How to Get a Job

Column by Paul Bonneau.

Exclusive to STR 

Most of us have grown up in an era of substantial job growth (funded largely by low interest rate-driven malinvestment, but no need go get into that now). Any fool could make a million. Well, the party is over, and mindsets that might have been workable then, have now become harmful to self-preservation. It’s time to examine this point.
What do I mean by this? For example, a person might have a mindset of exaggerated self-worth or of over-specialization, preventing him from taking a job that seems beneath him. Or, having been out of work for a while, this might transition to a feeling of zero self-worth, draining all motivation. Neither of these are helpful in today’s economy.
To me, the most important thing a prospective employee should do is put himself in the prospective employer’s shoes.
What are employers looking for? If you were an employer, you’d want
1) someone who is good at what he does, or able and motivated to learn;
2) someone who comes cheap;
3) someone who is cheerful to be around, and doesn’t drag everyone down;
4) someone who shows up, and is otherwise reliable;
5) someone who is able to adapt, anticipate, takes orders without argument, etc.
6) someone who always delivers more than he’s asked;
7) someone who it is possible to like, and who won’t make life difficult for him.
With a little imagination, you can fill in that list yourself. Just put yourself in an employer’s shoes. Needless to say, employers are not interested in anyone who would resort to any government “remedies” whatever, such as lawsuits. Seems like that would give a leg up for anarchists, although talking about politics in an interview doesn’t seem smart either, and is almost certainly illegal for an employer to bring up. Maybe something subtle, like having him see your “Government is not your friend” bumper sticker, is in order.
The person who most closely fits these expectations is the one most likely to be hired, while others languish.
What’s that? You think employers just exploit people, and this list just makes you more exploitable?
OK, don’t do it then. But I can guarantee you, in this economy, keeping the “exploited” or “victim” mindset is a sure-fire way to not get work. Who would want you? No one owes you anything.
I’d strongly advise anyone looking for work to read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People, written in the depths of the first Depression. In fact, I don’t think it is too strong to say that you aren’t serious about finding work if you haven’t read it. That is the mindset a person needs to survive and even prosper, now. One should internalize this as much as possible (the more I have done so, the happier I’ve been--yet another good reason to do it). Fortunately, unlike a lot of self-help books, this one has a quaint charm that makes it easy to read. You’ll find yourself amazed at the way people used to look at things.
Another thing to do is find material written in the 19th Century, or about the 19th Century, before everyone developed this crippling entitlement mindset. Try to adopt the mindset people had then. They were real go-getters; nothing seemed to slow them down.
Don’t get too wrapped up with academic accomplishments or degrees. Most employers don’t really give a damn (although HR departments do, as a token you can accomplish something--but that is a good reason to get around HR departments). Actually, HR departments are your enemy. Their job is to shit-can your job application. Your job is to bypass HR departments by using your contacts if possible. That’s where things like reputation become important, and unfortunately, you’ve already got yours. Too bad if it is a poor one, you should have thought of that earlier.
You can also look for work in businesses too small to have HR departments. That was largely my strategy.
If you are considering going to college or going back to college, you are not being serious.
Another possible option is to not get a formal job, but work yourself into the underground economy somehow. That will become an important option in the future, as government “income” decreases and they compensate by a more vigorous rape of the middle class. Of course, that option requires a serious reworking of one’s mindset as well.
Well, I don’t know if this will help anyone. But even in Depressions, there is work. Those with the right attitude will be working. I hope this article can help with that.
My bona fides? I never employed anyone, and think employers are out of their minds. Government has made employing others a very risky and bureaucracy-afflicted proposition. Why bother? However, I have been an observer of employment and employees, because my wife has employed very many people, and still has something like 20 employees or subcontractors. I suppose she is a glutton for punishment. It’s a good thing there are some out there like her, otherwise we would all be out of work. 
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Paul Bonneau's picture
Columns on STR: 106


KenK's picture

Paul you left unstated how much of your family's monthly nut you provide with your "off the grid" efforts and how much your wage slave wife kicks in. None of my business of course but it's a major consideration about how valid the rest of your advice is. Being a libertarian philosopher is probably way easier when you're with a partner who is regularly employed.

mikehauncho's picture

I believe he didn't state it because it has no bearing on the advice he gave.

Glen Allport's picture

Paul, this is excellent! The mind-set of people in this country MUST change if we're to see any improvement, and mind-set CAN be the difference between getting a job and languishing in the unemployment line. The independent mind-set that helps one create an honest income also helps one see the truth of the State -- although its not a one-to-one correlation, unfortunately.

Finding out what problems an employer has and just walking in and offering to solve them, showing the employer how you could actually improve their business or eliminate a problem they're having to deal with, is a far better way of gaining employment than searching the want ads or Craigslist, I suspect.

Suverans2's picture

Very constructive advice, Paul Bonneau. Because I am outside the system and have had no affiliation with any governments, (hence no numbers, ID's, or licenses of any kind), for well over ten years, I have had to work myself into the "underground economy". For those who may eventually withdraw from membership in man-made governments, i.e. secede, it has been easier than what I first envisioned; (I originally thought I might not be able to survive as a non-member). And, as Paul Bonneau stated, "reputation" has played, perhaps, the most important part in it; (word-of-mouth is still the best advertising). I am paid in cash, usually on a daily basis, sometimes weekly. One fellow, who I did work for, for a short period of time, insisted on writing a check, made out to an assumed name, arranged for his bank to cash it without any "acceptable identification"; (he "introduced" me to the bank employees). To say the least, it has been an interesting journey.

Oh, and to KenK, the collectivist troll, I have provided 100% of the "family nut" for well over ten years; my wife has not been a "wage-slave" since we left "the system".

Suverans2's picture

Question No. 6. -- Mr. Gutier: "Are you employed?"

Mr. Cooper's answer: No, I am not. I am not employed. I am not unemployed. I am not self-employed. I am not gainfully employed. In fact, I am not employable. But, I work. Besides, Arizona is a right to work State. [Mr. Gutier nodded his head in agreement and went on.] ~ Excerpted from Standard Screening Questions

KenK's picture

Paul I am sorry. My tone was too harsh. It's just that in 20 or so years of on/off activism and having listened and read and personally known many anarchists, socialists, communists, libertarians, and many other political persuasions I've noticed a big gap between what they say and what they do (as in how they live). I enjoy your articles.

KenK's picture

Posted twice. my bad.

livefreeretiree's picture

"If you are considering going to college or going back to college, you are not being serious."

I like it. ;D

Paul's picture

Well, my wife does what she wants to do; and pays little attention to my advice (which is to stop working in the above-ground economy). She is hardly a wage slave. She plays the part of Hank Rearden to my John Galt. :-)

One extra point I forgot to make: you as an employee bring a cost, and a benefit, to the employer. Cost is not only your wage, but regulations and all sorts of non-monetary stuff (of course government has increased everyone's cost to employers). If your cost is higher than what you produce, you might coast along in a hot economy, but not in a slow one. It's to your advantage to make the benefit greater than the cost, and the larger that gap is the less likely you will be part of a layoff. That's why I never in my life asked for a raise. I just told my employer that if I ever got the impression I was being taken advantage of, I would leave. I made enough money to suit my needs, because I was not envious or even curious what others made. Not my business...