Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bait and Switch

I just finished reading "Bait and Switch" by Barbara Ehrenreich. It was about trying to find work in the white collar world with any "gap" in your work history. In it, she talked about a particularily sadistic double-think people have to go through, which is to be "passionate" about a company that will hire you, but perfectly dispassionate about being dismissed.

All of the book reminded me of something that happened in my air transportation class (back when I was trying for an aviation major). My teacher, Prof. G, told us that we had to tell the airline why we were dying to work for them. I asked, "So, you want us to lie?"
"No," he said, "You have to really want to work for them, or else they aren't going to hire you".
I followed up with "What if you don't really want the job, or you aren't particularily passionate about it?"
Instead of answering, he asked "Then why are you applying for a job that you don't want?"
I answered, "Because one has bills to pay, including student loans, because you work a job you don't want to build hours for a job you do"
He said that "You'd never get a job with that kind of attitude" and went on with his spiel about which words to use in a cover letter.
None of the "answers" really addressed the question, but, it did hint around what was going on. It wasn't enough to be skilled, it wasn't enough to be a good employee: if you wanted a job in the corporate world, then you couldn't just fake it, you HAD to be the person who loved the company with an almost cult-like worship. We were getting ridiculously close to the Japanese, who work an extra hour to thank the company for their job.

Another professor, Prof Mustache, was telling us a story in the atrium about an employeer who would go and check the trunk of his prospective employees before hiring them, to see that they were organized enough. I was agast: COPS don't get to look in my trunk in order for me to be a citizen, and I didn't understand what my private life had to do with my ability to fly a plane (particularily for me: my home life is, charitable speaking, chaotic *read, messy*, but my work space is always organized).

The weirdest part of this is, all the other students seemed to just swallow this, without any question. When I questioned these job-gaining tactics, it was I who was looked at like I had grown a third eye, not the teachers.

I don't understand this: companies make their money from the labor of the workers. They are not doing us a favor when they higher us, we are engaging in a (mostly) mutually beneficial relationship. As a worker, I am not a "human resource", I am your wealth. I am not a "payroll expense" I am how a company gets profit. And to do this, I don't have to love the company, I have to work hard, and then at the end of the day, I leave to have a life.

I don't think that I will ever fit into the corporate workplace, and quite frankly, I hope I never have to. It seems insane to me.