Have you been job-hunting lately? I have. And I envy everyone who’s fortunate enough to be in a (relatively) stable position. Job hunting for me has become a full-time job, just without neither pay nor pay-off. Readers of this blog might recall that I actually have a job. I teach German and English on, mostly to private individuals but sometimes also for language institutes to groups. It’s actually a nice thing to make a living. Besides minor frustration with lazy students—intellect is never the problem—teaching actually can be quite fulfilling. My students taught me a lot about Chilean history, society, and life in general. The problem is that this job as nice as it is, is way too insecure and pays too little. Since there are no real contracts and learning a language cannot take precedence over job commitments (which are harsh over here), lessons often get cancelled, meaning no pay. Thus, I waste a lot of time trying to acquire new students and designing teaching plans. The latter exercise is especially futile since people do not learn according to plan, even though they like that idea and therefore want to see something like that.
Well, to change that and to get practical experience which corresponds to my field of study I am constantly on the look-out for some stable position. And this is where I made some rather disturbing experiences. The first one comes from LinkedIn. You know, this ‘career’ network where jobseekers should have an account and ‘network’ in order to be ‘there’. On LinkedIn are some groups where head hunters offer positions in this or that firm. It sounds actually like a practical idea, if the practice weren’t so screwed up. As I subscribe to some groups I get an email every time some new post is up. The problem is that in these groups little jobs are offered, but a lot of rubbish books. They are promoted along the lines of ‘that one secret phrase you need to say to get hired’. Who writes these books? They surely are despicable persons, trying to exploit the desperation of others to make a buck.
Another screwed up thing in the wonderful profession of job-seeking is the level of incompetency. I hinted at this in my last post. Recruiters seem not half as knowledgeable about candidates’ wishes and, even worse, about the competencies needed, as should be expected. This leads to a kind of textbook interview, where the same questions meet the same answers all the time. Banal and ordinary.
Further, and that’s really the most shitty thing there is, is that apparently there are no contract contracts anymore. Yet this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get contracted—quite to the contrary. In today’s market everyone seems to be a service provider. Those who formerly were known as ‘employers’ are, and they assume that those who were formerly known as employees are service providers, too. Thus, two parties meet to make business together, to the benefit of both.
If things were that easy, though, good ol’ von Hayek would dance around the table with good ol’ Friedman, being happy to have achieved what Lenin never did—liberate the masses from the oppression of lobbies and special interest. Such an arrangement theoretically has the potential to disrupt power relations in the economic sphere. Yet, in practice, of course, it doesn’t work like this at all. You’d just not get a job, and therefore no income, if you’d not respond in a way that serves the stronger party, which usually is the ‘employer’ since they have much more leverage on deciding who to collaborate with. Additionally, in order to make sure you’re regulated well, meaning in non-democratic ways, you get a non-contract contract. This type of contract ties the ‘employee’ down in a way as to demonstrate that this is not an equal partnership. Service providers have to sign their soul away , in a way that makes sure the stronger party is not hurt in any way, does not take any risk in case of cancellation of classes, and does not have to pay in case of sickness or holidays or whatever. Some of the clauses in these non-contract contracts leave no doubt about who is chef and who is waiter. It’s pretty much a normal work contract—just without obligations for one of the parties, and that party is usually not the one who provides the ‘service’.
Another downside of this type of contract is that you won’t be able to charge the price that would enable you to alleviate some of the insecurity. These companies, without any appearance of ridiculousness, promise that people there can work and earn as much as they want. Sounds pretty much like they are looking for slacks, doesn’t it? Yet, as they are the ones who connect you with the clients they determine how much you earn. If they don’t do their job, you have to take care of yourself again, which then becomes harder as such companies with much more financial power in their hands push the prices down and freelancers out of the market. This kind of suppression and slavery is quite sophisticated.
Am I really that old already? I still have this expectation of getting a straight forward job with a straight forward contract, as I used to have not so long ago. I don’t want that ‘work-as-much-as-you-want’-stuff. An eight hour contract, occasional overtime and the opportunity to get promoted, is fine. Is that too much asked for? I mean, I wouldn’t want anything for free, just work–and this non-work work, non-contract contract rubbish.