Jobs and Other Wastes of Worldly Effort


Christopher Carr

Christopher Carr does stuff and writes about stuff.

Related Post Roulette

98 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    With one man, we can till one field. Then it was a thousand men to till a thousand fields, then a hundred men, and now it’s one guy on a combine.

    With a hundred men and some electrical motors and an assembly line, we could build a car. Then it was 50. Then 10.

    There are asteroids out in the belt that represent a trillion dollars (or more) of wealth in today’s commodity market. It would not cost a trillion dollars to retrieve one.

    Eventually, all the power, all the food, and most of the basic mechanical and electrical products used by people will be produced by a very, very, very, very small subset of those people.

    What happens then?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      The definitions of “wealth” and “poverty” will undoubtedly change as a result. We will have to create new things to deprive others from having so as to have economic strata. Entertainment, or information, or financial products.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      I think getting there with a minimum of detrimental social effects is the endgame. The question is: which do we prioritize: getting there quickly or minimizing the detrimental social effects of getting there?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The sooner we have people complaining that leisure travel abroad is a Human Right, the better.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          The sooner we offer up a strawman or mushy issue where it is difficult to determine what is truly important then sooner we can ignore really really obvious human suffering.

          PS I rolled my 20 sided die which tells me you are going to go with the “you care” smoke screen. Ohh i hope i have my saving throw ready for that one.Report

          • I’ve yet to see JB take that tact, fwiw. Usually he goes with something a bit more abstract and independent of sincere (or otherwise) assertions of empathy.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Greg, the other day, we had a discussion where we discussed whether society had an obligation to provide the internet to everybody.

            The internet.

            Something that did not even exist when you were born is now being discussed as something that we might be obliged to provide to everybody because of how useful of a tool it is.

            My argument in that thread was the same as it is now:

            We need to speed up technological advancement. You know how refrigerators and microwaves are ubiquitous?

            I want replicators to be ubiquitous. I want all of the bottom two levels of Maslow’s Pyramid to be fulfilled for everybody because of our level of technical advancement has made it so that no one — *NO ONE* — wants for food, drink, sewage, security, or ways to spend leisure in one’s own safe little space.

            And then we can have people talking about how this isn’t enough. How it’s not fair. How leisure time spent abroad is a Human Right.

            I was 100% serious when I said that.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              I honestly don’t know why this offends you so much.

              P1 Looking for, finding, and getting a job these days requires using the internet.
              P2 We want people on relief to get jobs instead.
              C We want to make sure people on relief can use the internet.

              But if you’d rather punish people for being poor than help them stoop being poor, OK.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m not offended, Mike. I may be somewhat incredulous… but I’m not offended.

                I want to reach the point where we, as a society, have met all of Maslow’s physiological and safety needs because of our technical advancements and have them so ubiquitous that thinking that not automatically providing something that did not even exist a few decades earlier is seen as *PUNISHMENT* and this view is taken seriously by a large chunk of the population.

                I don’t know how much clearer I can be on this point.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                It’s your right to be flippant; I’m hardly in a position to look askance at that. But I honest, really, truly think that something you need to get a job counts as a necessarily, and how recently it was invented doesn’t matter.

                And lots of people have been born since 1982.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I want *MORE* necessities.

                I want to reach the point where I cannot live without my Mr. Fusion. I want to reach the point where I cannot imagine my life without Superliverkidneypills. I want to boggle at the fact that I spent the first 40 years of my life without a Replicant in the house. I want to be arguing with you 200 years hence over whether it’s fair that people on Mars only have petabit connection to the mindnet. I want to say that I can’t remember the last time that I went to a funeral.

                I want all of these things taken for granted to the point where people argue that we, as a society, have an obligation to make them ubiquitious for every single person on the planet.

                I am 100% dead serious.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I don’t think he believes that you’re serious. Or, perhaps, I don’t believe that he thinks that every time you’ve written this comment you’ve done it un-ironically. It would unwrap the enigma of Jaybird that has been built up.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                I don’t see why one can’t treat it as serious. It’s exactly Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the 24th century back in the late 1980’s. Was he trolling too?Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                Because he was only trolling with Star Trek VReport

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I want to say that I can’t remember the last time that I went to a funeral.

                That might happen, but not the way you’d want it to.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                “I am 100% dead serious.”

                Yea, right. You can’t be right after I’ve made up my mind you don’t care.Report

            • Avatar zic says:

              Standing ovation.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                JB is anything but flippant. He’s Doug Piranha. Rock on, Doug.

                2nd Interviewer: Doug?

                Vercotti: Doug (takes a drink) Well, I was terrified. Everyone was terrified of Doug. I’ve seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than see Doug. Even Dinsdale was frightened of Doug.

                2nd Interviewer: What did he do?

                Vercotti: He used… sarcasm. He knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and… satire. He was vicious.

                Presenter:By a combination of violence and sarcasm, the Piranha brothers by February 1966 controlled London and the Southeast of England…Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Well, exactly. JB is sarcastic so much of the time that complete sincerity took me by surprise. My apologieis, and for penance I’ll let his brother nail my head to the floor.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                When I think of sarcasm, I think of a high school coach saying “yeah, that was a good catch” when someone drops a ball.

                I see my craft that relies upon caustic irony and obscure reference.

                “Sarcasm.” Feh.Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              I actually think there are good reasons beyond pity-charity to make the Internet public, similar to how there are good reasons beyond pity-charity to have a comprehensive national public health care system. People who are well-versed in Internet skillz can do other (definitely demanded, since IT is one of the few growing sectors) stuff well too. Healthy people are more efficient workers than unhealthy people.

              That is all to say that there are good arguments for the Internet as public utility. At least Harvard and MIT think so. Before going to Japan, I was loosely involved in the campaign to make Cambridge the world’s first city with full public Internet. This was easier for Cambridge than for other cities since one third of the city is Harvard and another third is MIT. We were competing with a city in Pennsylvania when I went over to Japan. I’m not sure who won.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      In 1900 over 90% of Americans were involved in producing food. Now that figure is less than 5%. And yet, unemployment is a lot lower than 85%.

      I can see two ways this can go, in practice we ill get some of both of these:
      1) As people get richer they demand new things (what things? If I knew that I’d be off patenting it), and this creates new industries for people to work in. Supply creates demand creates supply.

      2) As people get richer they substitute income for leisure. This result sin shorter working weeks, and more rich people not going to work in any serious way.

      We’ve been doing both of these in part since the Industrial Revolution, and I expect both trends to continue.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        Do you think mining Pat’s trillion-dollar asteroid requires the existence of a trillionaire?Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:


          Well, today it would. Who knows what the next ten years would bring. Auxons!Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

            What always got me about the flying car talk is that everything ultimately depends on economics more than it does on what we can do. Like, it’s totally conceivable that we could program some machine to turn an asteroid made of iron into a massive halo or something, but what would be the point? What utility would anyone derive from that?Report

            • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

              Nah, you fire a rocket at the asteroid, and deliver autonomous robots. They build a manufacturing facility and a robot making machine, and then they build robots until there are enough robots to build the solar sail. You get the asteroid up to speed, slingshot it around one of the gas giants, and bring it back into earth orbit. Then you just have to get the stuff down into earth’s gravity well without a massive impact. Most of these problems are surmountable using today’s technology, they’re just too expensive using today’s technology.

              One way this depends on economics, though, is that any time you brought such a beastie into near-earth orbit (assuming you have worked out the delivery mechanism), you’ve just blown away an entire commodity market. It would be kind of hard to make money on resource scarcity if resources weren’t scarce any more.

              Making pretty space sculptures is probably a ways down Jaybird’s wish list of necessities.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I like all of what you say, James, except this last bit:

        “not going to work in any serious way”

        I’m not sure where this romantic notion evolved that cheap manual labor is real work and service economy work is somehow not serious and has no intrinsic value, but it’s really, really wrong. (And I’m not sure that this notion does any favors for the working poor.)Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        In 1900 over 90% of Americans were involved in producing food. Now that figure is less than 5%. And yet, unemployment is a lot lower than 85%.

        Not true. A generation earlier, the sum of those employed in agriculture and food processing might have reached 50%. It likely has not been over 90% since the colonial period.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      Since I retired (among other things, I advised senior management at a couple of very large corporations on new technology issues), I’ve spent a lot of time looking at energy and energy policy. While reasonable people can disagree, my own opinion is that sometime in the next 25 or so years, in the developed countries the shift will be from concerns about expending more energy per worker — the way that a very small number of persons can produce the goods needed by a large number — to concerns about just keeping the lights on reliably.

      Developed countries will have much more limited access to dwindling oil supplies. For various reasons, coal use is likely to decrease. Expanding natural gas production is problematic. Popular opinion seems to be in favor of retiring the entire nuclear fleet over the next couple of decades. Making renewables suitable for baseload electric demand will require enormous capital, as will the transmission facilities to connect renewable sources to the very large population centers that are located far from those renewable sources. It is entirely possible (in the US) that we will back ourselves into corners from which we cannot recover.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        Do you think that will force us to go nuclear, even with the risk of meltdown?Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

          Most likely. Base load plants solar does not make.Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          The risk of meltdown isn’t that big a deal. I’d wager that lung cancer caused by inhaling coal dust (not to mention mine explosions) is a bigger health risk per kWh than nuclear meltdown.Report

          • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

            If we don’t store spent fuel rods on-site, that’s a big win, right there.

            Unfortunately, we don’t currently have Yucca on-line…Report

            • Avatar North says:

              Meh, toss the no-reprocessing rule (in fact if my memory serves it’s already chucked, reprocessing just isn’t economical at current power levels) and the entire waste question plummets to near inconsequential levels.Report

          • I disagree with you on risk of meltdown, but I think we’ll make enough strides fighting cancer to significantly offset any effects of occasional meltdowns.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              I’d be interested to hear what you think the realistic risks of meltdowns are? I mean obviously Fukishima looms large in your own experience but as reactor incidents go that old bird of a reactor was a bit of a black swan ne?Report

              • I’m working on an entire book about the topic. I generally still support nuclear right now, but I think we have to do it a lot better. Right after a huge meltdown is not the best time to be reevaluating our energy policy. I hope we can make efficiency improvements in renewable energy procurement. I think a major factor is: people screw stuff up. If the government is involved, it will be screwed up more. Tepco is now considered too-big-to-fail, so all those people who’ve lost their homes are getting no justice. The company is basically getting the Goldman-Sachs treatment. Which, sadly, is how things go in this world. The same people will be in charge the next time it goes down. I can only hope that we’ll make more strides at the output end. But my thoughts on that topic are still pretty rough at this stage, so that’s all I can really offer for now.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                That’s plenty, I appreciate you sharing. Keep us appraised of the book!Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          Some regions appear to have little choice. Almost 80 million people live in the Boswash corridor along the US East Coast, an area with extremely limited high-grade renewable energy resources. Their options appear to be extreme energy austerity (and the economic decline that is likely to come with that), building massive infrastructure to transport energy resources from Western “colonies” (or Canadian ones), or nuclear. I think nuclear makes more sense.

          OTOH, nuclear that conforms to the Carter/Reagan doctrines — a fuel cycle based on uranium/plutonium, once-through (no recycling), and no breeding — seems to me to probably be a waste of money. It’s difficult (although not impossible) to make the reactors passively safe, it uses fuel inefficiently, it produces large amounts of long-lived waste, and there are reasonable questions about long-term fuel supplies.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Indeed, but there’s absolutely nothing that says that reactors must conform to the Carter/Reagan doctrines. Electricity doesn’t have to go up in price very far before nuclear reprocessing goes from an expensive means of eliminating waste (though not as expensive, I submit as burying it underground for a million years, madness!) to a no brainer.
            This is without even talking about things like heavy water reactors (the Canadians have been cranking power out of the CANDU’s and their grandparent designs since 1942 with no indicents of consequence. This also discounts thorium which has been moribund ever since the US mothballed it (thorium was good for making electricity but terribad at making bombs, it produced no quantities of weapon grade material worth talking about. Oh the irony).Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I doubt there’d be a corner Michael. I don’t see environmental concerns (which are somewhat overblown with modern designs IMHO) or proliferation worries (which are utterly ungrounded) holding up against nuclear should the energy situation ever advance to a point where the cost of electricity goes up in any noticably serious way. If the public wallet started getting pinched in any major way I have no doubt nuclear would be turned to in very quick order.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          Well, one of the “corners” involves timing. If — and whether it’s a big if or not is subject to debate — over the next 25 years it’s necessary to electrify a lot of transportation, reduce coal use, and replace nukes whose licenses expire (and even though I’m generally pro-nuke, extending most of those licenses seems like a bad idea to me), then there’s an enormous amount of construction that has to be done. Arguably, it may not be possible to build new generating and transmission capacity fast enough to make up for the stuff going off line.

          Another possible way into a corner is through making bad near-term choices. At the federal and state levels, lots of money is being pushed into ethanol. That money may turn out to be almost completely wasted. Ethanol producers have bid the price of corn up to the point where it’s not obvious they can make any money. And the EPA is preparing to reduce the Congressional mandate for cellulosic ethanol for 2012 from 500 million gallons to 3.5 million gallons, because despite the edict no one is actually producing it commercially. The opportunity cost for pushing ethanol is some years and tens of billions of dollars that could have gone elsewhere.

          Whether you think there are corners or not depends largely on whether you think it’s possible for a modern economy to go into a death spiral because of energy supply constraints. I think it is, but I’ll admit that I could be wrong. I’m not the first, of course. The Limits to Growth addressed “resources” in general rather than energy, but concluded that a spiral is possible, or even likely. Ayres and Barr have built economic models that suggest the same thing. At least in my reading, it seems that most academics who use dynamic system models (rather than equilibrium models) seem to show that the spiral is a likely outcome unless we do almost everything right.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            I understand and appreciate your concerns but am generally much more sanguine about energy constraints. Yes oil supplies are running down but at the same time I am keenly aware that in many oil producing countries (Canada especially) there is a great deal of oil that is left in the ground because at current energy prices it remains uneconomical to extract. If we began moving towards the kind of corner you describe then rising energy prices would make currently uneconomical fossil fuels become economical to extract which would provide the short term energy needs while longer term energy production was built up.Report

  2. Avatar dhex says:

    That my seventeen years of formal American education (a public/private investment of more than $250,000) and approximately 15,000 hours of work experience (for someone in his late twenties) can be undercut with a pathetically obvious fake smile, manipulation of Google keywords, or the institutional wisdom imparted by a four-DVD course – or alternatively, that all my education and work experience can be undone by a cover letter that doesn’t reveal enough information or reveals too much information or a resume that contains bullet points but no objective statement or an objective statement but no bullet points or that any other Procrustean litmus tests actually matter is just ridiculous.

    ioz – who is a national treasure – is far, far more into marx than i am, but i think he’d not be entirely wrong in pointing at this attitude as an example of the negative effects of credentialism as a cornerstone of education. (he’d probably scarequote education or do something even more pithy and clever, but that’s why he’s a national treasure)

    people are people, and there’s a lot of them. ain’t no formulas, no guarantees, because you still gotta deal with people being people.

    to quote a better writer than i, “as one judge said to the other, be just; and if you cannot be just, be arbitrary.”Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    …that all my education and work experience can be undone by a cover letter that doesn’t reveal enough information or reveals too much information or a resume that contains bullet points but no objective statement or an objective statement but no bullet points or that any other Procrustean litmus tests actually matter is just ridiculous.

    One hopes that the awesomely-bespectacled Tom Van Dyke chimes in here. Seems to me that cover letters and resumes can do a lot more harm than good; you have to have something to get a door opened, but the resume is just the promise. You deliver the prestige in the interview.Report

  4. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Here, I’ll create a job: funeral clown. Bam! I’ll create another one: Trainer of search-and-rescue cats. Bam! Why can’t Washington create more jobs?Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      Rufus, in all seriousness: We keep hearing how ‘productive’ we are, doing more work with fewer people. We hear about how stressed workers are, killing themselves because they fear losing their jobs. We keep hearing how unemployment is creating drag on the economy. We keep hearing about the great balance sheets companies have. We keep hearing how there’s slack demand because of unemployment. We keep hearing calls for government to do something. Yet taxes and interest are at an all time low.

      How come we’re not hearing demands for companies to hire again? We’ve been told government’s the problem, the private sector’s the solution. How come there are no calls for the private sector to solve the problem by creating demand by hiring, only discussions about what government can and cannot do?

      Folks are talking the talk. Now it’s time for the private sector to walk the walk.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Friends and I put up a fence in the backyard. This cost me materials plus a half dozen steaks and two bottles of something.

        Am I part of the problem because I did not hire one of those guys who puts up signs on the side of the road?Report

        • Avatar zic says:

          No. But there’s plenty of this out there:
          “However, a U.S. sovereign downgrade scenario has highlighted for many investors the comparably stellar earnings performance — and balance sheet strength — of U.S. corporations, making the corporate bond market (excluding financials) the go-to place for portfolio managers to get a safe pick-up over Treasuries.”


          And plenty of this:
          “The do-more-with-less workplace is taking a toll. Employees who are doing the work that two, three, maybe even four co-workers used to share are worn out.
          But even workers with a stellar work ethic fear telling their bosses. Admit to overload? You may be next on the layoff list.”

          • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

            There is too much of that for sure. One position I interviewed for was actually removed despite the fact that the organization has plenty of money. There were seven totally overworked people. One left. Now there are six totally totally overworked people. Why couldn’t I or someone else do that job?Report

            • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

              Until the new Health Care law makes its way through the Courts, employers don’t know for sure whether or not they’ll be saddled with giving you health insurance for the rest of your life. Or something.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      I’ve definitely read this several times now and still laugh out loud each time.Report

  5. Avatar Will Truman says:

    I have so much to say about this, but my first thought is something of a trivial anecdote. Several years back I applied for (and got) a job with an American subsidiary of a Japanese corporation. About half of the management Japanese, half American. About half of the people at my interview were American, half Japanese. I had an absolutely killer letter of recommendation. That turned out to be all the Japanese people there looked at. The Americans didn’t care and instead looked at my resume.

    If I had a cover letter, it was very short and to the point. Basically, it just highlighted the parts of my resume that they would find most applicable.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      One of the first things I did when I got back here and started applying for jobs was to line up killer references. I met with a headhunter right after taking care of all of that, and he told me not to bother with references. Apparently, it’s mostly illegal to not give someone a positive reference, and giving someone a negative reference is an open call for lawsuits. “So, what’s the point of a reference then?” I asked him. He replied, “Exactly.”Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        It’s not quite all that. A lot of companies won’t give a negative reference, but there’s no requirement for any sort of positive one. At least not anywhere I’ve lived. Companies will often refuse to say anything. All they are required to do is verify the period of employment. If they do more, it’s voluntary. Still unreliable, though. But my letter of recommendation was awesome.Report

  6. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    Since jobs are obsolete, 4 hours pushing at the Common Turbine. Renewable energy, goodbye to obesity, a purpose-driven life.

    Then 4 hrs of Twitting-while-you-shop, 4 hrs of Project Runway, 4 hrs of reading blogs like these, 8 hrs of sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    O brave new world! That has such mad twits in it!Report

  7. Avatar Murali says:

    there are articles that promote obsession with meaningless formalities, articles that make you want to kill yourself for a thousand different reasons, and psychopathic shit that you can’t even believe someone somewhere is taking seriously

    Mr Carr, I read those articles and I’m not sure that there is that much to criticise in them. Given that you agree that there are just so many applicants that it is not reasonable for HR personell to look at everyone’s qualifications one by one and sort them properly, a person who desires said job should advertise themselves. Of course that opens up the possibility of someone who may not do as good a job as you getting the job because he advertises better. Of course there is a bit of runaway selection going on here, but this is all an extension of your dad telling you to comb your hair, tuck in you shirt, have your back straight and your chin up.

    It can be frustrating, but not necessarily unreasonably so. It all depends on how picky you are about the kind of job you want.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      You may have a point: those articles are on a very mainstream site (BNET = CBS), so that must be the prevailing mentality. But those articles just don’t square with my experience at all: I have a problem advertising myself. (1) I suck at it, and (2) I find it introduces a moral conundrum since I am unwilling to misrepresent myself, yet so many others are okay with misrepresenting themselves (see those articles), and this puts me at a disadvantage (unless I can find some other way, which is the “phase” of job search I am currently in) and which I will write about more.Report

  8. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Okay, so now that I have my trivial anecdote out of the way, my thoughts on the piece itself.

    My wife’s job has forced me to pick up my career and move to a city in which I am completely unfamiliar and have few connections a total of four times (so far). I’ve done reasonably well with it due to particulars of my situation that don’t apply to most people.

    That being said, for the most part, flexibility and persistence have gotten me through. There are a surprising number of jobs out there with unspecified skill requirements. Jobs that are unlike other jobs and therefore they don’t need someone that has done the job before, but has a job history that demonstrates that they can do the job. I used to think that this sort of thing didn’t exist, but it at least does in the places I’ve moved too and from. I’m really, really glad that I didn’t decide that I was a database guy and needed to find database jobs. I would have spent much more time being unemployed, rather than becoming a QA guy.

    More than once, I’ve applied for and gotten a job that I thought I was wasting everybody’s time applying for. My last two “real” jobs have been jobs that I had previously declared I would never have (one at a large corporation, one telecommuting), and twice I left interviews battered and broken only to receive a call a few hours later asking me when I can start. TVD may disagree with me on this, and in his field he may be 100% right, but in my experience it’s a pretty bad idea to think that there’s a single way to find a job. A way to become perfect. To me, it’s more important that you do it than that you do it right.

    I’ve always had the feeling that if I had followed anyone’s advice, I would have been unemployed for a lot longer. I would have spent so much time trying to watch my behavior and be who I was supposed to be, I wouldn’t have let who I am come through.

    Of course, just to get to that point, you need an interview. And in that, persistence, persistence, persistence. If you think too much about the long odds on any given try, it’s far too easy to get discouraged.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      One last tidbit: think twice and think a third time before deciding that a job is beneath you. A lot of times, the job that is beneath you gets your foot in the door. If a job is beneath your station, and there are no advancement opportunities, take a pass. But a lot of the time, particularly at the sorts of companies I’ve worked, they most immediately need someone for a particular, often mundane role, but they are going to need more than that at some point, and when they do, already being there can help a great deal. The job you start with isn’t necessarily the job that you’re going to get. Mr. Carr has a wife and kids. I was one of two incomes in a household with no kids. I could afford to be underpaid.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Oh, I don’t disagree, Mr. Truman. I found my job—or it found me—at a jam session, and it has nothing to do with music.Report

        • I’d love to hear that story, TVD.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Not much to tell, CC. I was winding up my career as failed rock star and studio owner, and one fellow said he was a legal recruiter. What’s that, asked I. Headhunter, for lawyers. Mebbe I asked, or they did, don’t remember. The thrust was, you seem smart, mebbe you should give it a try, we have an opening. No draw, but fat commissions.

            The next week at the jam, a friend of his who ran a firm recruiting doctors offered me a draw, $100/wk [This would be 1997 or so, not a fat check.], so I took it.

            So I learned how to recruit, certainly not a skill they teach in school. I returned to the lawyer place when the med shop folded [and eventually brought my 1st boss over] and that was how it went down.

            I also ran a contact lens business for years. Went in for cheap contacts, noticed they were busy and asked if they needed help. I ended up running 3 stores for them.

            Any questions about the business of law or eyeballs, shoot ’em my way. Not what I studied in college; indeed the lawyers ask me about the business of their business. Hope all this is of interest or utility. My best results have come from recruiting myself.Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

              Very interesting. Thanks.

              Would you say there are too many lawyers nowadays?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                That was my question. Once upon a time, I was really planning on going that route (even took the LSAT). I read some lawyer blogs and think of it as one of the sliding doors.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                I’m hearing lots of stories from friends who went to law school that there isn’t any work for young lawyers. There are lots of lawyers in my family as well, and they’ve all told me do not become a lawyer.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                You likely missed nothing by not becoming a lawyer. It sounds like fun, but the business of law, esp in the past 15 years, has simply become a business like any other. Basically you’re in sales.

                The “rainmaker” is the guy who sells himself and his firm and generates business. Most rainmakers are on their 2nd-to-4th marriages. If you’re not a rainmaker, after you pass the junior level of “associate,” you’re at the mercy of your firm. “Service” partners, non-rainmakers are called.

                Over 9000 Big Law attorneys were laid off over the past 2 years, many or most never to return to Big Law. To be a laid-off Big Law service partner is the ultimate indignity, and to be a loser at the game.

                When i first started in 1997, I saw the trend, and warned the 3rd yr attorneys, God bless the child who’s got his own. Build a practice or go somewhere that you can, or you’ll be screwed. I still come across one of them, poor saps.

                Big Law is only interested in the top 25% of the top 30 schools. There are about 250, mebbe even more now. Scott is right [below] that the bottom 100-150 law schools are useless unless you have some sort of plan to chase ambulances. People are actually suing such law schools for misrepresentation of their future prospects. Altho I doubt they’ll get anywhere, they have a point.

                Even at best, my assessment after a decade in the business is that the top lawyers are overpaid and overworked. If you truly love it, that doesn’t bother you. Some are obsessed by lawyerly success [they’re the ones I seek out as a headhunter].

                One fellow wants his tombstone to read, “I spent too much time with my family.”Report

              • Avatar Scott says:

                There are definitely too many lawyers. Every third rate university/college has opened a law school (and which the ABA has accredited) since they are cash cows. This has had the effect debasing of my law degree as well as everyone else’s.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      That squares with my experience as well, and I’ve done quite well with getting interviews according to the people around me (This is a recent development, so I have yet to hear anything back from most of them.) My natural tendency is to poke stuff with sticks and see what happens, so I’ve tried a lot of different approaches. The main problem at first was total lack of feedback, which I think is an outrageous market failure. But I’ll have a full functional post on this topic next time or after that.Report

  9. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    CC- I think you may be wrong about the value of LinkedIn; and the guys that you describe as being Lying Coaches might each have some relevant things to say that you might benefit from. (Though I can’t believe you need to pay them to get the same nuggets you can get free elsewhere. Plus the guy in the video does look line he wants to get you to buy into a timeshare. It would be hard to watch him for an extended period of time.)

    I don’t think the value of LinkedIn is as a resume-sharing tool, or for that matter as a direct employment-seeking tool. More to the point, I don’t think employers do. I did get the irony of this bit:

    “in the same amount of time using LinkedIn, I can fire off ten or fifteen applications and get immediate and cordial rejections to them all. This represents a major increase in productivity;”

    which was brilliant and made me laugh out loud. But the truth of the futility here seems worth noting.

    The people I know that use LinkedIn successfully aren’t the ones that that use it to direct-connect to people they don’t know. (Which makes sense. If you got a message from someone you hadn’t met and didn’t know anyone you knew on Facebook asking you to come over to their house for dinner because they had seen your home page and thought you two would have synergy, wouldn’t you block them immediately?) The do it by using connections of people they do know, links, and relevant content to create what I can best describe as a personal brand. I get where this may seem cheesy, but it is highly effective when done well.

    The problem with the resume and cover letter approach is that the only jobs that those are ever really used for filling are the types of jobs that companies don’t care that much about maintaining. They tend to be low wage and/or temporary importance – meaning that it’s likely that if you do beat the lottery and land a job with this method, you’ll be the first to be laid off when growth begins to ebb. A friend of mine that does HR once said to me, “I don’t know what would be worse – not getting a job or getting one” regarding the jobs filed by resume cover letters.

    (Generally speaking, I think resumes should only be used as a reference point to share with a potential employer once they have decided they are very interested in you, and if you are writing a cover letter at all you have almost no shot at the job.)Report

  10. Avatar Member548 says:

    Ultimately we may cap human misery quicker by reaching certain tech thresholds faster.

    The only reason any of us have a standard of life above a stone age hunter/gatherer is because of technological advancement.

    Singularity or sustained nuclear fusion may do more to help the less fortunate then all of the charity in the history of man combined, yet more money is spent on ring tones then research in fusion.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Fusion is only 25 years away. I know this because, as a confined theist. I can have complete faith in induction, and fusion has been 25 years away my entire life.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      I thought Singularity was when we could all upload our minds into computers so that we could live beyond the death of our bodies, thus achieving a kind of immortality.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        The technical definition of singularity is any technological leap that represents a horizon beyond which people prior to the leap are unable to predict how society will react and would find the society that results unrecognizable to them. So singularities could come in an almost infinitely large variety.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          We’ve had a handful in the 20th Century alone.Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

            Agreed. the singularity is a fairly ridiculous concept I think. But, I’ve heard it referred to specifically in relation to AI, where it specifically means the creation of an AI that can create more sophisticated AIs at a rate faster than humans can. But even this definition is problematic, since everything we make is ultimately just a tool for us to use to get stuff.

            We also tend to personify machines. When Watson beats Ken Jennings we shouldn’t see this as a machine beating a human, but we should see it as a huge number of (perhaps genius-level, perhaps not) programmers colluding to beat one genius at a contest which has no relation to helping humans realize their goals. It’s cool that people can do that and stuff, but the media definitely takes advantage of the whole personificationism thing that goes on with the human race.

            I’m not an expert by any means, but I think we’ll see more “emergent engineering” in the future (whether or not that can be called a “singularity” I don’t know), where we set up systems that permutate and expand in unpredictable ways (if we’re not already doing this – I don’t know, but isn’t this what is really going on at CERN, hence the end-of-the-universe fears?) by specifying initial conditions; this opposed to deterministic engineering where we basically just make a plan based on existing knowledge and follow through on it to make what we planned on making.

            This stuff really interests me, and I think emergent engineering is going to be especially relevant to neurology, which is where I’d eventually like to work.Report

            • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

              > The singularity is a fairly ridiculous
              > concept I think.

              It makes total sense if you discard, say, the entire history of software programming… and only look at Moore’s Law as an indicator of how badass computers will be any day now.

              Kurzweil’s brilliant, but he’s totally crazy. We still have buffer overflow problems in production software.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Aye, I’ve read that many believe that the media and consumer goods revolutions in the 1940’s to 1970’s were a singularity.Report

  11. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Seems to me that the value in work is not the income but the self-fulfillment. And there are many, many people who do valueless work.

    I’d also point to the “Tennessee Taxonomy” that was posted on this site a while back (and, I think, linked in this thread).Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      Sorry Duck, what’s the Tennessee Taxonomy?

      Also, I agree with you. For some people, self-fulfillment and income overlap quite a bit. For me, I value income somewhat since it determines what kind of health care my kids get, what kind of universities they can go to, etc. at least in some regard.

      What’s arguably more important than self-fulfillment is social value of work. I think a lot of libertarians make the mistake of assuming a 1-1 correspondence between social value and economic value. There is little correlation in my opinion, but it is virtuous to reward those occupations which provide the most social value with the highest incomes.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        “Sorry Duck, what’s the Tennessee Taxonomy?”

        uh…you linked to the post where it was described…

        In that post–and in many posts since, like that Heritage Foundation study–we see that for American society, we are moving ever closer to breaking the link between “effort” and “survival”. It’s actually almost hard to starve to death in the street; you have to specifically choose that path, or at least conciously make decisions that lead you down it.

        “What’s arguably more important than self-fulfillment is social value of work.”

        Sure, but “doing work with social value” is another way to say “self-fulfillment”.Report

        • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

          Oh, my bad. I didn’t connect your comment with Burt’s taxonomy. And okay, I see your point about self-fulfillment. Do you think if we were somehow able to maximize aggregate self-fulfillment, we’d make everyone better off?Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            That’s exactly what I think. It’s the old question of whether it’s better to have cheap underpants and everyone’s on the dole, or expensive underpants and everyone’s got a job at the underpants factory.

            I will say that whenever someone rants about how much smarter school students were in The Good Old Days, I try to point out that back in The Good Old Days the dumb ones all left after sixth grade because they could make a full career out of working in the aforementioned underpants factory (or on the farm, or in the mine, or at the shipyard, etcetera.)Report