The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

As a Freelance Independent Blogger Consultant, I Have Enormous Sympathy …

Posted on | December 2, 2010 | 9 Comments

. . . for those pathetic slobs who are merely “long-term unemployed“:

The longer people stay out of work, the more trouble they have finding new work. . . .
This country has some of the highest levels of long-term unemployment — or joblessness lasting more than six months — ever recorded. . . .
[T]he legions of long-term unemployed will probably be idle for significantly longer than their counterparts in past recessions, reducing their chances of eventually finding a job even when the economy becomes more robust.
“I am so worried somebody will look at me and say, ‘Oh, he’s probably lost his edge,’ ” said Tim Smyth, 51, a New York television producer who has been unable to find work since 2008, despite having two decades of experience at places like Nickelodeon and the Food Network. “I mean, I know it’s not true, but I’m afraid I might say the same thing if I were interviewing someone I didn’t know very well who’s been out of work this long.”

Read the whole thingAdvice for Tim Smyth: Dude, you’re going about this the wrong way. Just create a Web site and keep doing what you would be doing if you actually had a job with a paycheck.

Make some YouTube videos or something. Print yourself a card that says, “Tim Smyth, independent producer” and, if anybody asks what it is you’re producing, give ’em some mumbo-jumbo about “projects” and “clients.” You don’t have to tell them that your client is your brother-in-law and the project is a DVD highlight compilation of his home videos of his kids’ softball season.

Alternatively: “I’m negotiating a development deal.”

Every other bartender and convenience-store clerk in L.A. is “negotiating a development deal,” which translates to “calling up producers to ask them to take a look at my crappy reality-series proposal,” or whatever.

The important thing is to convey the impression that you’re a hot property, with plenty of offers to choose from, just waiting for the right deal to come along.

By the way, this is probably a good time to remind readers that it’s “Make My Wife Happy” Week here at The Other McCain, so please hit the tip jar pay those “consulting” fees.

UPDATE: Now a Memeorandum thread. All joking aside, we are talking about a couple of related problems:

  • Structural unemployment, not cyclical unemployment — In many cases (although probably not Tim Smyth’s case), long-term unemployment represents an actual shift in the structure of the labor market. As I’ve said, “if you’re waiting for the buggy-whip industry to rebound, you’re going to be waiting a long time.” Even if your occupational skill-set hasn’t become obsolete, it may be that what was a growing sector of the labor force 15 or 20 years ago is now a declining sector, and your long-term unemployment therefore reflects a developing surplus of people with similar skill sets.
  • Labor market demographics — Tim Smyth is the same age I am, which means he was born near the peak of the Baby Boom. In October, “60 Minutes” did an eye-opening segment (which I mentioned on the blog) about middle-class people in San Jose, Calif., whose 99 weeks of unemployment benefits had run out. Guess what? Most of those people weren’t just middle-class, they were middle-aged, too.

“Financial analyst at a real estate firm, age 54 . . . people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who though they’d done everything right . . . too young to retire and maybe, too old to rehire . . . fiber-optics engineering manager . . . today, nearly 20 percent of the unemployed in America have college degrees. . . . Doug [Francone] was a $200,000-a-year personnel executive . . . Claudia Bruce . . . was an office manager making $70,000 a year.”

There is a similarity to these people, you see. Although short-term prospects are grim for young people — unemployment for those under 25 is very high — they at least have the hope of getting on with their careers once the economy recovers.

For the middle-aged and (formerly) middle-class unemployed, however, the wrecked economy has devastated their lives in a way that is genuinely irreparable. Even if they manage to find new careers in new fields, there will never be a “recovery” for these people whose careers were permanently derailed — savings drained, homes lost — as a result of the Great Crash.

The “winners” of this grievous misfortune are those who recognize the reality and stop deluding themselves with the false belief that their next job will be like the jobs they lost.

When companies begin to re-hire financial analysts and office managers, they won’t be looking for 55-year-olds to fill those jobs, will they? No, they won’t.

You can yell “age discrimination” at the top of your lungs, but it’s not going to change that reality. You’re going to have to find some new way to earn a living, and the sooner you start figuring out what that “new way” is, the better off you’ll be in the long run.


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