The Only Thing Wrong with Corporate America is Everything

I had just started a call with a recruiter when she stopped me, “Your elevator pitch needs work,” she said. “If I were the hiring manager you’d have already lost me.”

I almost hung up the phone right there. I knew that everything after that would be a waste of both of our time because she’d already decided I sucked and I had already decided I didn’t want to work with her, anyway. Still, we talked for another 15 minutes while I listened to her shuffle papers around on her desk, obviously uninterested in anything else I had to say.

Turned out that the position wasn’t a good fit for me, anyway. At least according to her. I don’t actually know, since she’s just some third party trying to get candidates in the door for some company somewhere that needs an analyst.

This is how the world of the job search goes anymore. Companies outsource to recruiters. A half dozen recruiters then compete to get a candidate in the door. On the candidate side we’re just fungible commodities, traded back and forth, treated like royalty until the moment we’re turned down at which point the recruiters lose our numbers. Sometimes before they call to let us know we didn’t get the position.

I’m honestly amazed that anyone in America has a job right now.

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I get multiple emails a week with subject lines like, “How you might be sabotaging your job search,” and, “Four things never to say in an interview.” I only ever put my resume out on Monster and CareerBuilder but somehow have ended up on about a thousand different job search lists. It’s good to know someone, somewhere, is currently making money off of my resume even if it isn’t me, I guess.

The ones that baffle me, though, are the job listings I get with, “Here are some positions you might be interested in,” and there’s an analyst position in Spokane, a project manager position in New York, and a customer service position in St Louis. It’s obvious that the people sending those out don’t give a shit about even reading the resumes they’ve purchased from somewhere and are just throwing darts against the wall and hoping something sticks.

Either that or there are vast herds of white collar workers following the seasonal cycle of project manager positions around the nation.

“I hear the spreadsheets are so thick in Minneapolis that they coat the ground like snow in the middle of July,” these migrant professionals say before loading their late-model Accords with the family’s meager goods and turning their backs on Omaha. They pull their Six Sigma black belts a little tighter and head north, hoping that the promise of project management work will make up for the disappointments and setbacks they suffered under Nebraska’s unrelenting sun. We all know that these latter day Joads will be headed to Nashville or Denver or Mobile in another three months, though, chasing another bumper crop of pricing models and line-item reports.

That’s how the story always ends. Another disappointment. Another endless road under leaden skies that promises only toil and gloom.

I guess office workers need their own Steinbeck. They could also use their own Cesar Chavez. Unfortunately I think that what they have is Donald Trump.

———————-

I don’t think there’s a conspiracy out there to be uncovered but I do think there’s a status quo that’s extremely good for the people cutting the paychecks and terrible for the people getting them. People who have jobs are willing to go to great lengths to keep them. People who don’t have jobs are willing to suck up to anyone to get them. It doesn’t require too much reading between the lines to figure out who that circumstance is good for.

I don’t think that it’s a healthy world when Jamie Dimon is a pseudo-celebrity and household name. I know it’s not a healthy world when Donald Trump only finally got pushback when he accused all Mexicans of being rapists. The list goes on: Carly Fiorina, Mitt Romney, Bruce Rauner.[1] We have an unfortunate tendency in America to think that success in business means you’re a better person than everyone else. You don’t even have to succeed, sadly. Carly Fiorina ran HP into the ground. Mitt Romney destroyed companies and ruined lives to enrich himself. Bruce Rauner is a giant bag of dicks.

I do not like Bruce Rauner much, in case that’s not clear.

———————–

I think the reason why we seem to think Mitt Romney might be capable of running the country goes hand-in-hand with the reason we’re willing to grovel before HR to keep our jobs. The American office worker is headed down the long, bumpy road to serfdom. We no longer answer to a feudal lord but we are willing to give up our freedoms to a CEO and then thank them for the privilege.[2]

This isn’t exactly new, though, this celebritization of American business leaders. We lionize men like Henry Ford, William Randolph Hearst, and John D Rockefeller while conveniently ignoring that Ford was a rabid Anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer, Hearst manufactured the Spanish-American War to sell newspapers, and John D Rockefeller was the first in a class of businessmen the history books now call Robber Barons.

All of those men put their names on buildings, or, in the case of Henry Ford, the whole damn state of Michigan. We’re more likely to think of Carnegie Hall or Rockefeller Plaza than who those men stepped on to make enough money to put their names on those buildings. Were it not for that I think we’d follow the logic of the term “Robber Baron” and remember Rockefeller and Carnegie as the villains.

Upton Sinclair tried. John Steinbeck tried. F. Scott Fitzgerald tried. Unfortunately we relegated those books to English class and buried the message under papers about the symbolism of the red chickens or the billboard with the glasses or stories about how The Jungle lead to the creation of the FDA and the end of tinned meats. We don’t approach Steinbeck or Fitzgerald as historians, but as English majors and, in doing so, we miss the forest for the trees.[3]

———————

I’ve finally realized that it’s time to be done with all of this. The problem isn’t with my elevator pitch. The problem isn’t that I’m sabotaging my job search by neglecting to put all of the right keywords on my resume.

The problem is that we’ve let the Robber Barons remain in charge. The problem is that we’ve stayed silent because we’ve been afraid of being pulled up in front of HR and told we no longer have a job. The problem is that we’ve decided that if our boss finds our Facebook profile and doesn’t like something in it it’s our fault for making that information public, not the company’s fault for believing that our time belongs to them.

The system is broken but we’re too defanged and declawed to do anything about it. We’re so scared that we look at a Mitt Romney or a Bruce Rauner and see all the lives they’ve ruined in business and say, “Hey, we should probably make them governors of something.”

America doesn’t need another Mitt Romney. America doesn’t need another apologist for the Robber Barons. America needs to wake up and see that we’ve let corporate America run our lives for too long. We’ve sacrificed our freedom and prosperity for laziness and conformity and a greedy few have been more than happy to take advantage.

We need a brand new paradigm.

———————–

[1]For those who aren’t familiar with Bruce Rauner, he’s the current governor of Illinois. He ran under the, “I’m a businessman, elect me to fix Springfield,” platform. That was the first thing I knew about him and the only piece of information I needed to know I wanted nothing to do with him. He’s now less than six months into his term and his approval rating last I looked was 36%. He’s taking out political campaign style ads targeting Mike Madigan, the head of the Illinois General Assembly and the most powerful Illinois politician not named Barack Obama, Dick Durbin, or Mark Kirk. Why is he doing this? Because Madigan and the Illinois Democrats want nothing to do with Rauner’s, “I’m a businessman, I’ma fix the economy by cutting services and fucking everyone over,” budget and Rauner knows dick about political horse trading.

The sad fact of the matter is that Illinois is fundamentally screwed, budget wise. The problem, honestly, is that the Democrats have had free reign for too long and had a bad habit of kicking the can of fiscal responsibility down the road. They raided pension funds to for pet projects and then when the economy went into the shitter they found out that the state is broke but still had bills to pay and they couldn’t play games anymore. It needs to be fixed.

The absolute last person I want fixing that sort of budgetary problem is a businessman. If a business fails the people in charge can sell it off to a competitor or declare bankruptcy and sell the office furniture to make their mortgage payments until they figure something else out. The State of Illinois can’t declare bankruptcy and sell off the Lincoln Presidential Museum to JPMorgan.

Actually, technically they can. But then you end up with a fiasco like Richie Daley selling off the Chicago parking meters to a private business. Parking prices went up, people got pissed, and the city basically ended up with a handful of magic beans. If there is an actual beanstalk it’s probably made of PVC pipe and ends in the giant’s toilet.

[2]Take that, Friedrich von Hayek!

[3]I read The Great Gatsby twice in high school. It became one of my favorite books in the years following and I read it several more times. It was only after I separated that book from high school English classes that I realized the book is a scathing indictment of the American upper class. Tom takes a lower class lover. Daisy ends up running her over in a car. The lover’s cuckold husband then shoots Gatsby and commits suicide, at which point Fitzgerald says, “The holocaust was complete.”

What were Tom and Daisy doing during this holocaust? Eating cold chicken in their kitchen. They retreated back into their wealth and privilege and ignored all the chaos they’d caused that started when Daisy managed to convince a poor young soldier to pursue a wealth and station that could never actually be his.

We should read The Great Gatsby as a call to action. Instead we read it as this bizarre, disjointed collection of images to be removed from the coherent whole and dissected into oblivion. It’s little wonder that the great works of literature never seem to survive the American education system. Oh, also, spoiler alert.

One thought on “The Only Thing Wrong with Corporate America is Everything

  1. (Another) part of the problem is that there just isn’t enough work. Not only are there not enough jobs for all the people who want them, there isn’t enough actual needed work in most of the individual jobs out there. Instead of having a sensible system of basic living income, we’re artificially maintaining this idea of “deserving workers” and “undeserving poor” specifically in order to have a threat to hold over the heads of the former.

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