Category Archives: Labor trends

“Are Jobs Obsolete?”


Fantastic article published today on CNN Opinion, by Douglas Rushkoff, special to CNN.

“New technologies are wreaking havoc on employment figures — from EZpasses ousting toll collectors to Google-controlled self-driving automobiles rendering taxicab drivers obsolete. Every new computer program is basically doing some task that a person used to do. But the computer usually does it faster, more accurately, for less money, and without any health insurance costs.

“We like to believe that the appropriate response is to train humans for higher level work. Instead of collecting tolls, the trained worker will fix and program toll-collecting robots. But it never really works out that way, since not as many people are needed to make the robots as the robots replace.

“And so the president goes on television telling us that the big issue of our time is jobs, jobs, jobs — as if the reason to build high-speed rails and fix bridges is to put people back to work. But it seems to me there’s something backwards in that logic. I find myself wondering if we may be accepting a premise that deserves to be questioned.

“I am afraid to even ask this, but since when is unemployment really a problem? I understand we all want paychecks — or at least money. We want food, shelter, clothing, and all the things that money buys us. But do we all really want jobs?”

Read the rest of the article here.

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Contractual


I’ve gotten a few calls from recruiting agencies recently about potential jobs, usually medical editing jobs, which are long-term contract positions. The pay is decent, but there are no benefits, which includes no paid days off and no health care coverage. At the moment, I’m OK with this. I can suck up the vacation days (at least for a little while).

And I’m OK, insurance-wise. When I was laid off I had my benefits continued for a short while as part of my severance package, and then I was able to enroll in my husband’s insurance plan at his job. We pay extra for it, but the amount is significantly lower than I’d pay for COBRA. Yes, I am lucky, at least in that regard. At earlier times in my life when I’ve been unemployed, I had no health insurance. I could not afford it and took that risk.

Still, I’m wondering about these long-term contract jobs. One company that’s considering me runs a well-known website, which could be a great opportunity for me. I worked on my last company’s website, and I’m familiar with content management and writing for the web–I just haven’t worked for a company that is primarily web-based. So even for a short period, I’d be getting some significant experience.

According to what I’ve read online, many companies aren’t committing to more full-time permanent employees. “Many of the jobs employers are adding are temporary or contract positions, rather than traditional full-time jobs with benefits. With unemployment remaining near 10%, employers have their pick of workers willing to accept less secure positions,” an article on CNN Money says.

The fact that these jobs are short-term — possibly up to a year — feels both good and bad to me. If they like me I may be hired as a permanent employee. If they don’t like me it won’t be as harsh if I get let go (I’m saying this hypothetically–I really can’t predict how I’d feel if that happened). For me, though, my ideal is finding a good niche–a job I’m good at and enjoy doing, with people who respect me, coworkers who are friendly, a decent salary (is this too good to be true?)–and staying there.

Here are two articles discussing contract jobs a little further: The Upsides and Downsides of a Contracting Job, and Advantages and Disadvantages of Contract Work, which says:

“One of the main advantages of working with contract is money. Contractors normally get paid for hours of work with no benefits or holiday pay, but on most jobs you can make more money than if you were doing the same job working full time. … 

Contract work has also more flexibility … Work by contract allows you to change your jobs regularly, particularly if you are working with short-term contracts. …

On the other hand, working with contract can lead you to a difficult time getting a full time job afterward. Employers tend to think that you would not work with them for a lower salary than in contract work. You might encounter times of unemployment after each project; you could be on the search for a new job constantly. Whatever the case is, consider these implications when accepting a contract work, but also take into account the benefits it brings.”


Shelf life


“Once you’re unemployed more than six months, you’re considered pretty much unemployable. We assume that other people have already passed you over, so we don’t want anything to do with you.” –Cynthia Shapiro, former human resources executive and author of Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn’t Want You to Know

The above is excerpted from an April 2011 Reader’s Digest Magazine article, “What HR Won’t Tell You About Your Resume.”

So, it appears, my shelf life is about to expire; I’m nearing the six-month mark. It’s depressing news, but, like the alleged statistics claiming “a woman over 40 has a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married,” some rumors are not true, or are exaggerated. (I met my husband when I was 42 — so there.)

The woman making the above statement is only one HR person. Others, like those quoted in this CNN article, say that in this economy you don’t need to worry until at least nine months.

Still, it does seem to be a disturbing trend. “Job-placement professionals say that over the last year, more and more employers have made it clear they won’t consider job candidates who aren’t working. ‘A lot of our recruiters have had clients who have come across this,’ Matt Deutsch of TopEchelon.com, which brings recruiters together to collaborate in finding jobs for candidates, told (Yahoo blog) The Lookout (February 2011), calling the practice ‘unfortunate.'”

The Lookout article continues: “Some employers have said they’re unwilling to hire unemployed workers because they believe that if a worker has once been let go, that’s a sign that he or she is probably not a great hire. ‘People who are currently employed … are the kind of people you want as opposed to people who get cut,’ one recruiter told the Atlanta Journal Constitution in October.”

I continue to be positive and believe that if one personnel director won’t look at anyone who’s been out of work for six months, there’s another one who will say, “We need the right person for the job.”

When I look at my qualifications — editing, writing, public speaking, extensive computer experience — I know that there are a lot of other people with those skills out there, and I really don’t know how to convince an employer that I’m the best person, beyond editing tests and references. Usually I go into an interview acting confident, friendly and professional and hope I click with the right person. All other things being equal, if someone likes me it may be the edge I need.

I try not to think about the statistics and the trends. Maybe I’m whistling in the dark, but there’s not much else I can do.