Another summer is upon us, and much like last summer and the one before that one, I’m stuck in the prickly space that’s clogged with job listings that fail to inspire even an ounce of excitement or ambitiousness.
I’ve always been quite frank about the never-ending quest for financial stability, that I hoped would be furnished with an editorial job that not only satisfies salary requirements, but also features the security of a solid health plan, afforded through full time employment.
I came so close to realizing those dreams almost three years ago, when a promising gig as content producer for the digital arm of one of the industry’s media giants presented the strong possibility of a staff writing position. The newly hired manager was so pleased with my output that he invited me for a coffee break to discuss my favorable prospects.
Unfortunately his best intentions for my career trajectory were thwarted by the email I received a couple of days later, that basically thanked me for my services and confirmed that the logged in date for my final performance would be honored without issue.
It was a huge blow to the ego, and one of the early signs of how the job market was erratically shifting away from the “temp to perm” model, and more towards the conveniently cheaper and laborious permanent “temp” version, that never quite elevates to the timely promotions that contractors work their asses off to rightfully attain.
Like most work environments in the editorial realm, there was no shortage of assignments for those of us who were recruited to offer a substantial sense of relief for the over-worked staff of content producers, who couldn’t contain the joy stemming from our long-awaited arrival.
As the godsend extension of salaried workers, we had to dive in and master the operational templates with rapid efficiency, which usually means minimal training because of time constrains and the uncanny ability to adapt to the inflexible regimen with very little supervision.
The notion that I could garner long-term employment at a well-respected media organization was the incentive to go above and beyond the call of duty. And since I was well-versed at juggling multiple projects without any major mishaps, there was the sense that my impeccable work ethic and tangible deliveries would keep the doors open long enough for my predictable entry.
But the newsflash that detailed the planned end of my tenure was the brutal reality of how hard work only earns you more hardship with the certainty of future unemployment.
Fast forward to the present, and I’m well aware of the fact that when past and present administrations loudly tout the enviable results of economic growth due to the robust job market, the caveat lies in the hidden sockets of truth. Those blurry surfaces reveal how most companies are regulating their hiring practices to the more affordable option, that relieves them of the hefty responsibilities that come with full-time employment.
It has been recorded that between the years 2005 and 2015, the number of Americans that were hired for contractual work made the leap from 10.7% to 15.8%. These workers are labeled as independent contractors or lifelong subscribers of temporary job agencies.
According to the research results of Ivy League-based economists, Lawrence Katz, (Harvard) and Alan Krueger (Princeton), “94% of net job growth in the past decade was in the alternative work category.” “And over 60% was due to the [the rise] of independent contractors, freelancers and contract company workers.”
So we can conclude that in the past decade, more than half of job creation was as a result of the rising appeal of “independent contractors, freelancers and contract company workers,” which means that the traditional nine-to-five shift that generations preceding Millennials were groomed to strive for and hold onto for dear life, has been damningly replaced by the treacherous landscape of non-traditional fare.
This breaking news isn’t completely unexpected when you consider how evolving technology has birthed the age of independence when it comes to taking ownership of mode of execution, as it pertains to curating a work environment that allows for the flexibility that’s necessary for an employee with a demanding household.
Working remotely used to sound like the perfect solution for those who want to avoid the mayhem of morning commutes to suffocating cubicles, that are surrounded by managerial dysfunction.
But after the short-lived indulgence in that highly sought-after privilege, there’s no doubt that my experience exposed the unexpectedly disheartening results of what it really takes to log in from the location of your choice without the intrusion of annoying co-workers and micro-managers.
Remote work doesn’t erase or minimize the obstacles facing the traditional worker, and ironically enough, you end up with a whole new set of headaches, thanks to the heightened demands that are assigned as punishment for your preferred workplace, as well as the extra efforts by management to track your every move via invasive mechanisms, that are plotted into installed programs that you are ordered to download.
Almost two years after weathering the sweltering summer of my discontent, as a content programmer, who spent the day resurrecting generic articles for the benefit of shuffling them to appropriate verticals on the homepage, I am now at the place where one has to reconcile with the dissolution of normalcy — on all counts.
After two whole years of of active searching, it has finally occurred to me that there’s no way in hell that I will defy the odds by miraculously landing a full time job that matches my skill set, years of experience and lofty ambitions.
This realization is mainly due to the awkwardness of my present status as a mid-lifer who was a late bloomer in an industry that’s obsessed with Caucasian contenders and youthful ideals.
My so-called best years were spent trying in vain to draft award-winning query letters that would get the attention of nonchalant editors at a handful of reputable women’s publications. These White women obviously tasked their over-worked and under-paid assistants with the duty of filling up trash bins with the waste from pathetic dreamers like me.
It wasn’t until Blogger was the word on the street, and self-publishing was just a click away, that those of us who spent our twenties in unbearable limbo were able to recoup some of what was lost during the era of non-engagement.
And while I’ve had periods of euphoric gratification stemming from alliances with renowned brands, there’s never a sense of hovering protection when the good times come to a screeching halt, and suddenly the panic of unemployment and the immediate urgency to fill that deepening void holds you hostage — indefinitely.
Full time jobs have evolved into luxury items that only very few candidates with the magic number can seamlessly claim. And that’s essentially the direct result of how high demand for things that aren’t in abundance tends to heighten the competition, by empowering employers with the audacity to be unreasonably defiant and even downright disrespectful during the recruitment process.
This explains the grueling atmosphere that stifles the well-meaning pursuits of qualified candidates who are callously stuck in the middle with nowhere to go because of the lack of palatable options that cater to our unique work history, and how it doesn’t seem to fit well with mostly low and high level trajectories.
Aside from the infuriatingly impersonal and generic online job applications that compliment the equally stony interface of human intermediaries, there’s also the unimpressive display of meaningless job titles, boasting descriptions that read like a very boring short story.
But even more devastating is the soulless navigation through the terrain of stacked up postings that only offer a handful of full time entries, and maybe a couple of those seem like a decent fit. And even as you wearily input the data that will allow for submission, there’s the accompanying acceptance of how your chances of being called to interview are depressingly low.
Notable brands are up-to-speed about the dire conditions of the job market, and so the desire to hold out for privileged referrals or younger and inexperienced job seekers, who still buy into the scam of slave labor for prized exposure and low pay — naturally overtakes the need to allocate funds to qualified and dependable laborers who are worth the hassle of full time offers.
All this to say that for those of us who got bullied into the falsehood of the “American Dream,” and the thriving nine-to-five existence that was meant to gifts us with attributes that match dedication to excellence — maybe it’s time to re-imagine the bullshit that we were fed at an impressionable age by charting a personalized path.
We need to energize the cells that are being attacked by a ruthless workforce.
There’s no better time for a much-needed reinvention with splashes of exploratory avenues, that could lead to a glorious re-discovery of what can occur when you cease being a victim and assume the role of a roving warrior.
Full time jobs with full support and encouragement of invested managers has been succumbing to a slow and bitter death, and who wants to deal with that mess?
Not I! And I’m guessing you feel the exact same way.