The Future Will Not Have a Precedent

Artwork done by William Heath under the pseudonym Paul Pry

“What is your resume?” “Where did you apply?” “Have you tailored your skills to match the job requirements?” These are the questions that well-meaning colleagues and friends ask job seekers. As this point in time, there has never been more frustration with how much people are doing to get jobs, and how disingenuously employers are responding. To be fair, most of those colleagues and friends are doing what they know to do, and what has worked on a regular basis–in the past. Suggestions can only arise from the what someone knows and with what someone has experience. Currently, the problem is that the wave of the future will not have a precedent; everyone will have to learn to respond to what is, rather than what if.

First and foremost, it is obsolete to have offices for the majority of white-collar jobs. In the era of contracting, outsourcing, and network infrastructure, forcing people to commute is borderline cruelty. People who have worked in offices for decades tend to opine about the comraderie and the need for discipline. However, the reality is that people come to offices because they are compelled by the threats of eviction, starvation, and healthcare, not because they are making a conscious choice to socialize with their coworkers. Discipline is highly dependent on the individual, not the location, because almost everyone has experienced someone who is never “at work,” and distracts people all day. Employers do not consistently incorporate the cost of the commute into salaries, and many low income jobs are located far away from affordable housing.

Next, asking for references is obsolete. Many people have done amazing work and gotten very little for it, while people who have done mediocre work have advanced and gotten millions of dollars in compensation. People continue to aspire for expensive educations only to find that they are unable to find employment due to a demand for references. Thus, workers are scrambling to find work to cover the massive debt acquired that cannot be discharged because employers want to ensure that someone has quality references. On the other side, workers who are in abusive and toxic work situations are forced to endure those conditions so that their employers will give them good references. Sometimes a good reference is not even possible due to company closures or other employees finding work, thwarting a discharged employee’s chances of finding a much better fit.

Most importantly, companies who relocate are getting the benefit of the doubt way too often, and are offering too little in return for the disruption of the local economies. Often, they approach cities with their ideas and demand to be compensated for the privilege of reorganizing a local economy. Rarely are the constituents of that local economy offered jobs within the companies, but frequently, local taxes–most importantly, property taxes–increase to appease the demands of the employers. The real estate industry joins in the degradation by raising the prices of housing for the privilege of living “where the action is.” Therefore, companies are being rewarded for increasing the homeless population due to the rise in property taxes and siphoning local revenue. To add insult to injury, many of those companies build campuses that require new infrastructure, and fail to account for the rest of the commuting population.

What can be done to fix any of this? White collar workers at the bottom of bureaucratic structures need to be given the opportunity to work at home. This will help in two ways: 1) commuting costs will allow the workers to take care of their households and see to their families a lot more effectively; and 2) workers who actually do have to show up will spend a lot less time in traffic. Obviously, there is no way that tradespeople and custodians will be able to stay at home, but their burdens of commuting could be drastically improved. Office politics also coincide with office comraderie, and those who are more interested in creating toxic work environments will no longer be facilitated. Even more appropriately, employees should have internet services provided by their companies, so that no one is forced to pay for working, as in the case of commuting.

If a company calls itself “trendsetting” and “innovative,” then perhaps it is time for them to stop refusing to initiate careers without prior approval. Asking for references is like saying, “I am incapable of making my own decisions based on interacting with people. I need external validation for my choices before I make them.” Training can only go so far; new employees would never have done the work that they did for old companies at their new companies. Software is different, language is different, and there are so many people exiting education programs designed to make people malleable to their work environments. Previous salaries and references only hinder new workers and preserve economic disparity.

Finally, if employers want to locate to exciting cities and/or build campuses in the middle of nowhere, then they need to start counting their pennies and paying for it. No one is entitled to change infrastructure, avoid hiring local staff, and shake down residents because someone wants to live near the Empire State Building. No one is entitled to record profits when school children are being denied nutritious food based on their parents not having enough money to pay for food due to keeping a car running and a roof over heads. If the models to acquire employment are outdated, then it becomes the responsibility of those in leadership to change and be appeased. The working classes should not have to bear the burdens of minds that refuse to progress.

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