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© December 2008 Anthony Lawrence

Review: Bait and Switch

  • Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Bait and Switch
  • Metropolitan Books
  • 9780739465530

Barbara Ehrenreich set out to write a book about working in corporate America. This would have been a logical progression from her previous Nickel and Dimed, which was about the horrible conditions of America's working poor and the exploitation of them by business. Barbara expected to report on the difficulties of white collar workers; the over demanding bosses, the long hours of unpaid work and so on. Instead she found herself unable to get a job at all, so the book is actually about the numb horror of the white collar unemployed.

She's going to get a lot of criticism on this because it's easy to explain her failure to find employment in terms of her own shortcomings and mistakes. It doesn't help that she had to fake her resume to avoid detection as the reporter/writer that she actually is. She had to avoid certain industries where she might be known and (because of her fake resume) any government employment. Finally, her job searching was hampered by being limited to generic, "any old degree will do" positions where there is tremendous competition for the few available jobs. That's all true, and it's going to be all too easy for people to smugly dismiss this book because of that.

But you shouldn't. The grim picture she paints of desperate and helpless people sinking into poverty or underemployment (often both) is all too real. Corporate employees are disposable - it's not just the lowly secretaries, this goes right into the $100,000 a year people and up. Greed has consumed any sense of morality or responsibility; if you are not needed, you get thrown out with the trash. Crawling out of the trash can be very difficult and if you get stuck too long, it just gets harder. Sometimes it becomes impossible.

I recommend reading this. I also recommend that you find a way not to be part of this dehumanizing corporate culture. Of course I mean by working for yourself. I know: it's not easy. There's a lot of fear about self employment, a lot of stomach churning questions. But ending up on the waste heap of corporate America is far worse.

See my "Employment" links in the sidebar for more articles on self employment. But do read this book - it might open your eyes.

Tony Lawrence 2008-12-29 Rating: 4.5

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Mon Dec 29 15:11:11 2008: 4999   BigDumbDinosaur

It doesn't help that she had to fake her resume to avoid detection as the reporter/writer that she actually is.

These days it's pretty difficult to fake a resume and get through all the screening processes that employers use to weed out "undesirables." A few bucks spent at the right website will get you all sorts of information about a prospective employee, accurate or otherwise. A lot of companies purchase credit reports on job-seekers, which information will automatically provide a relatively detailed employment history. I wouldn't be surprised if that was done to Ms. Ehrenreich as she went about the business of trying to get a job. The whole process stinks, to put it mildly.

Mon Dec 29 18:21:29 2008: 5000   TonyLawrence

Not entirely. She used her maiden name, so was able to list proper educational credentials. She claimed to have been a consultant and was able to get a few contacts to "lie" in the interests of helping her get a job. So it was more that she had been working as a consultant than anything else.

Wed Dec 31 03:04:31 2008: 5006   MartinMalden

I found myself on the corporate scrap heap during the telecom meltdown in 2000/2001 and was unemployed for 9 months. I totally relate to the comments you've made above.

And that experience was exactly the reason I started working online. I'm back in the corporate world at the moment (although I do plan to go fully independent this year) but should I get tossed out early in the current meltdown I will at least have something to fall back on.



Wed Dec 31 04:01:00 2008: 5007   TonyLawrence

I wish you luck. These are tough times indeed.

Mon Mar 30 14:36:32 2009: 5907   TonyLawrence

I was amused and a little disgusted by this Twitter job posting: (link)

They say this will

>be a "high touch" point of contact at Twitter for the burgeoning number of celebrities on the service. We want to make sure they're happy, using the product effectively, etc.

As you'd expect, these celebrities need kid glove treatment:

>They should be tech savvy enough to answer questions and solve basic problems (though they can fall back on our tech support). And they should definitely present themselves (and the company) well on the phone and in person.


> This person is probably pretty junior (it won't pay a lot)

Gosh, isn't that special?


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