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.