FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL

Like everything else, the economy and job market are subject to fads. Every few years there's some new job or field that we tell our children to study in college and for which politicians pretend we're going to re-train laid off auto workers. Every time I see one of those "10 Fastest Growing Careers!" stories I immediately flash to Dustin Hoffman being cornered at a party in The Graduate: "One word: Plastics!"

Whenever there appears to be a hint of demand in some field or industry, we are all encouraged to stampede toward it. It's like watching eight year olds play soccer, mindlessly (and fruitlessly) chasing the ball from one place to another. Just in my lifetime I've seen the ball bounce from business (especially MBA) programs to anything remotely related to computers to law schools to medical fields like nursing and pharmacy. If I had a nickel for every article or new segment on the nursing shortage in the last ten years I'd…be making money in a very strange manner. I'd also have a lot of nickels.

And now, lo and behold, it turns out that doubling the number of nursing students from a decade ago is producing more graduates than the job market will absorb. Sound familiar, law school grads? After a lifetime of parents, guidance counselors, and academic advisers telling you that it was a great idea, you reach the end of your education and find a saturated job market. Your primary achievement appears to be helping to create a buyer's labor market for corporate hospitals and their endless battles with nurses' unions.

As the linked article shows, nurses and nursing students are apparently turning to the same fallacy that has sustained academia for the past five or ten years: that there is a giant cohort of Baby Boomers all getting ready to retire and they're just hanging on right now until their 401(k)s turn around. They're always just about to start retiring. Next year! Or maybe like five years! But it's gonna be soon, we swear. The problem, of course, is that the stock market has largely recovered since 2008, and when these aging boomers do retire, employers will look to a job market choked with tens of thousands of desperate candidates and offer salary and benefits that look nothing like what the departing older workers got. In academia, this means replacing retired tenured faculty with temps, adjuncts, and other industry terms for "cheap labor". In nursing, this means more hospitals outsourcing nursing to staffing agencies and short-term contract employment, meaning that the reasons we were all told to stampede toward that field in the first place – a shortage of qualified workers, good salary/benefits, and job security – no longer exist.

I think that's called "bait and switch." Or maybe it's not a bug, but a feature of the exciting new Third Wave knowledge-and-services economy. We never know what The Market will want from one moment to the next, and when it changes course we all need to drop what we're doing, uncomplainingly give up the human capital and experience we've amassed in whatever field we've been in, and learn how to do whatever new thing seems to be in demand. This would be ludicrous enough on its face without the added bonus of doing all that and finding that you can't even get a job in the Hot New Field.

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42 Responses to “FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL”

  1. T.W. Says:

    THANK YOU. My day job is admissions at a very large community college, and for years we've encouraged any student who can pass some life science courses on their first three or four tries to try nursing. "It's such a promising career!", they said. "You'll have a bright future!", they said. I'd always point out to the rest of our PR squad (behind curtains, of course) that this approach would never work long term if it became flooded.

    First, veteran nurses taking refresher courses complained about "kids" coming in to do their jobs for much less pay.

    After that, we've had new grads contracted out, traveling 100 miles from home to work at small hospitals in tiny towns.

    Now, major employers in my city are trying to thin the herd with higher education standards. No, an RN won't cut it. Get a BSN. Higher education makes a killing dangling the carrot before their eyes. Just a little bit more and you, too can have your ticket to the middle class. I wonder what the next career bubble/burst will be.

  2. argleblargle Says:

    Indeed. It's almost the one thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on these days- education will get you a job! You just have to pick the right degree! But now even people with the "right" degrees are struggling.

    I don't know whether this is because of irresistible long-term trends like globalization, peak oil, and robots, or whether this is just the result of the economy being driven into the ground by greedy or incompetent assholes. I guess the ultimate cause doesn't much matter- we're equally fucked just the same.

    My current strategy is to think radically. You're not going to find a good job by simply enrolling in a standard curriculum, taking classes, and doing what they tell you- anything that easy will be quickly filled to the saturation point and beyond by a desperate horde of precariots, just like nursing is now. You do need some sort of college degree, just to check off that box, but the subject doesn't matter.

    The best chance of finding a job, assuming you don't have powerful connections, is to find something dirty and nasty that most people really don't want to do.

  3. Major Kong Says:

    I'm still waiting for the "pilot shortage" I've been hearing about for almost 30 years.

  4. Middle Seaman Says:

    Easy for me to say, a baby boomer with a Medicare card who pays more in alimony than most people make. The post combines two, in my opinion, unrelated problems.

    People love predictions. Predictions, however, are based on the past and tend to be inaccurate. Add to that the incompetence of most predictors and you have yourself tons of crap.

    The second problem is declining salaries. Class warfare is waging in one direction. The Haves want more and want to take it from the Have Nots. They succeed because they control the media, the political parties and already have almost everything there is to have.

    We cannot improve prediction, but we can join together and defeat W and Obama who both want to make us indigent.

  5. Arslan Says:

    It's definitely a feature, and not a bug. A defining point of capitalism is that things take control over people rather than vice versa. We are given this alleged political freedom, freedom of choice, speech, etc., and yet we are literally enthralled to the market.

  6. comrade x Says:

    @ arglebargle: that use to be true about the dirty jobs.
    For example, garbage collectors used to be public service employees, with a strong union, good pay and benefits. Now the union is busted and the employees get paid about half of what they used to make, and their benefits are shit.

  7. c u n d gulag Says:

    In the not too distant past, companies used to look for job candidates who had certain aptitudes, skills, and abilities, and TRAINED them. And kept retraining them when needed.
    The incentive was there for the companies to keep the people they hired in those job long-term, since it was expensive to search for candidates, and train them – and then pay them, and give them benefits.

    Now, companies have "out-sourced" that training to 2 and 4 year colleges.

    It's much cheaper for them – they pick out the best, and hire them. And, since there are always more candidates, waiting outside the door, they can afford to pay the people they hire less, and give less benefits.

    That, and companies are now holding their jobs in many towns, districts, and even whole states, hostage. "If you don't give my company X in tax breaks, and/or give us Y in incentives, to stay, we'll take our jobs to another area. There's a nice little "At Will" state that's been begging for us to move there. Shame what'll happen to this area if we do move…"

    We're in a 'Death Race To the Bottom' in this country.
    And, sadly, I don't know what the solution to this is.
    I'm almost 55, and haven't had a job in almost 3 years – and with no prospects that I can see, outside of filing for SSDI again.

    But, there are a lot of people a whole lot smarter than me out there, so, hopefully, some of them can come up with a solution.
    Any ideas?

  8. Isaac Says:

    I get very angry every couple weeks when I'm in the airport and some talking head comes on CNN and says how there are all these awesome good-paying jobs out there but Americans don't have the proper skills and training so companies are looking elsewhere. Just a moment while my cohort and I pull 8 years of specialized, focused secondary education and 5-10 years of work experience out of our asses because 15 years ago when we were graduating high school and choosing a career path, your company and your industry didn't even fucking exist bozo. Fuck you.

  9. LK Says:

    @Middle Seaman: I'm reading Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise right now- he says prediction, while difficult, is not impossible. We can (and should) improve it. But the first point he makes is that what passes for "prediction" for most audiences is downright punditry. The incentives there are not for accuracy, but rather for headline impact. You'd do about as well with a coin toss, over the long run.

    @Isaac and c u n d : no one has been hiring recent graduates for at least a decade now. Where I live it's gotten so bad that no one pays attention to the level of experience posted in "wanted" ads, or even in recruiters' dossiers. People apply straight out of college for jobs that officially require three or five years experience, and many of them get hired. It has become a game, where they use the "we're doing you a favor giving you this job" line to cut pay and benefits across the board (you see, we had better qualified candidates, but we _liked_ you, so we'll train you on the job).

  10. Carolina Orange Says:

    Just to give some context, my fianc

  11. Carolina Orange Says:

    Sorry, for some reason the full comment didn't post:

    Just to give some context, my fiancé obtained her BSN from a top 5 university and went to work at one of the top 10 hospitals in the country (which also coincidentally has the highest paid doctors and administrators in the country). Unfortunately, this hospital is in a right-to-work state. Last summer she reached her 5-year anniversary and received a glass paperweight in recognition. Her salary still hovers around $45,000. Her insurance is so bad that she's getting on my insurance once we get married. The insurance is of course tied to the hospital – the only covered providers are employed by the hospital, so the hospital benefits directly every time she needs health care.

    In my opinion the main problem is demand; the turnover among the nurses is outrageous, which the administration encourages with the low salaries. Entire units will turnover within the year, and the hospital just hires the next batch of graduates from Bumfuck Community College. And of course the nurses can't organize to get better pay or benefits, which is why they make half as much as their compatriots in California or New York. Plus, the way the administration sees it (and unfortunately in the debutante south, the way many nurses see themselves), this is just a temporary job to have something to do until the womenfolk get married and start pushing out children.

  12. Anonymouse Says:

    @gulag: I remember back in 1993, a company I worked for won a contract to supply X, only X was a new technology and the workforce simply had no experience with it. The company worked with the local community college and ran their employees through a specialized, 8-week training class that then allowed the employees to do the job. I still use X from time to time.

    Yeah, those days are long, long gone.

  13. BigHank53 Says:

    Funny how that degree became so vital right after student loans became non-dischargable in bankruptcy, isn't it?

    Not that this is anything new. In the late seventies there was a shortage of chemical engineers, and by 1984 the joke went like this:

    "What's the first question a chemical engineering graduate gets asked on his job interview?"

    "Have you ever waited on tables before?"

  14. xynzee Says:

    There are a number of issues at hand.

    Picking up a thread that CU made about how companies will play communities off of each other is one. Some industries used to be so big and heavy that they had no choice, but to stay put. Steel or auto for example.

    But now even these are more transient than in the past. Probably because states and governments will gladly bend over backwards and help offset the set up costs. The Federal Gov't will give "tax breaks" to these companies for cutting and running (taking a loss) on one factory, and for capital expenditure for setting up in another.

    It's hard to say that was an intentional plan to screw workers and states, it was just two loop holes that alone make sense in and of themselves. However, used in conjunction we get what we have here. One way to at least slow it down, is that the IRS will say you can claim the loss on the abandoned premises, or you can claim the start up costs of a new premises. But not both. Particularly, when it is a case of relocating between states or communities.

    I'm not sure whose idea it was, but in some ways the 401(k) idea makes sense. Prior to that, it was all pensioned based, which was related to the number of years one was with the company etc. Effectively locking someone into a company for life. If you had a psycho boss or wanted to climb upwards, well you're as good as stuck. The 401(k) made it so employees could be more mobile. In the process it also broke that long term commitment and obligation that the company had to its employees as well. So on that level, it was a two way street. If you don't like here, well it's now your "choice", there's the door if you want to use it. So which came first? I'm too young give an answer to that.

    Something I realised recently, is that the people who are big proponents of this "service" economy are those in the service types of jobs. IE lawyers and accountants. This gives them a very narrow view of the world from their perspective only. They fail to realise that others are not like them, and not everyone is suited to those types of roles. By not having the temperament/aptitudes for those roles means that they will ultimately fail in those roles. Or worse yet, because they are not successful in these roles, they are unable to prove themselves to be promotable to roles where they actually will succeed. They don't realise that many people actually enjoy making things. To look back over their day and be satisfied with what they've produced. To the service types, they're an anathema.

    God knows I could use a really good suit. Someone who enjoys meeting people, and can take really clear briefs and knows how to sell the concept. Instead, I'm having to go out of my skill set and do these things that I really hate. Not to mention, for the amount of faffing it takes, it really eats into the time I could be spending doing what I enjoy and I am good at.

    I suspect that this is a major reason why organisations wind up with incompetents in middle management roles. It's not so much that they're completely useless. It's far closer to the fact that while they have the skills that allow them to excel in the roles that they show such competency in, they just don't have what it takes to perform in managerial roles. Yet, the organisation will not pay them what they're worth in that type of role, so in order to get the next pay grade they *have* to take the managerial role. Thus the Peter Principal.

    This happened to a mate. He's a gun in the field, and can sort out faults faster than anyone else. He's just uncanny that way. Unfortunately, his company saw this and to "reward" him they promoted him. Now he had to deal with people. He was good with people, and a real team player kind of guy. He also enjoyed training apprentices. It was just all of the $#!t that went with being a manager that he hated. Long story short, he was able to step down and went back to what he was great at that pay grade. But down the track, they forgot this and started treating him just as a tech, and an expensive one at that.

    This brings me to my next question, and probably closer to Ed's topic. Have we gotten to a point where in most industries there can only be a few big players? Particularly in the US, Europe and Japan? Countries like Canada, Australia and NZ lack necessary population depths. Someone once asked me, that do you know why America is the greatest country? His answer is that it's so massive population wise. Imagine if you develop and sell some kind of widget.

    In the US, if you sell it to just 10% of the population you're rich! In Australia, even if you sold to 100% of the population you cannot come close to that. Look at Ronco and all of his random assorted crap.

    So given that, why do so many people look to large companies for their security? Sure some industries have such high start up costs that effectively the big players have them sewn up. Also the way companies like Walmart are allowed to throw their weight around, using their size and buying power to crush competition is another.

    Historically the obvious answer was health care. Now that all companies will be required to offer health coverage, will help level the playing field. Companies that play silly buggers like Olive Garden and that Denny's franchisee, will shoot them selves in the face on this. Yes there will always be people will be desperate for work who will work there. They won't be the best the industry has to offer and they won't be working very happily. This will come out in their service and product. They will either have to improve their own situation or suffer the consequences.

    There's still room in most industries for someone to come along with that 'brilliant idea' that can revolutionise it. Surely, there's something that everyone can do? You may not become the head of Nor-dyne, or rich like Ronco, but it may stave off the wolves.

    To some degree the conservatards are correct about us on the left. Sometimes we do spend too much time looking outside ourselves for a saviour. Some industries are like that, and require that to get started. But when someone has experience doing something, when can one go freelance?

    I hate doing suit work, but I grit my teeth and bear it. My website is under development, and I'll have that up in a few days.

    CU, you've done work as a trainer. Can't you find some tutoring gigs? Surely, even in your backwater, there are parents who'll pay you a few shekels to help Timmy and Tammy to pass the SAT. There must be people who have a few lose pennies who need to improve their public presentation skills.

    So what I'm saying is that we are now back to the social contract of the gilded age. We're all guns for hire, and whether we like it or not, we have to learn to play the field as it lays.

    I'll shut up now :)

  15. c u n d gulag Says:

    xynsee,
    Yeah, I thought about tutoring.
    I even applied at one of those mills that charges parents oodles of money to help little Johnny and Janey get better grades on their SAT's. But they only hire people who've taken the SAT's in the past 10 years. And for me, I took them back in the mid-70's. And I still can't tell you how I scored higher on the math than on the verbal, except to say that I must have aptitude that never displayed itself in any of the math classes I took in JHS and HS! ;-)

    And for free-lancing, I live in an area of NY state where there are 4 major public and private 4 year colleges, as well as the ubiquitous community colleges, all within a 30-45 minute drive. The private tutoring gig has already long been sewn up, so, oh well…
    Thanks for the suggestion, though! :-)

  16. Amused Says:

    One of my clients is a big hospital where, by my estimation, at least half the nurses are immigrants who got their degrees in their native countries and came to the US on H1B visas. And this is only one example: a lot of foreign nurses come to the States. The reason isn't what you (probably) think: employers who hire foreign workers are required by the Department of Labor to pay regional "prevailing wage". So hiring a foreigner is at least as expensive as hiring an American worker PLUS the employer has to deal with the expense and the headache of immigration paperwork. Why do employers go this route? Because a big fraction of American candidates are sorely underqualified, that's why. Each new career "fad" doesn't just cause students to flock to it — it causes an explosion in the diploma-mill industry, with lots of schools of questionable quality taking on students who aren't fit and providing them with substandard education, to boot.

    And that's what happened with law, by the way. America has nearly 200 ABA approved law schools, plus unaccredited ones and ones with "provisional accreditation". The result is that entering the legal field is not competitive: as long as you manage to graduate from some college, there is some law school out there that will admit you. Undoubtedly, law isn't space engineering, but it's still a fairly intellectually demanding field that requires aptitude. And yet, no matter how low your LSAT score is, no matter that your grades were just high enough to pass, no matter how clearly analyzing law and writing briefs isn't your thing, some institution somewhere will take you, and more importantly, will take your money. And at least one state will let you sit for the bar even if you did not go to an accredited law school. The problem isn't just that the legal profession is saturated with lawyers, it's saturated with new lawyers who suck, and will always suck, at their job.

    So it seems to me, one way to address the problem would be to impose much stricter accreditation requirements on schools. (Since commercial "for-profit" schools proliferate in the nursing field, I suspect the problem there is even worse than in the legal profession.) Reduce the number of schools, reduce the number of students who enter the profession, and improve the overall quality of the new flock. Sure, getting rejected by a school in your chosen "hot" field sucks, but not nearly as much as spending six figures on an education that turns out to be worthless.

    Another issue is that the public routinely misinterprets the idea of "shortage". So okay, there is a shortage of, say, nurses. But where? I doubt it's ever nationwide. If there is a statistical shortage, that's almost exclusively due to certain areas of the country being underserved. Areas that aren't particularly desirable to a lot of people. There may very well be a shortage of nurses in Alaska's North Slope, but how many people are willing to move to a village in the tundra? I know a nurse who vastly improved her income and her standard of living by moving from NYC to Camden, NJ. Except, of course, that Camden is one of the worst places in America to live — that's why they have a shortage of nurses there, and pay better salaries than either of the two big cities nearby. I suspect most students who enter a field simply because they heard there is a "shortage" don't realize that the only way to take advantage of that shortage is to move to Bumfuck, Middle-of-Nowhere.

  17. xynzee Says:

    @CU: No worries. I was thinking you should go completely solo if possible. Yeah you have to do the marketing yourself etc. Even just tutoring in whatever subject. But anyways… done the unemployed thing too. I'd be doing it again if it wasn't for pubs and bottleshops. :-/ But it does beat the dole.

    @Amused: On those nurses. Many of those "Singaporeans" "Aussies" or "Kiwis" on an H1B Ain't! A friend of mine has seen them come from the PRC, get their Spr citizenship, next day plane to Aus/NZ. Get their Aus/NZ citizenship next day on a plane to the US.

    And in case you're wondering they can only speak basic English. She has to instruct them in Mandarin in the hospital she works at here in Sydney.

    Because of the lack of manufacturing in the US, many of these public works projects – if the Repuglicants will let the money go for them – will require H1B workers as well. As the US has no welders.

    BTW: welding will be my money for the next big thing for the US.

  18. xynzee Says:

    I'm also taking a bit of comfort in seeing that I'm not the only one who has trouble getting his tags to close. :)

  19. Kulkuri Says:

    Major Kong said, I'm still waiting for the "pilot shortage" I've been hearing about for almost 30 years.
    I heard the same thing about aircraft mechanics back then. Then I heard there was a shortage of truck drivers. Turned out there was no shortage of workers, there was a shortage of wages!!

  20. pathman Says:

    Ignore the man behind the curtain. He's just an objective observer.

  21. Jane Says:

    This theme of skilled people without jobs and without very good job prospects is painful over here in Europe as well.

    I just received an unsolicited job application from a 38 year old Italian with 12 years experience in our very technical field. It's hard to get those skills, and hard to maintain them. He's unemployed. His skills won't be worth much in six months if he doesn't get back in somehow.

    (and we can't afford another employee now)

  22. Geoff Says:

    Software engineering will be here in less than a decade–see the wages paid by Blizzard to their games programmers.

  23. not so good w words Says:

    I think it was '93 I attended my (then) step sisters graduation from UGA Law School and Ted Turner was the commencement speaker. I believe he was the first non-lawyer to give the speech, and in typical Ted style he kicked off the speech by posing a question to the crowd of graduates and their families **not direct quotes it was a long time ago** – "Why did you all become lawyers? We already have enough lawyers. Too many. Why couldn't yall become doctors or teachers or scientists…" It was great. He's always been ahead of the curve. Or at least bending the hell out of it.

  24. Sarah Says:

    Librarians too have been told for years by the ALA, the association that is supposed to have our best interests at heart, that the field of librarian is growing and all the baby boomers will be retiring in the next 5-10 years leaving oodles of open jobs (That will totally need to be filled! I'm sure we won't just pretend those jobs never existed for budgetary reasons.) Only lib school students & prospective students still believe them, poor saps.
    Oh, evidently we have one of the least stressful jobs too, so that's fun & totally legit.

  25. Major Kong Says:

    The baby boomer airline pilots were supposed to start retiring 5 years ago.

    Instead, they lobbied to get the mandatory retirement age extended by 5 years to 65.

    (looks over at Captain)

    "Hurry up and die you old bastard and get out of my seat!"

  26. Alex SL Says:

    We never know what The Market will want from one moment to the next, and when it changes course we all need to drop what we're doing, uncomplainingly give up the human capital and experience we've amassed in whatever field we've been in, and learn how to do whatever new thing seems to be in demand.

    This is precisely why I am constantly astonished that education is left to the market and personal whims. This is one of the areas where a planned economy would actually reduce waste, waste in the form of the most productive years of hundreds of thousand of people lost, waste in the form of public resources sunk into unneeded job training.

    I can't believe that this is some cunning plan to lower wages by causing an oversupply of labor in this or that area, not least because at the same time it always causes an undersupply elsewhere. No, this failure to plan ahead how many engineers, programmers and nurses one will probably need in ten years is rank incompetence, nothing else.

    (My own field, science, regularly produces considerably more PhDs than are needed. Why not tell students at the beginning of their studies that they aren't good enough at biology to have a future in science? Why do it after they have sunk 8+ of the most creative years of their life into it?)

  27. darms Says:

    If one can become an RN (or better) w/o incurring too much (define?) student debt and is willing to work in nursing homes and home health jobs, that is about as secure a career path as one will find these days and will continue to be so for the next thirty years or thereabouts. Nursing cannot be outsourced unlike almost any career available that doesn't involve extensive outside work (plumber, electrician) and even though immigrant nurses are brought in via H1b visas there is no substitute for experience especially in filing medicare & medicaid claims or in passing state inspections. We're a bit older than you, G & T, but my wife has always made a good living in nursing and has always been able to find good jobs plus she has also has the freedom to quit when a job becomes oppressive. After about 10 years of experience she got into nursing management first as a DON at various nursing homes and today she's a DCS at a hospice. Not bad for a 2-year nursing degree, eh? (Business is great, patients are dying to get in!) Now me? I went into electronics hardware design & did that almost 40 years but those sorts of jobs started getting hard to find in the mid-1990s and have proven impossible to find since I was laid off in 2008. There are a lot of us boomers who will be needing nursing care as we get older…

  28. JP Says:

    CU & CO: First off it's *Buncombe* Comm College, now known as yes, AB Tech:
    http://www1.abtech.edu/

    2nd, There's this helpful reminder on Freelancing via Marketplace (APR): http://www.marketplace.org/topics/your-money/personal-finance-reference-guide/five-fee-setting-strategies-freelancers

    3rd: Yes, crisis in Capitalism and all that, continued. But again we'll ask 'What part of the Depression did you not understand the 1st time?'

    4th. Yes, it's tough stuff, always. But a solid $45-50K per year with benes is nothing to sneeze at. That's solidly middle class, then & now. Put that together with a spouse, and you've got a reasonably comfortable family living, almost anywhere. Yes, that takes some planning, Luck certainly, and a good education. Moreover, it may well take a willingness to work and work effectively, efficiently, and possibly even long hours. Yeah, it sucks. But if you're not producing 'value added' 'stuff for someone? You're just not employed much.

    5th Again coming from the 'other side' of this equation, I've got to tell you that the quality of new grads for the last several years is pretty miserable. Being able to read, write and speak English in complete sentences and paragraphs is evidently beyond the capacities of a goodly 85-90% of recent college & Uni grads. We're talking 4 year flagship & state land-grant colleges here folks. Stuff your dad or granddad were able to do coming out of HS, completely foreign to this generation. I too thought this was a myth, until I saw it in real life. Facing hiring folks that will cost my small biz $50K+ per year with good benes, but unwilling or unable to actually do the work we require? It's constantly frustrating, on too many levels to count.

    So strangely enough, knock on enough doors, and the jobs might be found out. Offer to take a job at a 'discount' until proven, that might make a transition possible. But for many small businesses, they still need help desperately. They just can't afford to take on yet another recently minted overly entitled, but decently credentialed 'covert' slacker who suddenly decides to 'work to rules' a la the PostOffice, and is arriving at 9.30 & leaving by 4.30 promptly with a comfortable 2 hour lunch & break schedule. That's a solid 3-4hrs working on a really good day. And no we really can't afford more than one of those in our small office. And we've been steadily hiring throughout the crisis too. And the odds are almost always against us gaining the value we need for the production & jobs we need to fill. We and many other shops could use more, but we're being burned out by plenty of wastrels and wasted time. Don't cry for us, but don't be surprised when we & others go belly up too. Nothing can go on forever, and if you're not creating value OVER and Above your salary? No one needs you. Sorry, but that's the cruel reality here. Cheers & Good Luck, JP

  29. JP Says:

    [Let's try to get this out of 'moderation', 'cause no one really does that anymore!]

    CU & CO: First off it's *Buncombe* Comm College, now known as yes, AB Tech:
    1.abtech.edu/

    2nd, There's this helpful reminder on Freelancing via Marketplace (APR): http://www.marketplace.org/topics/your-money/personal-finance-reference-guide/five-fee-setting-strategies-freelancers

    3rd: Yes, crisis in Capitalism and all that, continued. But again we'll ask 'What part of the Depression did you not understand the 1st time?'

    4th. Yes, it's tough stuff, always. But a solid $45-50K per year with benes is nothing to sneeze at. That's solidly middle class, then & now. Put that together with a spouse, and you've got a reasonably comfortable family living, almost anywhere. Yes, that takes some planning, Luck certainly, and a good education. Moreover, it may well take a willingness to work and work effectively, efficiently, and possibly even long hours. Yeah, it sucks. But if you're not producing 'value added' 'stuff for someone? You're just not employed much.

    5th Again coming from the 'other side' of this equation, I've got to tell you that the quality of new grads for the last several years is pretty miserable. Being able to read, write and speak English in complete sentences and paragraphs is evidently beyond the capacities of a goodly 85-90% of recent college & Uni grads. We're talking 4 year flagship & state land-grant colleges here folks. Stuff your dad or granddad were able to do coming out of HS, completely foreign to this generation. I too thought this was a myth, until I saw it in real life. Facing hiring folks that will cost my small biz $50K+ per year with good benes, but unwilling or unable to actually do the work we require? It's constantly frustrating, on too many levels to count.

    So strangely enough, knock on enough doors, and the jobs might be found out. Offer to take a job at a 'discount' until proven, that might make a transition possible. But for many small businesses, they still need help desperately. They just can't afford to take on yet another recently minted overly entitled, but decently credentialed 'covert' slacker who suddenly decides to 'work to rules' a la the PostOffice, and is arriving at 9.30 & leaving by 4.30 promptly with a comfortable 2 hour lunch & break schedule. That's a solid 3-4hrs working on a really good day. And no we really can't afford more than one of those in our small office. And we've been steadily hiring throughout the crisis too. And the odds are almost always against us gaining the value we need for the production & jobs we need to fill. We and many other shops could use more, but we're being burned out by plenty of wastrels and wasted time. Don't cry for us, but don't be surprised when we & others go belly up too. Nothing can go on forever, and if you're not creating value OVER and Above your salary? No one needs you. Sorry, but that's the cruel reality here. Cheers & Good Luck, JP

  30. Anonymouse Says:

    @CU: to echo xynzee, you may find work as a private tutor, if you put your name out there. When my child was having problems with calculus and I couldn't help (calc was 25 years ago for me and I've never once needed it in my adult life so I forgot it all), I contacted the school, who provided me a list of people willing to tutor. I found a great guy who'd been laid off from industry and had an amazing ability to teach. Twice a week, for an hour each, we went to his house for some one-on-one math help. For a weekly hand-off of cash, I got a child who passed calculus. Everyone won.

  31. jon Says:

    Sarah, yep. That's what I heard, but I was lucky. I got the paraprofessional (what a term!) job for two years at a law school library where rich lawyers-to-be showed me why I wouldn't want to be either a lawyer or an academic librarian. Then I worked seven years as a prison librarian (as a professional: my first paycheck was $5 off from exactly double the paraprofessional pay.) That job showed me why I don't want to be an inmate, criminal, or supervisor… or depressed most of the time. Now I took a job that's paraprofessional again, the benefits aren't as great and I make $10k less, but I'm fucking lucky I could.

    Librarian jobs aren't so hard. The public library is filled with librarians who could retire but choose not to. The job isn't hard on bodies or minds, so plum jobs aren't ever going to be widely available. Upstate Washington, Queens, LA, and other expensive locales are often hiring, but who wants a job with a middle class salary in an upper class salary town?

    North Dakota has jobs. The inmates were so excited to hear about that. But North Dakota always has had jobs.

  32. Rodrigo S Says:

    Not sure I agree with all of JP's bootstrappy rhetoric, but I'll add my 2 cents as the manager of an SBO. Finding good people is hard. I don't buy that it's worse than "back in the day", but most candidates are terrible and paper credentials – anything you can put on a resume, not just education – are a really bad indicator of who is going to work out.

  33. Sarah Says:

    Jon,

    I've never met a public librarian who could retire but chooses not to and I know hundreds of public librarians in various career phases. The retirement benefits for public librarians ARE TERRIBLE and basically a joke. Most of our librarians who have "retired" still work here part-time to keep themselves flush (not so much because they just LOVE IT SO MUCH, though the things that make one want to be a librarian in the first place do mean that they might still have warm fuzzies for the job post-retirement, maybe.) I'm not saying it is terrible to be a public librarian, I love my job and if I have to stay on forever b/c I'll never have enough to retire then I don't mind so much. I'm extremely EXTREMELY lucky. But it definitely isn't a stress-free easy peasy career. Also, as someone who helps unpack and process all our materials, and also has to figure out the best way to teach Luddites and seniors how to use the libraries electronic services (which are unfortunately not easy for the most tech savvy users) with the kindle fires their kids just got them (and they bring to us uncharged and still in the box) and I'd thank you to reconsider the whole "easy on bodies and minds" comment.

    Finally, because I am wired oddly and have a BA in Criminal Justice, prison libraries are the other kind of library I'd want to work in if I weren't in public libraries. Sounds like you weren't fond of your time working behind bars though. I'm interested to find out more about it.

  34. JP Says:

    R, I'm not sure it was at all much 'better back in the day' as far as training and education were concerned. I almost imagine that as a 'steady state' despite all the BS about ever expanding/increasing IQ's/SAT scores. It's the complete difference in the 'work ethic' or more properly 'work styles' that's what's so frustrating. If I need to hire an Extra 2 people to now get the job done that One person used to be able to do? That's an extra added cost to the operation of the firm, and it's just not going to last long given the added costs and troubles & frictions.

    But 'bootstrapping' is one thing. I never quite suggested that. I know where plenty of folks are coming from, way down in the well of humanity that they have to haul up from nearly every morning. Most poor folks I know are not dumb or lazy. A comparative few of them know and recognize that they've got most of the tools in their own hands to make their situation better. Often that involves, yes, sacrifice, determination, hard work, some luck and yes even a 'forward looking outlook'. Most are fairly capable of much of that too. Many do not have the skills needed for the jobs at hand, and would require years of retraining to get up to speed however.

    Me, I'm Just continually stymied at trying to hire folks who might actually be useful to my firm, and we're not talking nuclear chemistry here either. That's my point. Cheers, JP

  35. Rodrigo S Says:

    JP,

    What does your firm do?

    My experience is that everyone needs some training / molding to be useful, and as long as an employee has a good attitude it's NBD, but finding people with the right attitude is pretty hard.
    A lot of people seem to want to come in and coast before they're good enough to do that and still do the job adequately.

    It's worse with younger people (thread: just trust me, it is). School is nothing like the actual work / challenges they're going to face out in the world. I think they go through a lot of unnecessary culture shock.

  36. unclemike Says:

    Obviously, the answer is tax cuts for the top 1%.

    Obviously.

  37. JP Says:

    I'm happy that my taxes are going up, UM. & R, We're in the F.I.R.E sector too. Cheers, JP

  38. Art Says:

    The consensus behind these supposed shortages takes time to develop. And the signs of a developing shortage take time to become large enough to notice. And nobody is going to expose themselves with an proclamation in MSM on the first glimmer of a trend, better to wait so you have something to point at, and others sharing your position so you are not out front all alone.

    I figure it takes two, perhaps three years, for such declarations to come out and you understand why the pronouncements always lag the actual event.

    There is also the problem of degree. A national broadcast declares that there is a shortage in XYZ field and people think it is a huge nationwide trend and a problem that will take years to fill or correct. The problem is that many jobs are regional. You need more nurses for older retirees and retirees tend to flock to the sun belt. The issue half solves itself when the excess supply of nurses from where the retirees came from move to where the retirees went when they retired.

    Of course writers could write articles about smaller regional shortages for select job classifications but it is hard to get really emotional about smaller area and fewer people. Hyperbole driven emotion is a writers friend when you want to write an article that will 'grip' the reader, and sell well.

    Fluctuations in employment are always a moving target. The one job perpetually unfilled is that of Reliable Predictor of the Future. Lots of candidates for that title but, so far, none qualify.

    Even those who make accurate claims are a couple of years behind the trend.

  39. eric Says:

    i didn't read any of these responses – I really just hope the "making money in a very strange way" line was a hat tip to Mitch Hedberg

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