Posts Tagged ‘employment’

Whether it’s halftime, or a whole new ballgame, everyone’s playing for pride

February 12, 2012

Is it halftime in America? Or are we at a different game, on a different team, in a different league, playing a different sport, even?

The most talked about ad of this year’s Super Bowl says that if we brush the dirt off our jerseys and work together, we’ll march out of this economic rut, back onto the field and come from behind, like we have so many times before.

You could almost hear the sources from “Roots of Steel” cheering along. Like Rudacille so neatly summarized in the first chapter, they’ve been rooting for a comeback.

Though they don’t know for sure who is to blame, they do know what they want: a return to the old days, when the jobs that could support a family were plentiful, streets were safe, and workers could take pride in their contributions to the nation’s wealth and power.

Watch the game tape and not just the highlights, however, and it’ll show the good old days weren’t all that good.

Sparrows Point provided tens of thousands with honest pay for honest work and with a comfortable retirement. But it was hard, dirty, dangerous work whose hazards, for many, made retirement less than comfortable — or cut it short.

Sparrows Point provided a path to the middle class straight out of high school. But it also discouraged young people from pursuing higher education or other lines of work — or wasted the talents of those who did.

Sparrows Point supported several fold its payroll through the businesses that fed its supply chain and served its workers. But it also overexposed the area’s broader economic health to the risks of a single industry.

Sparrows Point fostered close-knit communities whose residents looked out for each other and helped their neighbors in times of need. But it also created insular neighborhoods wary of outsiders and helped teach generations the racism we’re still struggling to unlearn.

Sparrows Point enlisted workers in a greater cause: the American war machine. But it also artificially expanded the plant’s footprint based on, no matter how grand, temporary endeavors, rooted in, no matter how politically or morally necessary, death and destruction.

Our author alludes to this double-edged nature of the mill in the title of the book, as she told Urbanite shortly after its release.

The absence of that secure employment, as manufacturing cities such as Baltimore have discovered, has left a terrible void. The book’s title, Rudacille says, “is both literal and metaphorical. There’s this steely will and work ethic. On the other hand, roots of steel will bolt you in place.”

Watch the business report and not just the commercials, meanwhile, and it’ll show our current predicament isn’t all that familiar.

The Great Recession represents a transformative, rather than cyclical, shift. We have gone from a nation that makes things to a nation that buys things to, now that the debt party is over, a nation that will be buying fewer things.

That leaves us with, in essence, the stuff of Super Bowl ads: Ideas. From medicine to mobile apps to homeland security to alternative energy, we are, we need to be, a knowledge economy. We’re not so much trying to come back as we’re trying to build a lead.

There is one thing the Chrysler ad and the old steelworkers have right. It’s reflected by the father in the commercial when he drops his young son off at school. It’s reflected in the “red carpet treatment” everyone who “knew the mill,” even common laborers, received around town — and how that contrasts with the public reception their counterparts might receive today.

No matter what the scoreboard says, what our jerseys say, who our competition is, or what shape the ball is, we’re all playing for pride. It’s not necessarily our old jobs or the old way of doing things we want back. It’s our dignity.

This post was imported from the blog for the now-defunct Baltimore history book club, Read That City. 

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Preparing for Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet

November 22, 2009

Most of the time, job-seekers merely must convince potential employers of their own ability. Those looking for work in emerging fields like interactive media often must also convince them of the value of their would-be job itself.

The jobs my peers and I are preparing for don’t necessarily exist yet. We can hope they’ll be at least enough for us when we wade into the job market this spring, but shouldn’t count on it.

Given the economic downturn and lagging mainstream awareness of the tools we’re learning to use, we should prepare for that second sell. Both of these points were reinforced in class discussions this past week.

My Public Opinion professor flagged an Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication survey indicating that last year’s communications graduates had a tough time finding work. Among both bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients, about three out 10 graduates had zero job offers upon graduation, the nonprofit reported in its November newsletter (.pdf).

Are this year’s graduates faring any better? Perhaps. Nationwide employment figures would suggest otherwise, however.

Anecdotally, several of my classmates said they enrolled in grad school in part because of a lack of attractive job options. And some are saying now that the titles listed on job boards are the same ones from a few years ago — new media responsibilities are merely tacked on to the list of duties, without a corresponding bump in pay.

Whatever the data are, one can tell just by looking out the window that the economic weather’s still crummy. Employers are inclined to rely on proven core positions to carry them through the storm.

Still, recovery seems less abstract than it did a year, or even six months ago. Smart employers are already planning for it. Smart job-seekers will articulate how they can fit into these plans.

The other problem is that even if employers have money to spend, many aren’t aware that they could be — and, my classmates and I would argue, should be —spending it on establishing a presence in social media or in virtual worlds. In detailing her research on the future of nonprofits, one of my classmates said that numerous nonprofit leaders told her they had never heard of Second Life.

The best job-seekers can do is show organizations that their competitors are doing these things, and that they’re working, and that they successfully applied them themselves, either in the classroom, or, ideally, for a real-world client.

If the economy and their own persuasion skills fail them, job-seekers should be ready to bite the bullet, accept a job that’s less than ideal, then work like hell and let their actions talk for them. It’s a tried and true approach. Get your foot in the door anyway you can. If you’re as great as you think you are, you’ll quickly differentiate yourself from your peers and your bosses will reward you for it.