its problems. "Leaving the environment is what I had in mind," barks Robert Sheridan, a software developer looking to recruit for EATONI Ergonomics, a company that produces software for text entry into handheld devices. "My initial impression is, How the hell can you talk to anybody? Maybe the only easy way to talk would be to text messages to each other."

"This is our third party," says a recruiter from Web Intelligence, an IT services company that's had mixed results finding workers. "We are more interested in tech and sales. These people seem to be more involved in marketing and advertising."

Or cornering the market. Zephrin and Jennifer tell of their startup, Beautility.com, an e-commerce site selling clothes and furniture. The duo left their jobs in finance to follow their dream—all the way to the bottom, it turned out. "We were trying to kill the Gap and Pottery Barn, but they never knew we existed," Jennifer says, laughing. "We didn't launch, 'cause we tried to raise money in August 2000."

She laments the fall of the venture capitalist spirit, pointing to Bernado's List, a newsletter for New York new media professionals that's talking more career advice than buzz. "Everything's turned into a résumé-building workshop. Thank God we're all connected," she says. "So we can all commiserate and network for jobs!"

As the party shows signs of fading, the reporter from MSNBC clears the greater part of the bar for her outro, ready to expound upon the scattered hopes of a generation that had been ready to cash in on the digital revolution. She's reaching, though, because the reality is just not that deep. A lot of young people simply failed at taking on the old companies and their outdated work ethics. Start-ups moved the kids onto the battlefield, but e-commerce, bank capital, and streaming applets blew out midway. Back to the drawing board.

 
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