Wednesday, May 19, 2010

BAIT AND SWITCH by Barbara Ehrenreich

Reading this book made me so grateful to have a job that I may postpone retirement. Barbara Ehrenreich goes undercover to join the ranks of the over-40, white-collar unemployed, to find a job in corporate America. However, she has to fabricate her resumé and is seeking a high-level position in public relations. Somehow, I have to give corporate America some credit for not hiring this fraud. In her quest, she seems to make every mistake possible—spending outlandish amounts of money on greedy and unqualified career coaches, networking primarily with other job seekers, and aiming too high. I'm not sure if these mistakes were due to her lack of experience in corporate America or if she made them intentionally for the benefit of the book. In any case, I think she stereotypes corporations as unethical, unimaginative, and intolerant of dissent, and I don't think she's qualified to make these generalizations. A business is in the business of making money, and I work for a very large, global corporation, but I don't see it as bland and heartless, although I expect that many of my co-workers do. The author also makes blanket statements about how corporations expect their employees to be upbeat and often make new hires based on personality rather than experience. What she apparently fails to realize is that one chronic complainer can affect the morale of everyone around him/her, and poor morale is the bane of every company's existence. On the other hand, I don't think most companies discourage well-formulated ideas for positive change. Sure, there are a lot of Enrons and AIGs out there, and corporate American has certainly earned a black eye with all their misdeeds and cover-ups, but I'm still naïve enough to believe that some corporations do still value their employees as their most irreplaceable asset.

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