Finding a job used to be simple. You’d show up at an office and ask for an application. A friend would mention a job in their department. Or you’d see an ad in a newspaper and send in your cover letter. Maybe you’d call the company a week later to check in, but the basic approach was easy. And once you got a job, you would stay—often for decades.
Now . . . well, it’s complicated. If you want to have a shot at a good job, you need to have a robust profile on LinkdIn. And an enticing personal brand. Or something like that—contemporary how-to books tend to offer contradictory advice. But they agree on one thing: in today’s economy, you can’t just be an employee looking to get hired—you have to market yourself as a business, one that can help another business achieve its goals.
An anthropologist’s view of the job seeking/hiring process. It makes me extremely happy that I am close to retirement. There’s been a sea-change in how people look at the process:
…in the mid-twentieth century, corporations believed that shareholder value depended on the ways in which a company contributed to stable careers and stable communities. Since then, corporations have changed their philosophies—their present concern is with keeping their stock prices as high as possible.
With this change in orientation, companies have encouraged job seekers to change their self-view as well. Instead of the “renting your time to your employer” model that has held sway since the Industrial Revolution, job hunters are now encouraged to think of themselves as their own businesses, “Me, Inc.” They must now seek to show that they are the “best fit” business-wise for a potential “partner.”
This basically means that each of us is an independent contractor, responsible for our own health care and retirement costs. The unequal nature of the relationship renders employment unstable at best, temporary at worst.
For the most part, consideration and respect for job seekers was thin on the ground, and having a thick skin for being treated shabbily is a necessity for people actively looking for work these days.
After reading this volume, I am quite skeptical of LinkedIn as a venue to find employment. All I can do is repeat what I said above: Thank goodness that I’m only a few years from retirement!