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.


At 10:51 PM, Blogger Teddy said...

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.

If you can get the airlines to actually understand that, I will worship the ground upon which you stride.

The trick is that from about 8:55 in the morning until 5:05, yeah, you LIVE for that company. It rocks. You're stoked to be there, it's an honor to touch a keyboard belonging to them. The other 15 hours 50 minutes of the day, you're you. work sucks, all that.

Really, it's about tricking yourself. Psych yourself up so much that you really believe the lies you tell yourself, then bring yourself back down at the end of the day.

But if you're not okay with deluding yourself, I guess that's that.


At 9:02 AM, Blogger The Chief said...

Then, of course, there's the other side of the equation: Why should they hire you if you're just going to earn a few dollars and a little experience before moving on to the job you really want? Why should they put the time, money and effort into training you if it's just going to be money down the drain (or worse, training and experience going to a competitor) in a few months? Does the company owe you a living while you're putting every second you're not at work (and perhaps a few seconds you are) looking for your "real job?"

At 4:42 PM, Blogger Goddess Cassandra said...

The chief-

I can understand that may be how the company looks at it. HOWEVER, if they are truly concerned about me staying with the company, what are they doing to make it worth my while? Take an entry level job anywhere (let's stick with airlines, they're a good example). I'm fresh out of UND, I've got, a couple hundred hours under my belt, and I'm looking for a job. I really want to work for...Cathay Pacific. They require about 1000 hours of multiengine, PIC time. I cannot possibly afford 1000 hours out-of-pocket. So I go to get a job at...Mesaba, who's taking me with my degree, certificates, and a couple hundred hours. I do my job well, but the company isn't going to pay me anything. That's the trade off: they pay me shit wages, I get red-eye flights and have to work Christmas, and I don't have a lot of training and experience. That's what they get: they hire me because they need pilots, and they don't want to spend money to get high experience ones.

Now, say Mesaba is really, really concerned about that whole going to a competitor thing. Well, they decide to pay me more. They decide to give me better benefits. They decide to not lay off people so their CEO gets a golden parachute. Suddenly, I DO like Mesaba. I feel like a valued employee, a respected employee. The loyalty springs forth from my breast, and I decide to stay with this company.

Did I have that at the begining? Hell no. If I would have claimed it in an interview, I would have been lying my ass off. But if companies are REALLY, TRULY concerned about my loyalty, there are plenty of things they can do to earn it. Making me lie is not one of them

At 10:09 AM, Blogger The Chief said...

The answer is that not every company is run the same way and has the same bottom line, the same budget for training, employee compensation, etc, etc. Some companies are run better than others. Some governments are run better than others. Some individual lives are run better than others. It's the way of the world.

I've applied for plenty of jobs and, during a brief interval in radio sales management, I've worked on the other side of the interview table. I can tell you that just as an employee will take an occasional job he or she isn't that fond of but it's the best option available at the moment, a company will occasionally hire somebody they're not that enthusiastic about because it's the best applicant they had.

And just as you will try to make sure any company you might work for--even if it'll probably just be temporary, even if it's not your dream job--isn't an absolute snake pit of an employer, the company will ask you questions and try to find out things about you that will determine that you aren't completely worthless, even if you aren't their dream applicant. In other words, they want you to either be enthusiastic about the job or at least be able to fake it well enough to not lose them money. It's really the worst system in the world, except for all the others.

At 12:21 PM, Anonymous theistscientist said...

that craven coward,Redundancy intentional) ebon, just banned another theist because ebon was getting his ass kicked in a debate, then ebon deleted the posts in which his ass was kicked, and three for the hat trick! craven cowardice is very bad for the gene pool, even atheists know that!


Post a Comment

<< Home