Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bait and Switch

I've just finished reading Barbara Ehrenreich's book about her 'futile pursuit of the corporate dream.'

It's beautifully written, and a fascinating look at American corporate culture by an observant and witty outsider.

The book's structure is simple. Fresh from her success after publishing Nickel and Dimed, a study of low paid work and workers in the USA, Ehrenreich began to get letters from white collar workers who were also struggling. Unlike many people in the previous book, the letter writers were educated thoughtful types who'd held good jobs in large corporations, only to be made redundant, often with no warning and when their careers seemed on track.

Many reported how difficult it was to get a similar job, and how their lives were slowly being destroyed by long-term unemployment.

To investigate Ehrenreich decided to change her name, fake up a CV so instead of journalism her specialty was PR, and attempt to get a reasonable job (minimum salary $50,000) in a corporation. She gives herself 4-6 months to find the job (5 months was the average time for unemployed Americans in 2004).

What follows is a fascinating and often repulsive view of an entire predetory industry designed to 'help' depressed and desperate people find jobs. It's filled with people who claim to be 'life and career-coaches' who spout the worst kind of psycho-babel and exhortations like 'mobilise innovation' and 'sell yourself.' Some of these 'experts' charge over $200 an hour to spout this filth.

Later, we get vivid descriptions of the quiet desperation of networking events, and the horrors of career boot camps for job seekers.

Fantastic stuff, and a sombre reminder of how hollow Bush's 'jobless recovery' has been since the dark days of 2001.


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