Monday, September 04, 2006

Bait and Switch : The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich

This is a funny book.

If you have read (or listened) to author's other book 'Nickel & Dimed', you can probably guess what might be there in the book.

Author documents the first hand experience of trying to get a white-collar job in the US during 2002-2003 time frame and how it went. She ends with a very pessimistic note and it is up to you to decide if such pessimism was unique to the author or justified.

In 'Nickel & Dimed', the author hid her true identity and worked as a house cleaning maid, waitress and a few other blue collar workers to document realities of living 'American dream'. In this book, she does the similar thing for white collar professionals.

In this book the author puts on the identity of a PR professional trying to get a regular job in a company with benefits. Her assumed background is freelancing the same field. What fills up rest of the book is how she goes thru the process using resources such as career coaches, endless networking, resumes, job boards, interviews etc. She also takes a critical look at the entire process and so called useful resources available. You know, they say 'more people made money by teaching people how to make money than making it for themselves on the wall street'. Same thing holds good in job hunting too. At least the author feels so about career coaches and other helpful resources.

The project which runs for good part of one year ends on a sad note. Time is up but the author's dream to get a decent job is unfulfilled. American dream shattered. Bitter and cynical ending.

It's easy to write off the author as someone who did not put full effort into getting a good job, approached the subject with an agenda to prove that corporate world was unfair etc. But, knowing that how difficult it was to get a job between 2001-2003, it merits some consideration. During that time, many well qualified professionals worked in those jobs which they would have not touched with a 10 feet pole otherwise.

I think we can ignore author's pessimism but use the insight from the book to prepare ourselves for similar job market which comes again and again and goes along with different economic cycles. Always learning new things, getting new credentials, saving tonnes of money, investing wisely and other common sense activities all come handy to make our lives recession proof. "When your neighbor loses  job, it is recession. When you lose yours, that is depression'


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