Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book “Bait and Switch” is about the noted feminist/socialist author’s incognito search as a middle-aged woman for a for a white collar job.
Ms. Ehrenreich, who posed as an unemployed public relations executive, plausible enough for a writer, and used a fictional resume, sought a job that paid $50,000 and included health benefits. Despite a real life as one of America’s top female writers, Ms. Ehrenreich failed to find a job.
The subtext of B & W is neatly summed up in the subhead on today’s Washington Post profile of Ms. Ehrenreich: “Author Exposes How the American Dream Turned into a Nightmare.”
Being unemployed is one of the most frightening experiences in the world, and looking for a job, especially past the first blush of youth, is both scary and painful. I don’t want to denigrate the notion that being out of work is economically and emotionally debilitating.
What I do want to point out about Ms. Ehrenreich–as portrayed in today’s Washington Post profile–is that she seems to have the perfect liberal’s idea of job-hunting: She networks and joins support groups. In the same way that publicly financed job programs often focus on job training rather than actually getting a job and doing it, Ms. Ehrenreich seems to have spent most of her time meeting other unemployed people and talking to counselors.
“She couldn’t get a job and she couldn’t figure out why,” the Post notes. “She’d hired job coaches, haunted Internet job boards, endlessly massaged her résumé and networked, networked, networked. She’d paid an ‘image management’ consultant to help her upgrade her wardrobe.”
I can figure out why: How ’bout goin’ on job interviews instead of wasting time being coached for them by rip-off artists? Here Ms. Ehrenreich was handicapped because she had a fictional identity. She couldn’t use her real contacts, the way most job hunters do, and, with a fake resume, she must have had a hard time talking about her professional experiences.
And there’s something else interesting in Ms. Ehrenreich’s view of the requirements of job hunting:
“A corollary is that white-collar job seekers are constantly required to hide their emotions, to fake an eagerness they rarely feel. This is what Ehrenreich found harder than cleaning toilets or waitressing,” the Post reports.
[In Ms. Ehrenreich’s previous book she posed as a minimum wage worker.]
“‘You can’t fake being a waitress,’ she says. ‘The food gets to the table or it doesn’t.’ But in the world of the white-collar unemployed, ‘you’re constantly being told to be something different than you are. You have to be upbeat, positive, perky, *obnoxiously* self-confident.'”
“The corners of her mouth twitch grimly upward.”
Would YOU hire Barbara Ehrenreich?