The American Dream, The Applicant’s Nightmare

Aah, the “American Dream” — No wonder why I drink so much coffee.

Today, I happen to be very blessed. I’m doing what I have loved to do since I was 11, full time, and I’ve never been happier in my life! But, before then, I could only afford to do Tarot part time (or so I believed) and I ran that nasty, “cube-icidal” rat race for over 20 years and it was a very different animal…

Up until about 15 or so years ago, all you needed to do to gain employment was read the paper or the go online for the ad, call to see if they’re hiring, maybe fax your resume, show up to the location, fill out the application, and you would get called in for an interview within the next 48 hours, if not right there and then.  If you didn’t get a call back within 3 days of the interview, you would follow up with a call and they’d get back to you with an answer within 24 hours.  And if you had real skills or some kind of degree, you could get seriously hooked up for life within a week.

Then, something happened — maybe a few things, at least from what I’ve seen.

First, the internet and the concept of going paperless went from “novelty” to “standard.” Now, anyone can apply anywhere, anytime, for anything and the hiring party is no longer sifting through stacks and stacks of reading material.

Second, back in the day, when someone advertised for an open position, there was actually an open position to apply for. Then, someone came up with the brilliant *rolling my eyes* idea that employers absolutely had to advertise an open position even if they plan to hire within the company. The object of the rule was to allow the general population to take advantage of the opportunity. However, if the employer had already made their decision internally, then the advertisement is nothing more than an ornament, wasting countless hours, money, and resources just to be inevitably disappointed.

Finally, third, which I think is most significant, is that we changed how we choose our leaders.

There really was a time that the harder you worked, the more you earned. And if you demonstrated loyalty to the company and your peers, you had a much better chance of advancement than those who didn’t. Historically, humans found those who spoke on their behalf with passion, demonstrated energy and ambition, and delivered desired change within an area or situation were generally considered best suited to be leaders. Within the workplace, this was especially significant because businesses believed that keeping their integrity with product and services was their primary staple for survival and prosperity. True, the “bosses” usually didn’t have people skills and treated workers like workers, but the corporate culture was far more public, if not internally, friendly.

Then in the 80’s, sociologists and other like-minded interested people discovered that when workers were treated more like people, the service improved, the product improved, and therefore, the bottom line improved, thus creating the “human resource” concept. It was beautiful! It was true, when people were happier in the workplace, it was infectious. And the happier they were, the happier the customers, and when the customers are happy, everyone’s wallets were happy. Happy happy happy!

“Morale” became the new watchword.

"...and don't forget 'Hawaiian Shirt' day..."

As the workplace became more personable, so did our choices in leadership. Now, it’s not just who can do the job best, get things done, and delegate responsibilities by recognizing their team members’ strengths, but who could boost morale – and no one can boost someone’s morale better than someone’s buddy.

And that’s when the problems started.

Being dependable, skilled, and resourceful wasn’t enough. Likability, which was once a bonus quality, is now mandatory. Psychological testing was introduced to the hiring process, even though it had been disproven to be effective time and time again (you know how easy is it to lie on one of those things?), human resource management continues to use the tool because a simple glance at a test score takes a lot less time than being introduced to a human being and having an actual conversation in order to determine whether or not this person is likable.

So now people who want a job also have to possess test taking skills and be concerned as to whether or not their answers are going to be acceptable to the unknown reviewing party. It’s no longer how reliable or good you are, but if you have the potential to be a “good fit,” too. Many of us were not born with silver spoons in our mouths, so we need a job so we can live, therefore many of us are willing to do what we have to do to make that happen. Now that technology has increased the workload, as well as the speed, and because giving a collective group a voice boosts morale (and groups take longer to agree on a decision), we’ll answer anything, wear anything, be anything to get that foot in the door to get that paycheck as soon as possible. The result is management not only influences a worker’s productivity, but their personality as well.

It's not just the job, but how it's done.

And now the Culture of Cliques begin…

People who work hard, work late, and produce results are passed over by management for promotions because the “likable” candidate is becoming more instrumental. If that likable candidate happens to be highly skilled and a good worker, then all the better! Our leaders are now being chosen for their charm and ability to manipulate — which is an effective, although darker, factor of success.  Marketing, itself, is pure manipulation and mass hypnosis. Convince someone to do something you want them to do and voila! Success.

Since we’re kind of on the subject, I recommend taking a gander at the plethora of information regarding psychopaths in the workplace, such as: http://workplaceviolencenews.com/2009/02/09/workplace-psychopaths-leave-a-trail-of-destruction/ or http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s1360571.htm or http://www.amazon.com/Snakes-Suits-When-Psychopaths-Work/dp/0061147893

But, likability is subjective and subjectivity is relevant to the one or the few. When the interests of the one or the few (management) take precedence over the needs of the many (customers, employees) then you have:

Feudal System: “…a way of government based on obligations between the lord or king and vassal. The king (boss) gave large estates (better positions) to his friends and relatives. These estates known as the fief (perks) included houses (better pay), barns (paid time off [PTO]), tools (better equipment), and serfs or peasants (workers). The king also promised to protect the vassal (cover their asses) on the field (within the company structure) or in the courts (with the public or literally, the actual courtroom). In return the nobles who were granted the fiefs swore an oath of loyalty to the king. The nobles promised never to fight against the king (confidentiality and gag agreements)…There were only a few nobles. Most people, approximately nine-tenths, were serfs who worked the land for a noble. The serf was bound to the land (because the economy is suffering and it’s much more difficult and time consuming to find another position elsewhere). If the noble sold the land the serf went with it (maybe). This was not much better than being a slave.” http://www.mce.k12tn.net/middleages/feudalsystem.htm

Today, in most cases, in order to get a job you must provide a professional resume, re-type the same information that’s on your resume on the application online, take the personality test, maybe take an aptitude test, provide your credit report, provide a drug screening, background check, and now applicants are being coerced to give up their social networking accounts for a job that may or may not be open to the public.  And why…?

Because they want to make sure they like you.

And apparently, just meeting you just isn’t enough. Your skills and talents that can provide great service and product to the general masses just simply cannot outweigh your golf game.

So, what is the “American Dream” today? Is it still the big house, new cars, diamonds, a hot spouse, kids, and jets? You know, I really don’t think so anymore.

I think the American Dream now is to just be humanized.

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About T. Ray

Writer, visual artist, musician, divinationist, playwright, and "armchair nutritionist." She currently resides in Vegas with her jenday conure, is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and is pursuing her Master's in Journalism/Media Studies. All things come down to food and Star Wars. Contact: contact@theblacksiren.com
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One Response to The American Dream, The Applicant’s Nightmare

  1. tarotcircle says:

    Well, yes and no.
    If you are in any way not “mainstream” different rules apply, and always have.
    If you are ethnic, have a history of being self-employed or too independent, are too large/small or otherwise not TV-acceptable in appearance, if anyone has ever had a public beef with you, or if for some other unspecific reason you don’t fit the stereotypes that most people have about whatever group you belong to, you might as well hang it up. You can be as likeable as all get out, you will still not be hired, or if you are, it may well be impossible to hold onto that job.
    I’ve been refused employment or fired for not fitting the cliche stereotype of the Minority Woman, for sounding too educated and looking people in the eye, for actually doing my job better than my boss could have, for standing up for those I was supervising when they were being abused, for actually using the safety equipment required by OSHA, for being “uppity” (there’s that little problem about using correct grammar, being able to spell, having a cultured-sounding voice, and looking people in the eye, again), and for being too well-liked by the “wrong people”.
    I’ve even been fired because my supervisor didn’t like my shoes. (I know it was so, because she flat-out told me so. There was nothing I could do about it; there were no witnesses and it was a “Right to Work” state- which basically means you have no rights at work.)
    So, for lots of people, the American Dream has actually been the American Nightmare for quite some time, and the floundering economy has not helped at all.
    They (the bosses) claim they are afraid we won’t fit in or get along with our co-workers, but I think what they are really afraid of is that we will force them to change their world-view, and be too effective at banishing the artificially created boundaries between groups of people who are not supposed to get along. If we don’t hate and fear each other, we might learn to cooperate, and throw off the yoke of serfdom.
    Let’s face it, the elite do consider us to be serfs, and now that things are tightening up and the country being sold out from under us, we are no longer welcome on the land we cultivated and invested our lives and labor in.

    Like

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