btripp_books (btripp_books) wrote,

We're doomed ...

This is another book that I got from the LibraryThing "Early Reviewer" program, which matches up books provided by publishers with L.T. users who have requested review copies, and whose libraries (via the mysterious workings of "The Algorithm") provide a "best fit" for the title in question. I have, unfortunately, been in and out of the job search so much, that I guess I have more "looking for work" books that most, so ended up getting Ron McGowan's How to Find Work in the 21st Century from the October availabilities.

I have to say, I did not like this book. Unlike, say, Conor Cunneen's, there is no cheerleading, no sense that if you focus on the job hunt, and do certain things, it will turn out OK. Nope. This has the emotional delicacy of Alan Rickman's Severus Snape putting an over-reaching student "back in his place", and reading it has a bit of the feel of being berated and belittled by the author. This is, however, not to say that this is not a very useful book, only that one needs to approach it "steeled" against the onslaught.

Much of the discomfort the book inspires arises from the author's stance that the "traditional job" is, essentially, dead and that everybody needs to get used to scraping for what funds they may be able to eke out from a constantly fluctuating mix of contracting/temporary/freelance gigs. At one point, discussing "young people" coming into this dire new world, he evens says:
They may also want the material benefits that come from having a permanent job: a house, a nice car, and a comfortable lifestyle.
They may want these things? Who doesn't want these things? Obviously, the implication is that these are no longer options ... no house, no "nice" car, no "comfortable" lifestyle. The emotional imagery take-away is of all of North America (the author is Canadian) living in a "Mad Max"-style dumpster-diving economy!

Needless to say, I don't think this is the authors specific intent, but he does paint a very depressing picture of a world where there are nearly no "real jobs" and everybody is having to scramble 24/7 for whatever projects they can find. Now, a lot of "speculative" books I read are based on similar dire forecasts, and so I'm used to taking a scenario like this on its own terms. Given the underlying "doomed economy" message, the practical parts of the book are quite focused and helpful. Again, this is delivered with all the sympathy of Snape, but the book is organized in various sections: "How The Workplace Has Changed" which discusses the author's views of the economy and the job market, "What Exactly Do You Have To Offer" (go ahead, hear that in Rickman's voice) which rather coldly has you pick apart whatever skill sets you might have believed you possessed to find what could be "marketable" in the new economy, "How To Market Yourself" which gives a reasonably detailed "action plan" (however unsentimentally presented) to find those bits and pieces of work (one can, perhaps, generalize this to a "job search", but it's clear that the author thinks that's a "sucker bet" at this point), and "Getting Started" which maps out what one should be doing to "find work". The next portion of the book addresses college students, and teachers of grade- and highschool students (not that the Teachers Unions would ever let ANY of these "reforms" be implemented in the U.S., especially the "co-op education" he suggests which sound a bit like apprenticeships from colonial times!), with versions of the material in the previous chapters aimed at these audiences' skill levels. Finally, there is "Managing Your Career", with more doom-and-gloom about how most Baby Boomers and following generational groups are totally screwed.

Again, if you accept the author's dystopian premises, all this makes perfect sense and fits into a reasonably congruent whole, complete with forms, templates, quizzes, etc. (which are conveniently assembled on an included CD-ROM). He certainly provides a lot of good advice, such as this gem from his "networking" discussion:
... avoid typical networking events that are continually being promoted by amateurs and others with a vested interest in attracting uninformed but well-meaning employment seekers.
... which is about as straight-forward as you can get on the idea of how useful a room full of desperate unemployed people are likely to be for each other!

There are, however, not a few "mixed messages" in the book ... these two snippets stood out (as they were pretty much directly across from each other on facing pages) as an example of this:
Be realistic in your expecations of finding work on the Internet. Richard Bolles ... suggests that the average person has only a 2 percent chance of finding work on the Internet.

The Internet is increasingly becoming the media of choice for companies looking to hire people and for people who are looking for work.
... uh, if it's the "media of choice" that's a pretty sorry state if it's only providing a 2% success rate!

To get a sense of the "tone" of the book, here's how the future the author envisions is presented in the section for kids:
Coming to terms with bad news doesn't come easily to us but it's in our own self-interest to face up to the reality of what is going on in the economy. Like it or not, we must face the fact that for years some governments, a significant portion of industry, and the public have been living beyond their means and now we have to pay the price for that. We've become a society that seems to be incapable of facing up to the harsh reality that good times don't last forever and that going through tough times is a part of the natural cycle of life and the economy. Losing your job or your home or your savings is very hard to deal with but deal with it we must just as our ancestors had to in their time. Nobody knows how long the economic downturn will last or how deep it will be but there are some changes we can make now to get us back on track.
I don't know about you but reading that makes me want to move out to the boonies and stock up on food, fuel, and firearms rather than trying to figure out the best way to, hat-in-hand, look for piecework from whatever companies aren't bankrupt!

I want to reiterate that the practical advice/instructions given in the book are top notch and I've found many things (such as his suggestions for "brochures", which is a "marketing concept" for my own job search which I'd started on, but needed more honing of the concept) which I'm able to apply myself. The caveats being that this is not a "friendly" book and it is ultimately based on a very bleak view of the future.

It appears that, despite being part of the "Early Reviewer" program, How to Find Work in the 21st Century has been around for a bit, as this is noted as being the "fifth edition" (although the initial date in the publishing info seems to only be 2008). If you're a job seeker in "tender" emotional condition, this might not be the best book for you, but if you're looking at going for an alternative career path, outside the "traditional job" this would be a nearly indispensable guidebook for what you need to do to get yourself ready for a nice piece of business in the Thunderdome.


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