Humor in the American job hunt.

I went to Forbes this morning to read an article by Grace Totoro, from Feb 2018 entitled, “Can’t Find A Job?  Here’s Why Your Employability Strategy Isn’t Working.”(1)  I had already read a different article written by Katie Zavadski in 2014, from The New Republic, entitled “The Pharmacy School Bubble Is About to Burst.”  (2)  These two articles reflect some of the job market problems and imbalances that Americans face in their frequent job pursuits.  These articles do not support today’s often heard declarations that there’s a skills gap or there are too many jobs for the number of applicants.  I think they both show that there are new kinds of problems in the American job market.  Thank you to both of these sources.

I graduated from high school in 1982.  Several people suggested that I get a pharmacy degree because I liked chemistry and biology and because I was a good student who liked learning and didn’t mind studying.  When I went back to school for my second degree in 2001, I heard once again that pharmacy would be a good field for a lucrative career.  In fact I’ve always observed a consistent demand for pharmacists.  I guess that this long trend is now over.

According to Zavadski, the pharmacy industry in 2014 had 5 graduates for every 4 jobs.  Despite the increasing length of time and money required to get a pharmacy education (5 years specialized training plus 2 years of preparation in some programs), there weren’t enough jobs anymore to employ all recent graduates.

Educating institutions had seen a chance to make more money by educating more pharmacists.  They increased the size of their pharmacy programs.  They also lengthened the time investment required for a student to get a pharmacy degree, and the institution made more money on tuition and books.  But the institution’s profit appetite didn’t match job availability.  Institutions of learning had increased the size of their ambitious pharmacy programs beyond real market demand.  Of course, some of those pharmacy degree holders who can’t find work as a practicing pharmacist will be drawn to related professions such as pharmacy research which will require a further PhD. investment or they may teach pharmacy classes in the overstocked pharmacy education marketplace.

Still, pharmacists do better than web designers, for example.  A few months ago, I spoke to a young web design degree holder who told me that half of her fellow graduates hadn’t gotten a job in web design.  She was working as a book-seller at Barnes and Noble where I was buying books to learn about web design as a possible job skill.  I guess that web design might also be a dead-end about half of the time.

After I found out about pharmacy school employment shortcomings, I read the Forbes article.  In addition to the by-line by Grace Totoro credit is shared with the Forbes Coaches Council.

In the real world, a lot of American jobs have been outsourced to other nations with cheaper labor (or a foreign worker has gotten an H1-B Visa and replaced an American worker to earn a lower wage in a skilled profession).  The Forbes article claimed that automation has destroyed other jobs.

The author went too far however when she described outsourcing and automation as a kind of reductionism and then gave the Dictionary’s definition of reductionism.  I don’t agree that outsourcing and automation are reductionism as stated by Totoro and the Forbes Coaches Council.  When speaking about reductionism, I think that they were really talking about algorithms which have been used to automate the evaluation of potential employees.  An algorithm is a simple program that uses math to make an evaluation.

The article wasn’t supposed to be humorous.  But it was funny to imagine the advice that Forbes was giving in the context of algorithms.  Algorithms have been used in the hiring process for a long time now as I mentioned in an earlier post that looked at the effect of algorithms on employment.

The Forbes article suggested that job seekers should ignore employment statistics.  That may be because there are so few jobs in some communities.  Maybe a job search in a job-scarce community is a hit or miss job opportunity depending on luck.  Also the Forbes Coaches Council may distrust the validity of job statistics generally.  I suppose that a government statistician might be affected by political pressure to make our economy look better than it is.  Maybe the American job landscape changes so fast that a statistician can’t keep up with it.

Forbes suggested also that job seekers should be aware that their prior investments in obtaining credentials will not provide them any job security.  Some pharmacists and web designers would perhaps agree.  Education return-on-investment is looking pretty bad for some people right now.

The Forbes Coaches Council suggested that people shouldn’t even try to get a job unless they know someone who’s already been hired at the company who will vouch for their character.  Is this a way to circumvent a hiring algorithm?

Going back to the bad idea in the Forbes article that automation and outsourcing are reductionism and that reductionism “is the practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition or the like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring or distorting it,” I think the author should have mentioned algorithms.  The definition of reductionism sounds a lot like the unfortunate damage that is sometimes done by algorithms.  It would be better to acknowledge that using algorithms to hire people is causing problems and that declining wages and labor outsourcing have also caused problems in the American labor marketplace.  And because of these problems, a lot of people don’t know what to do to get a job.  They have lost their connection to any kind of economic prosperity.

At no point did the Forbes Coaches Council offer a way out of uncertainty in the job market.  None of their suggestions would make a person feel empowered to determine their job search’s success.  Apparently a job seeker can’t just go out to the job market and get a job— either with training or with talent.  Job search strategies of the recent past will not avail you, say Totoro and the Forbes Coaches Council.  According to Forbes, there’s no amount or kind of training that will deliver guaranteed success.  Perhaps that’s why Totoro suggests that the job seeker should hire an employment coach.

There may be an odd humor in the ability of algorithms to mysteriously seep into everyday life.  They are everyone’s hidden stumbling block.  And no one takes responsibility for them.  The idea that an employment coach can help the hopeful job seeker in a world being run by algorithms is both pointless and sort of funny.  When you are an unemployed expert, hire another expert and at least give them a job.

If you’d like to learn more about neoliberalism, financialization and globalization or about political ideologies across American history, buy a copy of Political Catsup with Economy Fries, available at Amazon.com.

(1) Grace Totoro, Forbes, “Can’t Find A Job?  Here’s Why Your Employability Strategy Isn’t Working,”  Forbes Community Voice, Forbes Coaches Council, Feb 1, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/ 2018/02/01…job-heres-why-your-employability-strategy-isn’t-working/#6e93ce6f5020, accessed 22 June 2018.

(2) Katie Zavadski, The New Republic, “The Pharmacy School Bubble Is About to Burst,” September 29, 2014, https://newrepublic.com/article/119634/pharmacy-school crisis-why-good-jobs-are-drying, accessed 22 June, 2018.

 

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