December 16, 2017

Humane Resources

No one likes whining.  I’ll try not to whine.  I realize that if you speak out against mistreatment on others’ behalf, it’s justice.  If you speak out on your own behalf, it’s whining.  But maybe I can see the bottom of the boot better from down here and describe it more accurately.  If that’s whining, I apologize in advance.

I’ve been job-hunting for months.  This has surprised me, as I’ve never had a hard time finding a job before.  But the school where I was teaching closed, and I have to do something else.  Suddenly my education and experience, which were considered assets where I used to work, seem to be worth nothing any longer and can’t keep my resume from the trash can.  And the maddening thing is that I don’t know what to do about that.

Thirty years ago we were given good advice about job hunting:  Make it personal.  Get your foot in the door.  Talk on the phone.  Send your resume in the mail.  But you can’t do that anymore!  Many want ads don’t even list the company that’s hiring, only an email address of an agency.  If the company is named, there is no telephone number or person’s name to apply to.  Bold print on the ad insists that job seekers must not call, must not mail materials, must not come to the office.

Human resources has it all their way.  The system is set up entirely for their convenience.  The jobseeker is an annoyance who has to be barricaded against.  But ironically, not only the jobseeker suffers from the human resource hegemony.  In most places the people and departments who need new employees don’t even get to see the majority of applications coming in.  They’ve all been screened by HR, and most HR people aren’t in the position to go out on a limb, to follow a hunch, or to give someone a try.  I suspect that the people who ultimately do the hiring suffer as much from the HR barricade as the jobseekers do.

My point here, though, is not to complain about the difficulties of finding a job.  (Email me if you’d like to join my tirade about that!)  My point is that the system has become inhumane and materialistic. “Inhumane” is obvious to anyone who’s been buffeted by it.  I chose the word “materialistic” to imply that the universe of the current HR-dominated job exchange is a closed system.

A materialist believes that the material universe is all there is.  Therefore everything is finite.  Goods are ultimately in short supply.  Any good you have is a loss to me, and anything I acquire is taken from you.  “To be” means “to be in competition,” as Screwtape says.

The materialist sees the jobseeker as a competitor for scarce resources, red in tooth and claw, prowling to seek his own advantage at whatever cost to those around him.  “We can’t let him in the door!”  HR wails and starts nailing crooked pieces of wood over all the windows.

The idea that jobseekers are assets, are a potential good that they and the company would mutually benefit from, is entirely foreign to this way of thinking.  Materialists don’t assume that all the people out there are in fact valuable human beings.  They assume that one of the crowd will have proved himself fitter to survive than the others, will have clawed his way to the top, and that he is the one they want.

It’s a very adolescent view, the materialist one.  Do you remember, as you got older, noticing with surprise all the happily married couples of plain, even dumpy-looking, people?  When you’re a teenager, you think that only the “best” will attract a mate or succeed at anything — only the cheerleader, or the football player, or the valedictorian, or whatever the aristocracy was in your adolescence.  Then you notice that even the average people, even the bottom of the social heap, seem to be happy, find love, do well in their lives.  And it first occurs to you that maybe life is not a competition to establish my value over yours, maybe life is a courtship of equally valued beings.

Mostly the materialist view is rooted in a profound misunderstanding about who and what God is, and what his universe is like.  Materialists entirely miss the point of the loaves and the fishes.  But there is another reason for the prevalence of materialism nowadays.  It is the perception that there are too many of us competing for too few resources, that in olden days (probably apocryphal) people lived in small communities and could afford to be in relationship with their few neighbors, but now in our big cities we get overwhelmed.

There was a Doonesbury cartoon from the days of Pol Pot.  BD and Fred the Viet Cong (if I remember correctly) are cooking a pot of rice over a fire.  A refugee comes up and says, “Can we share your rice?”  “Umm, sure,” says Fred; “how many of you are there?”  “Five hundred thousand,” says the refugee.

We call it compassion fatigue.  There are too many hungry, the rice won’t stretch that far.  There are too many homeless, they can’t all fit in the guest room.  There are too many unemployed, they can’t all be hired.  So to protect themselves from despair people build barricades, set up impersonal email addresses, move into gated communities.  Many who do that aren’t bad people.  If you could get through the barricades you’d find that they were friendly and generous enough.  But they’ve missed the point of the loaves and fishes.

The point of the loaves and fishes is this:  Jesus would just have been an admirably generous man if he had shared the little he had with the crowds.  But he was — is — God.  His creative and beneficent power is infinitely greater than we can imagine.  The universe is not a closed system.  There is a limitless supply, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.  Life is a courtship, not a competition; a giving of gifts and not a staking out of territory.  Against all human imagining, there are bread and fish enough for all, with more left over.

Now I only wish I could meet the human resources person whose faith is strong enough to let me in the door, who could believe that I — or one of the other desperate people — might be an asset and a blessing, not a debit and a drain.

And I also want to remember, if I ever do get a job and am the one wearing the boot, what the sole looks like from underneath.

Comments

  1. I fear we’ve entered the age of Stalinist capitalism — a system ruled by the principles of constant fear and uncertainty at every level and rung of the ladder. A friend of mine, who is in a management position with a major global company, recently confessed to me that more and more he is pressured from above to treat those under him with cruelty and contempt — so much so that simple acts of kindness or mercy or basic human descency are regarded as grounds for termination. He would love to quit before it kills his spirit, but, with a new-born and a huge house payment, he’s afraid of plunging his family into poverty or homelessness.
    And I know how you feel, Damaris. I spent most of 2008 job hunting with the monster of bankruptcy and financial oblivion breathing down my neck. Finally, I had to swallow my pride and stop shooting high, settling with a job at a small business completely outside and well beneath my level of education and experience. I don’t make a lot of money, but I do feel appreciated and needed.
    Mammon is a cruel, petty god, and I long for the day when Jesus kicks him to the curb. But until that day, I guess we’ve all got to work for our bread with the sweat of our brow — though, in Christ, we don’t have to live in fear.

    • Stalinist capitalism? There is an interesting and paradoxical thought. However, I would point out that the current system has nothing to do with the left and with Stalin. This is the world in which the independent business executive is king, in which the multinational corporation must not be muzzled, according to a particular economic theory being put forward by many today.

      There is nothing of Stalinist statism in the system today. Rather, the sad part is the the “little people,” the “silent majority” have been convinced that the problem is government regulation rather than an out of control business environment. Damaris’ story shows what happens when business is uncontrolled and free to “farm out” HR or do anything it wishes without protection for the employee.

      This is one of my rare political comments, but the story (and the BP mess) helps to point out why I do believe in government involvement in business practices. Instead, we are quickly returning to the world of Charles Dickens, in which there will not even be workhouses for the unemployed (read A Christmas Carol) because even those workhouses will be seen as too much government involvement.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I understand the term, Fr Ernesto. Multinational megacorps DO have something in common with Comrade Stalin:

        “One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is only a number.”
        — Comrade Stalin

        Multinationals have become so large they lose all sense of scale; with millions of “personnel units” working for them. In a way, they DO become like classic Communists — the individual (except those on the top giving orders) is nothing, the Collective/Corporation is everything.

        And the larger they get, the greater the power — or at least the illusion of power — at the top. Power defined as being able to force your will upon others — your employees/personnel units, your competitors, the economy, the world.

        “The only goal of Power is POWER.”
        — Comrade O’Brian, Airstrip One, Oceania, 1984

        And a lot of Christians have bought into it; Christ = America = Capitalism= Megacorporate Economy = Godly. One gadfly on LiveJournal traced this back to an alliance between big-name Evangelical Christians and big-name Goldwater Republicans back in the early-to-mid 1960s, responding to the common threat of the USSR and what it stood for (Anti-capitalism and Atheism) during that middle period of the Cold War.

        And as the years passed, the two — Evangelical Christians and Extreme Capitalists — blurred into each other; Evangelicals were cross-fertilized with the Business Model of doing everything, and Extreme Capitalists were cross-fertilized with the certainty of Godly Divine Right. (These days, the guy over at Totem to Temple jokes that “GOP” stands for “God’s Only Party.”)

        “Nothing worse than a monster who thinks he’s right with God.”
        — Captain Mal Reynolds, Free Trader Serenity

        • HUG — I think you’re teasing Ernesto, but I get this nagging feeling that perhaps you’re not. Multi-nationals have their issues, to be sure. But what they have in common with Stalin? Well, yes, they are all populated with human beings.

          Do you know of multi-nationals that have imprisoned people in gulags? Have shot people? Have taken food away from people who owned it (and please don’t say not paying much is the same as confiscating food!)?

          And please don’t say that when governments take land from peasants and give it (for a price, of course) to multi-nationals that it’s the corporation that is Stalinesque. Because it was the government that made it happen.

          OK, if you were just teasing him, I guess I was being too serious.

      • Father Ernesto,

        We have more government involvement in business than at any time in our history and it is only increasing. Regulation is increasing exponentially, just witness the recently passed ‘financial overhaul’ and the health care bill. (Had a long talk with my doctor about that one, and contrary to popular belief, it will make things worse, not better.)

        The problem is that government and big business are in bed together. All the gov’t financial apparatus is run by alumni of Goldman Sachs. (Geitner, Paulson, and Bernanke, all ex Goldman people.) Our government agreed to and implemented the bailout of their friends on Wall Street.
        Campaign finance in this country is a scandal, with businesses giving money to candidates from both parties during the same election to ensure they will have a “voice’ regardless of who is elected.
        Government employee unions on the local, state, and federal levels have guaranteed the bankruptcy of California and Illinois, with more states and municipalities sure to follow.

        As to there not being ‘work houses for the unemployed’ it will be because all the money is gone, not because our friendly and helpful government lacks the will to institute a cradle to grave welfare state.

  2. Damaris,

    In my experience, it’s worse than that for many jobs I’ve applied for because the hiring is actually hired out to third party contractors who don’t even let the employer know their methods! Insiders say this is maddening because they know these third parties are passing up good talent. Upload your resume into a website and it jumbles up all the info. They’re looking for pre-determined “keywords” because they’ve got thousands of resumes to wade through. What those keywords are is anybody’s guess. Maybe God has somebody on the inside who will be as wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.

    • Damaris says:

      Yup, exactly.

    • Here’s the deal with my firm: I am the one in the position to hire people.
      My decision on whether to hire anyone at all is based on my perception of future workload. Our company is in the construction business (design related), which will be the last thing that recovers in this latest downturn. Due to the regulatory environment, there is no such thing as a “shovel ready” project other than repaving roadways. and despite th best intentions of Washington, it’s not a one-time federal tax credit that gets me excited about hiring someone, it’s the long-term prognosis of the economy and the competency of the state government (none- – I’m in CA). And credit / cash flow is so tight, with so many clients in arrears, that we need to err on the side of potentially understaffing, rather than not meeting payroll someday.
      I’ve had interns request to work for free in exchange for the experience, in order to qualify for professional exams. However, the Dept. of Labor won’t permit it, even though it’s really just making the best of a difficult situation.

      When things recover (and they eventually will), the people we hire will be ones that demonstrate a strategic fit within a smaller, leaner company, not someone who was just settling for a paycheck.
      My keywords will be flexible, multitasker, self starter, motivator. My business requires technical competency, but honestly, more than 50% of the skills for success would find overlap with a good nanny or a traffic cop… just getting people to follow-through on what they promised to do. THAT’s a very rare commodity.
      i don’t find those people primarily by looking at resumes. I find them at volunteer organizations related to my technical area.

      • Josh T. says:

        “volunteer organizations related to my technical area.”

        And what, may I ask, does that mean?

        • My next hires will need technical expertise in certain specific, emerging types of CAD software. There are local groups that meet to support its implementation in the industry. No one gets paid to attend these groups (“volunteer”). Thus, I know that the people who do attend are passionate about this aspect of their work, and I’ll keep my eyes out for their resume in the future.
          Again, I’m trying to find someone who is not just in it for the paycheck.

          • Josh T. says:

            Gee, Steve, what CAD software are you supporting (if it’s emerging and needs implementation, obviously it’s not AutoCAD). I’d ask this question privately, but neither of us have links with our names. 🙂

    • The keywords are typically in the job posting. The posting tells you what they want. Use those words whenever they fit in your resume, which should be tailored to the position you’re applying for.

      Be sure to use a txt file and no special formatting — that’s often what causes the jumbling of data.

      And note what Anna wrote several posts down — find a person you know inside the company, and have them get your res to the hiring person, if possible. It worked for her. That way you avoid getting lost in the pile.

      • amylynn1022 says:

        George,
        I think you are missing the point. You often cannot even find out the company that is hiring because they are hiding behind a third-party “recruiting” firm which then hides behind a computer algorithm to “sort-through” resumes. How the bleep do you write a specialized resume for job (much less get the resume in the hands of the person hiring) when you cannot even tell who you are applying with?

        News flash to companies: if I see a job ad that does not identity the company I am apply for and doesn’t list a phone number or address I assume that there is something shady going on, like a pyramid scheme or a fly-by-night outfit. Making yourself look like you might be engaged in something borderline criminal is not an effective recruiting strategy in ANY economy.

        • Damaris says:

          I second that, Amylynn! I also don’t want to apply for a job that might involve a two-hour commute, but when I don’t know what and where the company is, I can’t decide whether to apply. I actually prefer going straight to places that might hire someone like me. I haven’t been impressed by the various on-line placement services. They claim to match my qualifications with available jobs: one suggested I apply for a job requiring a veteran engineer, and I have a master’s in Medieval literature. I don’t have much confidence in the abilities of computers to make sensible choices.

  3. Damaris, if you are talking to human resources (who view humans as a resource), then you are talking to the wrong people. The best advice I’ve found in the career changes I’ve made was found in Richard Bolles’ classic book, “What Color Is Your Parachute?” He also has a new book “The Job Hunters Survival Guide” which will also put you in good stead. They are all available on his site at: http://www.jobhuntersbible.com/ Check it out and best wishes on the career change.

    • Damaris says:

      Thanks, Rick. I will check out that web site. The parachute book is one that I knew well, in the old days, but I’m finding it hard to apply in today’s climate.

      • Amen to that. It seems that the “bunker mentality” is still pretty prevalent, with no one wanting to hire anyone they don’t absolutely HAVE to. In that kind of situation, discovering who you want to work for and convincing them why they need you and what you could do for them (the “Parachute” approach) seems more likely to go over like a lead balloon.

        BTW: the school I worked at closed a year ago, and I’m having a very very similar experience to yours. I’ve had a few interviews, and the one interview with a small company — too small to even have an HR office — netted me the nicest, most personalized and most encouraging rejection letter I’ve ever seen.

  4. JoanieD says:

    “Against all human imagining, there are bread and fish enough for all, with more left over.”

    I know that is true, Damaris, but it often does not look or feel true. But, when I was in college and had just met the man that would later be my husband, we had started living together and had very little money. I then got a letter from the college saying they had done some reviews of my financial package and decided to give me another grant! Talk about manna from heaven. That’s how it felt. I had not even contacted them about this possibility.

    My husband hasn’t been working for three years (except for a tiny part-time situation) and my salary is not making it for us. We have refinanced the house a couple times and are doing it now again and then will have maxed out our equity IF we can get the loan IF the appraisal is high enough. Credit cards are maxing out. Pray for us! It’s doubly difficult because with Tom’s physical, mental, spiritual problems, he does not want to apply for most positions we see open.

  5. Lisa Dye says:

    I’m praying for you, Damaris. You are one of the best thinkers I know. You will be a great asset to someone soon.

  6. Josh T. says:

    Damaris, I think I know exactly where you’re coming from… I spent over 12 years at the same job to find myself unemployed since the beginning of February. It was a job that was supposed to be a temporary thing while I finished college, but when life happened, school became unfriendly to commuters, and the hour and a quarter drive from job to night classes became an impediment.

    Now I find myself unemployed and practically unmarketable. The industry I was in is doing horribly in this economy, my B.A. degree is not finished (would have required additional school to be marketable, anyway), and my talents and capabilities are many, but ultimately hobby-derived and self-taught, rather than from an official education.

    But similar to what I hear you saying, what I *do* find during job searches is almost more discouraging than what I *don’t* find. By that, I mean two extremes. The vast majority of positions I see are “extreme” entry-level wage so the employer doesn’t have to pay anything (practically minimum wage or 100% commissioned sales)………. OR they require a Bachelor degree in a very specific field PLUS 3-5 years of experience, at least. In other words, companies are so lazy and unwilling to invest in their employees, that hardly anyone is willing to train people anymore.

    No wonder people even with college degrees can’t find work. It’s a very sad situation for a lot of people, as far as I can see. Praying for you now, Damaris.

    • Damaris says:

      And you, Josh.

      • Josh T. says:

        Thanks, Damaris. I truly appreciate it.

        And to make matters worse, I just received email word from an Apprenticeship program that I didn’t get in (I had a 1 in 4 chance), despite my qualifications. Unfortunately, the only reasons I think I didn’t get in are age (I’m in my 30’s) and commuting distance (which means I won’t be able to participate in their extracurricular activities). I couldn’t be more qualified in academics or aptitude, and I’m not saying that to boast; in terms of relevance to the program’s qualifications, it is absolutely true.

        • Damaris says:

          It really is maddening. They don’t know what they’re missing.

          • Jim Park says:

            …and so many who are now unemployed after many years and who lower their sites to take anything they can find are “over qualified” …whatever that means. Damaris, Josh there are many in your boat (and mine) and the system is pretty sucky. Prayers for you. God provides …but he uses people, so keep your eyes open!

    • Josh, where I am, Arizona, over 300,000 jobs have gone away. When a company needs to hire someone, it can probably find someone who has the skills and experience and training it needs. If it can, hiring that person is not lazy or unwilling — it’s efficient. Wouldn’t you choose to hire a person who was right for the job over someone who lacked some qualifications?

      • Of course, George. But unfortunately, in an economy like this (in which lots of very qualified people are looking for work), those of us who need just a little bit of training or who are fresh out of college are completely SOL most of the time, it seems.

        The issue is the following question: where did the “right person for the job” get their extra qualifications from? Somebody had to train them at least informally. It’s a chicken and egg thing–or the car/job analogy: you need transportation to have a job, but you need a job to be able to afford to buy the car that will get you there. So with this: you need extra qualifications on top of your BA or BS in order to get the job. Where do those come from, if not from getting a job that does not require 3-5 years experience.

        Thankfully, I do have a little bit of consulting work I’m doing in the process, but it does not look like it will be a sustainable enterprise in the long run.

    • Yes, I’m hitting the two extremes too: jobs that are way over my head, versus jobs that use a tenth of my skills and don’t pay enough to live on.

      Oh and P.S. — add in the over-50 factor and the prospects get even dimmer. Experience is apparently of no value, even though it means that I’ve made virtually every possible mistake in my skill set and therefore know how to find, diagonose and fix them.

  7. Damaris, I have to disagree with you somewhat: HR is impersonal and barricaded not so much because they are materialistic, but because they are paranoid. The raison d’être of HR departments everywhere is to avoid lawsuits. If it weren’t for the risk of encountering a litigious applicant (or employee), there would be no need for HR departments.

    That’s why they pass up good talent, too: they aren’t there to find talent – they are there to find passable workers using a process that is as closed as possible so as to prevent getting sued.

    • That’s not an encouraging message. I don’t see much good coming out of such an approach–for workers or companies.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Welcome to the real world.

        I work in Irvine, Yuppie Central of the OC, where the lawyer-to-people ratio is higher than any place outside of D.C. Lawsuits are considered Get Rich Quick/Big Money For Free. At my last condo, I got sued by the alcohol-based life form downstairs of me pretty much because he ran low on booze money — “I’m Entitled!” “Never been sued” is so rare it should get engraved on tombstones around here.

        My father wanted me to become a lawyer “because that’s where the money is.” My business law instructor in college said that Tort Law (lawsuits) are what you go into if you want to get rich. “Plaintiff”s Lawyer gets 40% cut of the take, right off the top, so he can afford to take the case on spec. Defendant’s lawyer however charges cash up front; that’s why more often than not, you settle out of court. Punitive Damages are traditionally seven times actual monetary damages, rounded up to the next million. Cut in a shrink for 10% of the gross to testify about Emotional Damage and Distress, and you can tack on another million easy. There’s so much money in Tort Law, it’ll corrupt anybody.”

        And that was in 1978. It’s gotten worse since.

  8. And here’s the next step of dehumanization, after “HR”: if you apply for the kind of jobs I have to apply for, the process is all done online. With a multiple-choice, automatically scored “personality tests” that you are never allowed to see the results of. And automatically generated rejection emails.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And after all the dog-and-pony show of HR, who gets hired is:
      1) The big boss’s son or cousin.
      2) The big boss’s latest sex partner.
      3) Some intern from India for sub-minimum wage with a visa they can revoke at any moment if he gets uppity.
      4) Nobody; it was just to justify outsourcing to China or India, leaving only top management with their titles, positions, and bonuses in-country.
      5) Nobody, it was all for show. Who needs more workers when you can just “increase productivity” with 15-hour days take it or leave it and/or “multitasking” where the prole works two jobs but only gets paid for one? The less you spend on paychecks and benefits, the more profit there is for management bonuses.

      There’s a reason Scott Adams cast Catbert as “Evil HR Director”.

      • There was a reason why Walmart was so ardently opposed by supposed “liberals.” It pioneered the hiring of multiple part-timers and few full-timers so that they could avoid paying benefits. Notice that the founder of Walmart is lauded by many Religious Right people as a good Christian (he was a Presbyterian), and is used as a model for what capitalism is all about. But, as much as he accomplished, this was also an uncaring capitalism that passed off all social costs to the State and then whipped its competitors with the savings from both not having to pay benefits and aggressive bargaining techniques with suppliers once the stores became large. Thus responsible smaller firms that did pay benefits and did care were slowly driven out of business or forced to switch to the multiple part-timer model.

        It is this type of uncaring capitalism that is being espoused by all too many in the Religious Right. It is neither the State’s nor the employer’s responsibility to provide any social benefits. It is either the individual employee (regardless of how low the wage) or the church who is responsible for taking care of people. Since the church obviously does not (with some isolated exceptions) that leaves the individual in the same place as Charles Dickens found him/her when he wrote his books in the late 1800’s.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Fr Ernesto, the county newspaper where I am preens itself on being Libertarian (TM). Every editorial includes some sneering denunciation about “Statism” and “Government fill-in-the-blank” and a mantra about “The Free Market Economy.”

          I’d feel a better about their editorial philosophy if they didn’t praise Ayn Rand in words and phrases usually reserved for Deity or Obama and/or hold up 1800s England as the Perfect Example of The Free Market Economy.

          • Damaris says:

            I saw a fun ironic conjunction the other day. A car ahead of me had a “Libertarian: Less Government, More Freedom” bumper sticker on it, right next to a license frame that said “US Naval Reserve.” Um, what?

          • There is only a contradiction between libertarianism and the naval reserve if you think that “less government” really means “no government.” Less government can easily include national defense while excluding, of, I don’t know, maybe government ownership of GM, control over what healthcare you can buy, and denying selected free speech.

          • The libertarian logic behind the US representing 50% of global military spending has always eluded me.

      • Jonathan Blake says:

        That’s exactly how it was in my home city before I moved/transferred colleges over a month ago. The way my job search (and my wife’s- she landed a part-time telemarketer job with no benefits and nowhere near enough to cover the bills) has been going. It seems like I can’t even get considered for a job all the while those positions remain posted and unfilled. The only way I and everyone I knew could get jobs back home was by knowing someone on the inside; here I don’t have that luxury so I just continue trusting in God waiting for that full-time job for my wife and the part-time for me.

        • And, Jonathan, by what might be called directed servanthood. Look for opportunities to serve people within the communities you seek to get employed. True, because you want reciprocity you won’t be rewarded in heaven. But you will be serving others — not a bad thing, according to the Book.

  9. Damaris says:

    You guys aren’t making me feel any better, although they say misery loves company. For your sakes I’d rather be lonely!

    It’s interesting that “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, CEO extraordinaire, expert of slash-and-burn personnel policies, is considered mainstream American, despite his little accounting misunderstanding. While Barbara Ehrenreich, a brilliant, compassionate, insightful writer, is a dangerous radical because of her strong leftist tendencies. Dunlap advocated — and practiced — firing people quarterly in order to boost his company’s “value.” Ehrenreich believes that people should be paid a living wage and treated with respect. I don’t agree with all her conclusions, but I can’t fault her observations. She, I expect, would be proud to be one of the socialists Rev. Stanley was raving bout (See Chaplain Mike’s recent post); Dunlap would certainly claim that he’s one of the capitalists that made America what it is — which we probably won’t dispute, whatever side of the political divide we come down on.

    • I’d think Dunlap was considered an outlier.

      The problem with Ehrenreich and others who push that “living wage” notion is that they have a sense of entitlement when it comes to what constitutes a living wage. I get emails denouncing illegal immigrants who take jobs Americans would take if only they paid a decent wage. In fact, you’ll see a comment posted below here using a nasty term for illegals that says they’ll work for a dollar a day. I’ve never seen that, but they do work cheaper than “we” do. And they still save money and send it to their families. I could not do that, because my mortgage, my AC, my cars, my food bill, my restaurant bill, my cable bill, my internet — hey, they cost a lot so I need a living wage! Some people — and I’m guessing there are some of them posting here — would say: Easy solution! We’ll have government MAKE the employers pay more. Can’t raise prices, tho. They’ll just have to pay higher wages. Maybe they should pay the execs and owners less! (Not a bad idea, but not enough of a solution, either.) These people never have a realistic solution.

      • George, you make a good point about what a living wage should secure. As a hospice chaplain, I visit folks who grew up or started their adult lives during the Depression. They have quite a different understanding of “needs” vs. “wants.”

        But the sense of entitlement you pinpoint is true all over the world. I recall flying over many impoverished villages in India where the satellite tv dishes were prominent, where I’m sure they had no running water and cooked over open cow dung fires. And try telling someone of a younger generation in any culture that a cell phone is not a “need.”

        On the other hand, I do think the whole health care situation is a tragedy, and I’m not sure what the solution is. I have a pretty good (though by many standards rather low-paying) job with health benefits. The cost to me for those benefits is over 25% of my salary, to say nothing of what it costs the company besides. In the last church I served, the cost of providing health insurance for two staff members and their families would have paid the salary for another staff member. But the cost to our society of providing care for the uninsured through emergency rooms, etc., is astronomical as well. This is a system broken in so many ways, and I fear the half-measures enacted in reform because of political volatility will only make things more complicated and ultimately more expensive.

        • amylynn1022 says:

          There was a discussion on the Slacktivist blog about cellphones and whether they are “luxury”. (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2010/05/you-need-a-telephone-to-get-a-job.html) For a lot of people, especially if their housing situation is unstable, a cellphone is a better economic deal than a land line. (If you want to claim that a phone is not a necessity, Fred Clark included a MacDonald’s online application which requires a phone number.) I recommend the discussion to everyone, as it touches on several points that have come up in this discussion.

  10. This is somewhat invetable in a capitalist system, I think. The worker’s only value is in what he or she can contribute to the company; the individual has no inherent value outside of that. The worst thing is that many Christian organizations fall into this same trap. I remember applying for a position in a very large and well known Christian charity and ending up a finalist. They flew me to HQ for two days of the weirdest interviews and situations I’ve ever been in, including one person in a group interview who steamed on and on about his stresses at the organization, and another very young interviewer who asked me what I’d do if someone wanted a project on a tight deadline and “didn’t care” what trouble it caused my department. I replied that I didn’t think a follower of Christ should ever not care about another person’s situation or pain. She backpedaled pretty fast after that. I didn’t get the job. I’ve been grateful for that every time I’ve reflect on the situation.

    • So you’ve said it’s not just capitalism where the member’s value is measured by contribution — it’s also Christian charities, at least one that you know. Is the different elsewhere? If so I’ve not seen it. In unions, as long as you contribute your loyalty/vote/dues to the union, they keep you safe. In government, as long as you contribute to the power of the organization, they keep you in. Outside of the Kingdom, it’s the same all over.

    • John,

      It sounds like you dodged a BIG bullet there.

  11. Damaris,

    I know it can be discouraging to be looking for a job and not finding one. I know that it can be frustrating to be looking for anything and not finding it. This frustration can be let go of, like everything else, through acceptance. Acceptance, of course, is not synonymous with complacency, inaction, condoning or resignation. It is simply ceasing to struggle with that which is. And we find that the REAL source of our frustration and suffering is not the situation, but rather inability or unwillingness to let go.

    I say that to say this:

    God’s world, the spiritual world, REALITY, can only be met by letting go of the delusions of our perception. And if we don’t let go of a frustrating situation, then our perception will be skewed. It has to be. I know how it must appear from where you are. But the good news is, it isn’t true. There is a job for you, but more importantly, there is a divinely-directed plan for you. Let go of your judgment that HR departments are screwed up and that the professional world is out to get you (my hyperbole), and see what takes it’s place before you. You’ll be surprised. I promise.

    The universe has been around for 13.7 billion years (or about 6000, if you were home-schooled by Biblical literalists), so what could possibly be that important in the 70-80 that we’re given here on Earth, the tiniest speck of stardust in all of creation?

    I don’t mean to preach, because I empathize with you, truly, and I know how ugly the world can look through those tired lenses. But I do want to offer some hope that there is a solution to fear and economic insecurity that doesn’t involve money or employment… but it is a permanent solution that you can take anywhere you go.

    Cheers,

    • one more Mike says:

      Joseph,

      The last time I was in a church (a southern baptist megachurch), a minister in a $1000 suit made the following statement: “If you’re having problems in this economy, if you have job problems or can’t find a job, it’s because of this…(dramatic pause)….you’re not reading and studying your bible correctly.” I walked out of that church and won’t walk back into another one. Ever.

      The advice you gave Damaris is the standard condecension of people who profess love for you, but are really glad they aren’t in your position, and wish you’d go to church somewhere else so you don’t remind them that “there but for the grace of God go I”. And as well meaning as you think you might be, you are no help.

      I’ve been unemployed for 2 years, except for the occasional part-time consulting gig, after being forced to retire from a job after 26 years. I am an expert in networking, resume’ writing, cold-calling. I have a Masters. I am also over 50 years old, which is not something that education, experience, prayers, bible study or training can overcome. I have had career coaches help out, and many of my friends wont anwer my phone calls or emails anymore because they don’t want me asking them for job leads. And the people who stopped answering my calls and emails first were the “good christians”, the “churchianics”. People who consider themselves religious will do horribly selfish, corrupt things to others in the workplace and “in the world”, and think it’s OK because they think they’re good people because they go to church.

      Most of the bad things that have happened to me in my life were at the hands of “christians”, starting with being molested at age 4 by a minister in a restroom at the church. I grew up in the church, raised my children in the church (not the one I was molested in) and they still attend churches where they live, but I’ve been snakebit and powder-burned enough , and the crappy treatment by christians (in church and professionally) hasn’t abated, and I’m done giving the church any more chances. The church and the “churchianics” have always turned their backs on me, and now I’ve finally turned my back on them. I gave them a lot more chances than they gave me.

      Sorry this got a bit off track, and don’t mean to chop you up personally Joseph, but people with jobs should keep their platitudes, promises and really bad advice, i.e., “…read your bible “correctly”…”, to themselves. And there is no “solution to fear and economic insecurity that doesn’t involve money or employment”. Come and run ahead of the bill collectors with me if you don’t believe it.

      God bless Michael Spencer.

      • Damaris says:

        I appreciate the solidarity, One More Mike. Sometimes you can do everything right, and the job just doesn’t open up. I have, over the years, had truly miraculous answers to prayer, last-minute reprieves and astounding gifts of grace. I know God is capable of doing this, and I continue to try to do everything “right” in case he does. But at this point he is choosing not to. I don’t know why, but I’m not going to drop him because he’s not following the name-it-and-claim-it rules. I hope you feel the same, although distancing yourself from the Job’s comforters and other toxic types may be a good idea for a while.

        The book of Job may be one of the most profound in the Bible.

      • Jonathan Blake says:

        one more Mike please forgive us; we truly can be a pathetic lot who needs God’s grace and Him to overlook our sins more than anyone else. I know I personally never wronged you but as a follower of Jesus it breaks my heart to hear how people (real disciples or not) abuse the name of our Lord and I apologize for all that’s been done in the guise of being Christian. I’ve been burned by church people as well though in different ways and yes God bless Michael Spencer who has given voice to our hurts and doubts and shown us a way to Jesus past all the mess of the modern, American church!

      • Where did I mention the Bible?

        The “advice” I gave has nothing to do with Jesus. In fact, I never once in my post mentioned Jesus, the Bible or Church.

        I am not a religious person.

        I do not call myself a Christian.

        I do not give advice that I have not taken myself.

        Good luck finding a job.

  12. I can relate. I used to change jobs every two-three years. Then I moved to Phoenix to join a company and stayed there 15 years, until it tanked. Then consulting for 5 years, then employed for two, and now back to consulting — tho only for 10 days since last August.

    And yeah, I’ve done the on-line apps. No success with that.

    However, what I have seen work is networking. When one job opened up, a person in the dept asked her friend for referrals, who provided my name and two others. One of them — not me, obviously — got the job. The consulting gigs I’ve landed have all been via contacts developed. The last job was a result of one of those contacts.

    Do HR depts worry about being sued? Yeah, i suppose they do. Once I had interviewed well, but when I was offered the job, it was at a salary well below the stated range. It occurred to me later that they made that offer so they could say I, who is over 40 (and over 60 now), was offered the job but turned it down.

    However, the biggest issue is these depts get a ton of applicants and have to reduce the pile down to a few. Josh experienced that. He had great academics and aptitude, but he was not able to participate as much as they wanted and he was in his 30’s — apparently that means he had experiences that the employer thought might conflict with what they wanted him to learn. OK, so they had someone else who could participate fully and who did not have the interfering experiences. I understand, as i was shot down for a job (one of two finalists) because The other guy could work from the corporate office, and I would have to work from home. I’d select the other guy, too — wouldn’t you, if we were both equivalent? If not, why would you reject the other guy? What would you tell him?

    In a way, Headless is right. The person who gets hired is often someone the boss knows. At my last job, I hired a woman who’d been out of the industry for 10 years. But I knew her from the old days, and I knew she was good.

    Don’t you people know others who think you’re good? Call them. Ask them to introduce you to people they work with. Ask them for critiques on your resume. Don’t ask for jobs — they know what you want and will help if they can, but don’t need pressure from you.

    Are you doing consulting to show you’re still active? Remember, no one asks how many days you’ve done, or how much you made at it — so you can work free for a non-profit, maybe — but you are showing that you’re working.

    I read yesterday in Christianity Today about a missionary family who was given a bowl of chili — enough for 4 — and they spooned out enough to feed 100 orphans. That was in the last decade, as I recall. God still provides out of what appears to be next to nothing.

    For the foreseeable future, there will not be enough jobs to go around. But that does not mean God will not make something available to you. So don’t quit.

    Let me know if I can help.

    • Damaris says:

      Thanks for the ideas, George. Unfortunately all the people I’ve worked closely with in the past years, the ones who know I’m good at my job, are also unemployed. I will not quit. I haven’t been able to find consulting work, but I’m still trying.

  13. David Cornwell says:

    Corporate capitalism is becoming a monster that threatens to swallow all of us. It’s almost beyond control or regulation. And it may not get better anytime soon. Political parties are so in their debt that real reform simply will not happen.

    When working for a large company, they expect total loyalty. But they have absolutely none toward their employees.Human resource departments have everything but a human face.

    This isn’t exactly the corporate world, but it s related. My daughter is a public school teacher. She has some years of seniority. But the political climate has turned to a “blame the teacher” mentality. For the first time she is starting to really fear for her job and the future of our schools. There is no loyalty toward the teachers and now they seem bent on destroying the union.

    These are not easy times. Hopefully something will break your way soon.

  14. Damaris says:

    Your comments are compelling, friends. I didn’t know if I’d find others with similar experiences, although I assumed I would. Forgive me if this post has seemed too personal. My main reason for writing it was actually to speculate on the difference between the materialist and the Christian point of view, using my recent experiences as a springboard. I would be ashamed to abuse this excellent blog just to get sympathy. That said, I’m grateful for your kindnesses and sorry to hear of the suffering out there.

    But hey, what about that difference in worldview? It sounds as if we all need a reminder that this universe isn’t a closed system.

  15. David Cornwell says:

    When I think of the difficulties people are now having in their occupations or lack thereof it makes me very thankful I’m retired, getting some money for it, having a place to live, and something to eat. I really feel for younger generations, my children, and grandchildren and the world around them. The prayer our Lord taught us is a good one for “this day.”

    • Jonathan Blake says:

      And as I pray it daily it has developed a much deeper meaning than when I was younger and my mom effortlessly (at least it looked like it from my p.o.v.) provided for me all my needs. The Lord’s Prayer has become much more real. “Father,…May your Kingdom come!…Give us today our daily bread… and deliver us from evil.”

      • David Cornwell says:

        Amen. I had cancer surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy 10 years ago and many days this was the only prayer I knew how to pray, especially when driving back and forth to and from treatment.. And then the long nights silently reciting the 23rd Psalm again and again.

        When all other prayer seems to flounder in our minds and in our mouths, this prayer never fails us.

  16. Andy Zook says:

    Mr. Cornwell….you are so correct and then I go to church or a family gathering or a get together with christian friends and I’m branded a godless liberal communist the minute I attempt a reasonable critique of that free market western economic system as if it’s some inerrant Biblical doctrine… makes me sick

    • David Cornwell says:

      One of the things that I’ve valued about the early Wesleyan movement was its insistence on “social holiness,” including slavery, prison reform, and universal education among others. John Wesley wasn’t bashful in his preaching about any of these things and this movement had a real impact.

  17. HR?
    Dont get me started!
    :-0

    Seriously, I feel your pain. I have been through the job seeker wars.
    HR has to justify itself by “owning” the job application process. Then, having become the only game in town, they view the task as an incredible imposition and resent it. So they look for time easing techniques–scanning resumes for key words, etc. The irony is groups within a company know friends or good candidates and “school” them on how to prepare their resume to get past HR so they can get to the internal group for the interview! This has been going on for decades–I remember my Dad, when he worked at a NYC bank, telling his buddy what to put on the resume so it would get past HR and to his group!

    Hang in there.

  18. Damaris, Josh T, Joanie D, one more Mike, (and any other job seekers out there),

    My prayers go up, and my heart goes out to you. I know what you all mean about HR. I’ve rarely seen a decent one. My experiences include using the same words as in the ad, being screened out, and then via a contact who knew the person hiring, I sent my resume to him and got the job. I’ve also gotten rejection letters after I had a offer from the company.

    If it is any reassurance, none of the rules that are given worked for me, networking never did work, but Monster did.

    If you were close, I’d treat you to a luxury, like a restaurant meal, or whatever would help keep you going. I”ve scars from “I’ll pray for you” but what I wanted was “Invite me to run errands with you. I’m lonely, it’s hard to look for work 8 hours a day”

    As far as the philosopy difference, I don’t see it in HR, but in the whole culture right now. Businesses frequently have two ugly choices, send manufacturing overseas or shut down completely,. I’ve seen too many manufacturing jobs and professional support disappear because of the Walmart philosphy. (Not to mention mergers)

    • Damaris says:

      I’d take you up on it, Anna!

    • Anna — You wrote”and then via a contact who knew the person hiring, I sent my resume to him and got the job. …. none of the rules that are given worked for me, networking never did work….”

      Well, i guess it did once! Contacting a person to get them your res to get it to someone who knew the hiring person — that’s networking!

  19. dumb ox says:

    It’s funny that humane treatment of workers never shows up as an evangelical public policy issue. During the industrial revolution, Christians in England and America crusaded for the improvement of labor conditions and wages. Reinhold Niebuhr openly opposed Henry Ford’s labor practices. A Christian who stands up for worker rights now will be accused of endorsing liberation theology – and probably face the same fate as Oscar Romero. How could this have happened? Perhaps it goes back to the cold war, when anything endorsing labor rights was labeled communist. I think it is also because both Washington and Wall Street are driven by a distinctly western-secular world view, but dressed in patriotic ribbons, which somehow makes it palatable for conservative evangelicals.

    The church in continental Europe was abandoned largely because it became a defender of the bourgeoisie at the alienation of labor and farm classes. As the bourgeoisie faded or were swept away by revolutions, churches became empty museums.

    In America, churches became defenders of the suburban, upper-middle class and tailored itself to its narcissism and materialistic values, at the alienation of working-class and lower middle-classes. Now, America is entering what I would call the post-suburban generation, where the affluent, suburban lifestyle will become less and less possible as more and more jobs are outsourced. As in continental Europe, the result will be more and more empty churches and a greater hostility toward the church as a symbol of western secularism that valued materialism above human rights. Educated workers – doctors, engineers, businessmen, etc. – who once were part of the vanishing suburban lifestyle will find themselves unemployed and exploited – like the working classes that they looked down on for so many years, who were supposed to just go back to school and then “git a job”.

    • Damaris says:

      Interestingly, despite Marx’s predictioins, the Revolution never happened in countries where Christians and others concerned themselves with the poor and with workers. For example, England, with Dickens, Carlyle, and even Gladstone, averted the threat Marx thought was inevitable. We did, too. I wonder with you what will happen if the poor and the workers are ignored here in the future.

  20. The part of this thing that makes me angry is that we are groomed from almost birth to have an ’employee mindset’, go to school,. followed by college, followed by climbing the company ladder, followed by retirement. I have two college degrees and am using neither one at my present job.

    I was raised to be dependent on someone else (a ‘job’) for a living. I realized this awhile ago, and that provided some impetus for me to start New Reformation Press. ( I don’t really earn a living from NRP, but it has come through with some extra cash from time to time.) I am also starting another small business in another industry (one that will earn enough for me to live), because I no longer believe the ‘social contract’ that says years of working for a company will be followed by ‘golden years’ of retirement.

    I have friends who are putting together new lives by cobbling together different ways to make money. One family I know makes enough to live on reselling stuff on Ebay. Someone else has a little part time job and sells stuff on Craig’s List. My sister gives lectures on Anthropology and does massage therapy on the side.

    I have a part time job and do NRP and my new venture. My wife teaches swim lessons in the summer and is a substitute TA during the school year. She also has a side business helping the parents of handicapped children navigate the sharky waters of the Special Education Industry, and teaching job and life skills to help handicapped young adults transition to the workplace. We don’t have a lot, but we keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. We have the added benefit of the freedom to spend more time together, not being tied down to 50 plus hour a week job.

    Others are moving in with family members and sharing expenses. Everyone I know is cutting expenses.

    In the long run I think it will be good for us as a culture to become more self reliant and step off of the hamster wheel we have been brainwashed to believe was our birthright.

    • Patrick — wise thoughts and prudent actions. It’s impressive that you and many of your friends have figured this out. I didn’t, but it’s being thrust upon me.

      Please reconsider being angry, tho. I recall asking my parents about whether I should take a particular job out of the army. After some hemming and hawing, they said: We just don’t know. They had no experience in the area. Likewise, those folk who groomed you with the employee mindset — that was what they knew from their experience. Before that, it was be a farmer. Just as generals always prepare for the last war because that was what they experienced, teachers and parents do the same thing. It’s all they know. They deserve some grace, too.

      And, seriously, someone with your wisdom should be able to award some grace!

      • George,

        Sorry I was less than clear. I am not angry at my parents or teachers per se. I am however angry with the “system’ that perpetuates the idea that the hamster wheel is our only real option.

        Having adopted the philosophy of minimalism in the last couple of years has really clarified some of this stuff and has put me on a path to much greater freedom, both personally and financially. Much of it also dovetails nicely with Christ’s teaching in the Gospels.

        Peace to you.

    • Patrick,

      You missspelt “eBay.” I’m doing a startup blog comment editing business. If you have been helped by my input and desire to help me in return, please email my and I can give you an address for sending money. This applies to all who comment here. 🙂

  21. The very phrase “human resources” says it all. Employees are like any resource used by the corporation, whether it be electricity, raw materials or capital. The goal is always to use less of it and get it at the cheapest price you can.

    In my corporate life and before I found God, I spent a good number of years just figuring out new business processes in order to lay people off. Hundreds if not thousands of people lost their income just so we could pay stockholders a few cents more in dividends. I got big bonuses and promotions. It’s one reason I know in my heart that as long as we have health insurance companies running our health care system, we’re in trouble. There is someone like me working there, figuring out how to deny claims by any justification they can, to get themselves promoted.

    I am just very surprised that we do not have more conservatives and libertarians moving to that paradise with little or no interference by the government in business practices: Somalia. There, if you want to be a pirate, you can be a pirate. If you want to spill oil, spill oil. If you want to hire people for $1.00 a day and then not pay them, you can do that too.

    I think if you printed the Sermon on the Mount and some selected writings by Ayn Rand side by side, didn’t say who wrote them, and then asked people which was the most American, probably 2 out of 3 would go with Rand.

  22. This comment is a little late in the game, but needs to be said. HR departments provide a firewall against another kind of applicant: the woefully unqualified or the embarrassingly overqualified. I read not long ago about a county that offered a janitorial position, and I think the article said that over 1,000 people applied. How many of those really knew what it took to be janitors? And how many would take the job and leave in a few months when they found the job they wanted more? Some people are deluded about how qualified they are. They’re not qualified. Others are just looking for something to tide them over until the next big thing comes along. And some just want to prove to the employment office that they’re still looking for work. They know they probably won’t be offered the job, and they wouldn’t take it, anyway. Interviewing these folks is a complete waste of time and company resources.

    • And unfortunately, well-qualified people who would be loyal to the company get overlooked because of this.

    • amylynn1022 says:

      There are humane ways to sort through applicants maintain the human dignity of all involved. Why do you think that 1000 applied for a janitor’s position? Perhaps they need a JOB and there were not a lot out there? Yes, there are a lot of people who are less qualified than they they think they are. (Too many of them seem to be in management.) You can find that out by talking to them and reading their resumes. As for turn-over concerns, most serious turnover problems in my experience seem to be caused by the companies treating their employees so badly they cannot get out fast enough.

      The “overqualification” is one I don’t think has been treated honestly by most companies. I’ll take my current job in a call center which I am by any definition overqualified for. My employer will pretty much hire anyone who meets some minimum qualifications, which should be all that you need to do the job. But the conditions of the job–the high pace of the work, the lack of resources, the expectation that the work be near-perfect regardless–means that you pretty much have to be over-qualified to be able to keep the job. Some of the inability to keep the job is a lack of knowledge of the basic social skills needed to keep any job but a lot of the turnover seems to be environmental. I’ve seen this in few jobs, but not as extremely as in this one. Comments?

  23. Alex Martin says:

    Haven’t you figured it out yet?

    God wants you to be poor and homeless as punishment for how you live your life.