Monday, January 30, 2012

Bait and Switch - Barbara Ehrenreich

Bait And Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit Of The American Dream
Barbara Ehrenreich
Metropolitan Books
Copyright: 2005

The product description:
The New York Times bestselling investigation into white-collar unemployment from "our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism"--The New York Times Book Review
Americans' working lives are growing more precarious every day. Corporations slash employees by the thousands, and the benefits and pensions once guaranteed by "middle-class" jobs are a thing of the past.

In Bait and Switch, Barbara Ehrenreich goes back undercover to explore another hidden realm of the economy: the shadowy world of the white-collar unemployed. Armed with the plausible résumé of a professional "in transition," she attempts to land a "middle-class" job. She submits to career coaching, personality testing, and EST-like boot camps, and attends job fairs, networking events, and evangelical job-search ministries. She is proselytized, scammed, lectured, and--again and again--rejected.

Bait and Switch highlights the people who have done everything right--gotten college degrees, developed marketable skills, and built up impressive résumés--yet have become repeatedly vulnerable to financial disaster. There are few social supports for these newly disposable workers, Ehrenreich discovers, and little security even for those who have jobs. Worst of all, there is no honest reckoning with the inevitable consequences of the harsh new economy; rather, the jobless are persuaded that they have only themselves to blame.

Alternately hilarious and tragic, Bait and Switch, like the classic Nickel and Dimed, is a searing exposé of the cruel new reality in which we all now live.
The blurb is right. Bait and Switch is both funny and disheartening. I also found it to be a fairly quick read, finishing the book just over a day after I borrowed it from the library (Library Loot - January 28th). I've seen Barbara Ehrenreich's books in the store before, but not read any of them. In terms of writing, I just might hunt them down now, but I'd have to be in the right mood.

This one was that much of a downer in it's way, despite the funny writing style. Mostly because, things seem to have been tough in 2004/2005 when the book was written, but it's probably even worse now. The other thing I'm finding after reading Bait And Switch is that I'm eyeing the various career advice books in the store and wondering just how useful they might be. Most of them seem to be advising based on personality type, and after reading the results Barbara got, I'm wondering about that...

Honestly, this is an interesting book. On the other hand, where the library has it shelved is a bit misleading. They've located Bait and Switch in with the books like What Color Is Your Parachute? and the other career search books. I believe that the bookstores have it located in "Community and Culture". I'm not going to suggest that this is a book for people in the middle of a job search to read, just because of the kind of book it is - no true hints here, it's simply the recounting of one person's experiences. Still, the book could be taken as something of a warning of things to watch out for. In that sense, it might be helpful.

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