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Almost Homeless
December 7, 2008 11:57 PM   Subscribe

Ex-Director of Operations of Sababa Toys Paul Nawrocki lost his job after the parent company filed for bankruptcy. Posting, faxing, and emailing thousand of copies of his resumes (including through LinkedIn) did not get him anywhere, so he's resorted to standing at a Manhattan street corner wearing a sandwich board saying "Almost Homeless". Business blogger Barry Ritholtz blogged about Nawrocki, which led to a Businessweek interview describing his difficulty affording his wife's medical needs or even the cost of relocation. He's been noticed by an executive recruiting firm, and a job-hunting website was made in his honour. Will his Depression-era tactic bring him luck in this recession? (Via MetaChat)
posted by divabat (59 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Perhaps he should consider a career in marketing.
posted by HaloMan at 11:59 PM on December 7, 2008


Christ, what an asshole.

Why doesn't he do what everybody else does and go to a temp agency?
posted by bardic at 12:21 AM on December 8, 2008


I got laid off from my 30 year Information Technology career in January 2002 after 9/11. I spent the next 18 months looking for comparable employment in that industry, spending nine months on one contract in RTP, NC and on another for four months in Hendersonville, NC. Both were hundreds of miles from my life-long home in West Virginia. With the continuing prospect of nothing but short-term contacts looming, I consciously chose to make a career change. I have now been in retail management for the past five years.

I feel for Mr. Nawrocki's predicament. The job market if very tight right now, and is likely to get worse. There are literally hundreds of thousands less fortunate than him facing the same realization. Perhaps he might want to reconsider some of the limitations he's placing on his future employment. Tough times require tough choices. It did for me.
posted by netbros at 12:24 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Christ, what an asshole.

Perhaps he should consider a career in marketing.
posted by HaloMan at 12:25 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


bardic: According to the Businessweek article:
Why do you think a sandwich board would be more effective than using an employment agency or trying to get work through a headhunter?
I have registered with a number of agencies and headhunters and have sent my résumé to literally thousands of companies. I paid a large amount of money to use a fax service that sent my résumé out to something like 7,000 companies in the metropolitan area.

I got maybe three calls, but the interviews came to nothing. Actually, two of the three interviews were for nonexistent jobs. The companies loved my résumé, and even though they had nothing they wanted to meet me. They said they would keep my résumé on file in case something opened up.

Why do you think this is happening?
I think there are a number of issues at work. One is that so many people are out of work that I am getting lost in the shuffle. I have been on the hiring side myself, and it is very difficult to go through every résumé if you get hundreds or maybe thousands.

The recruiters have been supportive. One had a position for me he was working on for weeks with a toy company, but when the stock market dropped so radically the owner decided to put a freeze on hiring.

I also think I may be facing age discrimination. It's probably cheaper to hire a recent college grad than to pay someone with more experience.
Somewhere in the article he mentions that the suggestion for standing in a street corner came from his daughter, who's having trouble finding an entry-level job despite being a recent college graduate.
posted by divabat at 12:26 AM on December 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


I feel bad for the guy but after working for 20+ years I would hope Americans have enough saved up to afford a possible +3 month period of no work. This guy went from a job in August to not being able to pay health insurance by November.
posted by PenDevil at 12:36 AM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm going to give Bardic the benefit of the doubt that he was being sarcastic. It's a tough story and it only reinforces the idea we all have to save up in case time gets tough. Even then, when an accident or a tragedy strikes, how often are we financially prepared for it?

Oh, and does anyone find it odd that the CIA is advertising on Business Week?
posted by phyrewerx at 12:50 AM on December 8, 2008


He's Ex-Director of Operations, and rightfully so. Did anybody check out Sababa Toys' product line?
posted by P.o.B. at 12:50 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


These Sababa Toys? Manufactured in America, I assume? If not, then guy would surely be a member of the same executive class that's been outsourcing manufacturing and administration jobs to China, India, Mexico, etc. for the last twenty years or so?

Perhaps he should do what the people in those manufacturing industries did when they lost their jobs?

Also: he can't be *that* keen. He doesn't even have his resume on his website.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:51 AM on December 8, 2008


Sorry, but I'm calling bullshit. I've lost a job before. I've gone to temp agencies and started work the next day in both major cities and smaller towns.

Granted, it tended to be crappy, low-pay work, but I did what I had to do. I have a hard time believing he didn't get an offer to do something from a temp agency. It probably just wasn't good enough for him. There's the rub.

FWIW, I sympathize with anybody who's getting laid off these days. But pulling a PR stunt like this rubs me the wrong way. If it works out for him, then more power to him. But somehow the stunt seems to trivialize then tens of thousands of other folks out there who are also out of work, many (most?) of whom don't have things like college degrees and steady employment histories to start over with.
posted by bardic at 12:59 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


When you send out 7,000 copies of your resume, especially via a freakin' fax service, you shouldn't be surprised if you get zero responses. Jobs, especially good ones, come from your network and often aren't even advertised. I can't believe he doesn't know this.
posted by bpm140 at 1:23 AM on December 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


Standing on a corner in Manhattan with a sandwich board to get hired is not a PR stunt. It's desperation.

I expect to see a lot more of this in the near future and I hope none of you here standing in judegment of this man have to experience it.
posted by yertledaturtle at 2:41 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


judgement*
posted by yertledaturtle at 2:41 AM on December 8, 2008


PeterMcDermott: Paul didn't start up that site. It was started by someone who sympathized with him and is trying to get Paul to contribute.
posted by divabat at 3:47 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I also think I may be facing age discrimination. It's probably cheaper to hire a recent college grad than to pay someone with more experience.

Christ, what an asshole. This is not the definition of age discrimination. This is companies rightly hiring the correct person for the job, and if it's a job that doesn't require a highly-paid, highly-experienced person, why hire a dude like him?

Age discrimination is when a company will not hire a 55-year-old to do the same job, at the same wage as they'd pay a 25-year-old. Asshats like this guy make it hard for those facing real age discrimination every time they make spurious claims.

And then there's the other type of age discrimination, where they ask for "5-10 years experience" for jobs that really require mostly a can-do attitude and a willingness to find out how to do it. "Under 30 need not apply" seems like effectively legalized discrimination.
posted by explosion at 3:59 AM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, and he gets national coverage on CNN, but still can't manage to get his resume up on his website 3 days later? He says he's looking for a job, but all I hear is, "I've been coddled for years, and I'm whining on national television."

Bitter about being unemployed even though I know better than to spam-fax, and I lovingly craft individual cover-letters tailored to the jobs I apply to.

This-economy-sucks-Filter.
posted by explosion at 4:04 AM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


explosion: as mentioned before, the site isn't made by Paul, but by a supporter.

His daughter is apparently facing the "overqualified" thing - she can't even get an entry level receptionist job. this economy sucks for everyone.

And then there's the other type of age discrimination, where they ask for "5-10 years experience" for jobs that really require mostly a can-do attitude and a willingness to find out how to do it.

OMG YES. Complete agreement on this point. Even entry-level stuff is now asking for this. How are people ever expected to get started? What if you're a quick learner? Do they want continuous years or in chunks?
posted by divabat at 4:08 AM on December 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Standing on a corner in Manhattan with a sandwich board to get hired is not a PR stunt."

???
posted by bardic at 4:26 AM on December 8, 2008


explosion: as mentioned before, the site isn't made by Paul, but by a supporter.

The guy's out there with a sandwich board, on CNN. The supporter must have his number, having stated, "Paul will be posting his PDF resume here shortly. We just got the site up today so give us a day or to to get our act together."

It absolutely should not take that much time. If someone made me a website, I'd have my resume to them within the hour. If I were computer-illiterate, as many of his age sadly are, I'd call my son, daughter, or computer-savvy friend and get them to do it post-haste.

Then again, if this guy is smart, he won't get a job. He'll segue this coverage into paid media appearances on TV shows like Ellen and (if he's lucky) Oprah as a face of the hard economy and how it hits everyone. Ham it up and show how outsourcing hits everyone, not just the wage-slaves. Finally, after a year or so, he becomes a motivational speaker, explaining to captivated audiences about how important it is to shed their pride, and be willing to stand on a corner with a sandwich board if that's what it takes. He'll neglect to mention he didn't get the job, but they'll eat it up anyway.
posted by explosion at 4:55 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, between this and the more consequential uprising by Republic Window workers in Chicago, maybe there's a trend?

Nothing will really get done differently in this country until workers get fuckin' pissed off enough to say enough of this shit.

/old marxist
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:56 AM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


divabat, with all due respect you seem a bit defensive about Nawrocki.

Is his story sad? Yes. But not especially so. His is just one of thousands of similar stories of families who have fallen on tough times through a combination of a bad economy, overwhelming medical expenses, and bad luck.

I think what people here are reacting to - and I must admit that I had the same reaction when I first saw the story and again when looking through your links - is the implication that this is somehow uniquely or especially terrible. The breathless tone of the CNN and BW stories is "OMG EXECUTIVES now have to pound the pavement to look for work! Things must REALLY be bad now!"

While I'm sympathetic to his plight, its worth taking a step back for a second. He was a high-ranking executive at a company that went bankrupt. Unlike most people who get laid off with little or no warning, he presumably played a role in the decisions that led to the "accumulation of inactive inventory, customer returns and inability to lower its overhead costs" which in turn led to that bankruptcy; and he had some advance notice that the company was headed downhill.

And, like others, I don't buy your argument that this is a Depression-era tactic. During the Depression, people worked whatever job they could to put food on the table - selling apples, digging ditches, whatever. They didn't try to capitalize on their former executive status through PR stunts. This guy is still looking for another executive job, not a means to put food on the table.

Nawrocki will probably get a job through a sympathetic friend or colleague, or might at least get a book deal. But there are a lot of people out there who can't pay their family medical bills even while working multiple jobs. The bitter irony here is that we're so used to this that it is hardly news anymore, but a formerly rich person who is out of work is big news.
posted by googly at 6:31 AM on December 8, 2008 [7 favorites]


This guy is still looking for another executive job, not a means to put food on the table.

That's the thing that gets me about the story. If he was more concerned about a job than an executive position, he could probably find work in retail management, at least until he could find something else.
posted by drezdn at 8:05 AM on December 8, 2008


I'll resist passing judgment on this guy, but I have to admit some of the "man up and get any job you can" comments display a certain lack of context, IMO.

Once you take whatever crap job you can get just to bring in *some* income, you give up a lot: the ability to easily go to interviews or even take calls or answer email during working hours (or if you work at night, you give up seeing your family); your new found man-up-ily-ness may not pay enough for you to stay in your house, and trying to sell your house in this market and find someplace else to live isn't exactly a walk in the park.

Practical matters aside, talking whatever job you can outside of your field makes it difficult to network within your profession (you have little to offer in return), and, of course, you'll have to explain to any prospective employer why you're facing canned goods at the Wal Mart as they will likely find out you are (or were) working there when they run a background and/or credit check on you.

And none of that even touches the soul crushing aspect of working far beneath your potential and desires. I can see how it would be very easy for a career oriented person to just give up after working temp or minimum wage jobs for an extended period of time. Over time, you become the job.

n.b., I too will be faced with exactly this prospect in [checks bank account] probably 5 weeks, and I have no idea which way I'll break on this issue at that point.
posted by digitalprimate at 8:12 AM on December 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


We had a family friend go through something similar post-9/11. At first it was completely understandable as he was sort of living a semi-retired job hunting lifestyle. Then we found out that they had been living completely off credit since he was laid off, had no measurable savings (that was suppose to build up from his huge executive bonuses) and had a huge jumbo mortgage on a home with pool, carriage house, work out room, etc. He was kind of an idiot besides that, to be honest, and the type to rise up through his career due to a combination of right breeding and ass kissing. When the shit hit the fan, those always seem the first to go.

Last I heard he finally landed a job, but their lifestyle was drastically downgraded. As I said he was sort of an idiot and probably didn't deserve such a job in the first place, but boy did he fall hard. Don't know if I wanted to wish working retail and near complete abandonment of family and friends on anyone. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

NB One thing I noticed about executive interviews is the odd need to look like you're already living an executive lifestyle, which includes doing interviews in the middle of day at a 3 hour lunch, arriving in a nice car, projecting the right image. Certainly this is hard if not impossible if you're working an entry level job. I would still think, anyone at the executive level should have enough contacts and networking at that point to be able to do contract work or even join a consulting firm. If you aren't in a position to do that, you're doing it wrong.
posted by geoff. at 8:35 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am saddened by some of the comments about this guy. He's laid off, he's doing something that he thinks is best to get sufficient work to pay his bills. Perhaps he's misguided, or perhaps he lacks the network or skills that some of us have to get employment. Or, perhaps, his industry was hit early by the same economic crash that will hit the rest of us, and in him we are looking at a future that many of us will share.

Whatever you think of the guy, he's out there trying to support his family.
posted by zippy at 8:44 AM on December 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the reference to the Republic Windows sit-in, fourcheesemac. I hadn't heard of this event before this thread, and I believe you may be correct as to its significance.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:50 AM on December 8, 2008


To all those who say it's a PR stunt... "So what?"... Half of getting a decent job is marketing yourself. I got my career started in during a recession, having no experience and no formal post-secondary diploma (at that time) by walking from business to business, dropping off my resume with a cover letter that mentioned I would be willing to volunteer my time for up to two months to gain experience in the field.

7 businesses later, I landed my first full-time job. Within 6 months I was running the business when the boss was away on consulting trips... This was a semi-rural, reasonably depressed area - I had a decent starting wage well above minimum and got several raises over the 2 years I was there.
posted by jkaczor at 9:03 AM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bardic it is not a PR stunt:

Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics.[1] Public relations - often referred to as PR - gains an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.[2] Because public relations places exposure in credible third-party outlets, it offers a third-party legitimacy that advertising does not have.[3] Common activities include speaking at conferences, working with the press, and employee communication.
source*

He is one man trying to get a job. He isn't trying to influence the whole media establishment by standing on a corner with a sandwich board. Jeezus. He has been looking for work since February and he tried various traditional means to get work. His 22 year old daughter suggested the sandwich board idea because she heard a former Lehman employee got work because of it.
Barry Ritholtz a popular business blogger known for his accuracy and integrity ran into him and wrote about him. This was a stroke of good luck for the man and he received publicity as a result. I highly doubt a 59 year old man was thinking if I stand on a corner in Manhattan I will get on CNN and Business Week. He was merely looking for work. So, NO IT IS NOT A PR STUNT.

For Christ's sake! Did any of you who are calling this man an asshole read the articles linked? He has been looking for employment using whatever means necessary. He has been unemployed since February. He worked in the toy business for 36 years. He is 59 not 25 or 30 or 35 like I assume those of you judging him are. His age DOES make it more difficult for him to find employment. He is not a fomer CEO of Citibank. He was an upper middle class manager that made enough money to live decently but not extremely well in our society. His wife is sick and needs medicine. Nothing is assholish at all about his behavior. It doesn't diminish or trivialize the plight of anyone from any other class of human beings efforts or their difficulties at all. In my opinion it spotlights how difficult it is for those who are unemployed right now. If an older white, upper middle class gentlemen that has been employed for 36 years in the same business is finding it difficult to get work, it could be concluded by a reasonable person that it must be hell for those in a more compromised position to find work.

Like I stated before we will see more of this and I hope that none of those calling the man an asshole and tut tutting the man for looking for work using a method that he thinks may work are not in a position where they think that standing on a corner with a sandwich board is a good idea. It's humiliating.

Wait till the burglaries and other acts of desperation as a result of unemployment begin. What this man is doing now will begin to appear noble.
posted by yertledaturtle at 9:24 AM on December 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


These Sababa Toys? Manufactured in America, I assume? If not, then guy would surely be a member of the same executive class that's been outsourcing manufacturing and administration jobs to China, India, Mexico, etc. for the last twenty years or so?

What is the big deal of shipping overseas a 10$/hr job? I'm surprised that people who complain about this don't have higher aspirations for themselves, or for their society.

I'm perfectly happy with the fact that these jobs are outsourced somewhere else. Because what should be happening is that people instead pursue higher value, higher-paying jobs.

What's that, you say? You need more education for this? And many people do not have access to this education? Well, that's what the debate should be about, not how the big bad corporations are preventing Americans from assembling toys for 8 hours a day, or stacking boxes.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:42 AM on December 8, 2008


KokuRyu - I don't know if you're trolling, but I work with a population of individuals who are, for the lack of a better term, incapable of doing jobs that are /not/ the ones you describe, and are more than happy to take them, even at considerably less than $10/hr. These are people who cannot hold down office jobs, who can't do customer service. These are people who cannot achieve higher, due to full lifetimes of hardship, physical or mental disabilities, or other reasons. They, too, have families to feed. Stacking boxes IS their higher value, because they are not panhandling, or taking up space in overcrowded homeless shelters, or god knows what else, and providing a service industry needs.

Not everyone is as capable as you are, and not everyone can be.
posted by griphus at 10:01 AM on December 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


griphus writes "Not everyone is as capable as you are, and not everyone can be."

That's right, and not everyone who is struggling deserves scorn. There are people starving and dying of basic health issues right now. That doesn't mean that someone who is looking for a job should be treated like shit, just because they aren't struggling as much as the most wretched and downtrodden on the planet.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:31 AM on December 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sending out thousands of untargeted resumes and standing around with a sandwich board is pretty crappy marketing, IMHO. If I were a hiring manager driving past, I'd see it as evidence of poor critical thinking skills.

KokoRyu, I've been looking for work lately myself, and my advanced education hasn't helped me much -- in fact I'm sure it's used as a reason to put me in the 'no' pile more often than not, based on the assumptions about my personality and expectations that come with it.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:32 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I remember during the recession of the early 1990s there was some other downsized executive around the same age using the same sandwich board gimmick to try to get a job. He made sure he got photographed next to a "will work for food" sign holder for all the major newspapers.

I feel for the guy in this article...at his age, he'll have a hard time finding a comparable position ("Why should we hire and train you if you're going to retire in a few years?") and he'll have trouble getting his wife on his health insurance if he does find a job due to her pre-existing condition. At this time of year, FedEx and UPS are hiring seasonal help; such a job could help tide him over for a while, but is he able to haul 70 lb. boxes at his age? (Fifty-nine is not ancient, but he'll be more susceptible to broken bones if he fell on the job.)
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:40 AM on December 8, 2008


sevenyearlurk wrote:
Sending out thousands of untargeted resumes and standing around with a sandwich board is pretty crappy marketing, IMHO. If I were a hiring manager driving past, I'd see it as evidence of poor critical thinking skills.

Actually if the people commenting on this guys methods actually read the articles they would read he started this method after exhausting traditional avenues of looking for work. He used networking, contacted his alumni association, etc... . He tried the brute force approach after more traditional methods failed.

BTW good luck finding work sevenyearlurk. I wish you all the best.
posted by yertledaturtle at 11:15 AM on December 8, 2008


I feel bad for him. I've always been sort of practical-minded, but that's because my greatest fear is having heaps of training for an industry that just disappears. The instability in the job market has made me feel stupid for spending so much money on prestigious degrees when I'm not making very much money, compared to whatever I've spent on education.

He's had a generally stable career he can count on until now (works at a company until it files for bankruptcy - though I suppose the succession of bankruptcies of his previous employers should have warned him about the future) and I guess he found himself feeling dispirited about his job prospects at a time in life where he has a harder time picking himself back up, emotionally.

I'm glad for everyone who is helping him, though. He's very lucky. I wouldn't have the courage to do what he did and tell people I needed help. I'd be too ashamed to ask.
posted by anniecat at 11:16 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but I'm calling bullshit. I've lost a job before. I've gone to temp agencies and started work the next day in both major cities and smaller towns.

I live in New York and I've been temping for most of my adult life here.

Things are incredibly bad right now. Like, can't-even-get-arrested-in-this-town bad.

For a long time, I worked steadily, 9-5, 35 hours a week or more for years on end. That ended a year ago. Since then, I have had a couple of days here, a month or two there. The agencies I work with have actually let counselors go because there isn't enough work for them.

The idea that approaching a temp agency translates into instant work is just not applicable to the current job market. It definitely was in the past. It probably will be at some point in the future. But not now.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:43 AM on December 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


I can corroborate jason's_planet: I work at a temp agency in NYC. Yeah. The amount of requested jobs has dropped through the floor so bad that internal hiring is frozen.
posted by griphus at 11:51 AM on December 8, 2008


googly: not so much defensive, just wishing people would actually read the links. I feel for him, but I've also got other friends having major trouble job hunting, so I can understand how frustrating it must be.
posted by divabat at 12:12 PM on December 8, 2008


Though griphus and others replied, KokuRyu's comment made me think of a line from Popco: Beware of cheap goods. If you buy cheap goods, you are stealing someone else's labor.

Cheap labor does not come solely from finding individuals willing to work for the least amount of money. It outsources the costs of health care and job safety scrutiny, the cost of environmental regulations, and plenty of other things people in "developed" countries take for granted. It's great to think countries could exist without a class of menial laborers to make all the bits and pieces which make life easy, but automation isn't perfect yet.

As for this Ex-Director of Operations, do temp agencies really help place management folks? Wouldn't he be faced with the same "over-qualified" problem that his daughter faced? And as jason's planet and gripus noted, if so many people are being laid off and companies are dissolving, who would be hiring people now? Sure, some places that are going out of business need people now, but you'd be taking something you know will last a month at most.

Tangent: I went to LNT this weekend, and there were more visible employees than I've seen in a while. They were mostly lounging around amidst the dredges of inventory (now's the time to stock up on nice sheets, if you happen to have a queen bed or larger), looking like they were just waiting for their shift to end.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:12 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is it wrong that I hope everyone in this thread smugly criticizing this man loses their own job?
posted by dhartung at 1:53 PM on December 8, 2008




The US economy is in the shitter, no doubt. But I can't believe people don't find what this guy's doing to be really distasteful. He lost his job -- that sucks. But he's got about a gajillion more positives right now than most people getting shit-canned, e.g., a college degree, connections, work experience in a corporate environment, and management skills. So as I've said, I feel sorry for the guy. However, his plight is a drop in the bucket compared with real, actual homeless people, people who are effectively unemployable and will die an early death due to starvation, sickness, and/or being beaten up by cops and bored teenagers.

A person who can't find a job in the greater NYC metro area isn't looking hard enough.

"Is it wrong that I hope everyone in this thread smugly criticizing this man loses their own job?"

Stay classy!
posted by bardic at 7:10 PM on December 8, 2008


But he's got about a gajillion more positives right now than most people getting shit-canned, e.g., a college degree, connections, work experience in a corporate environment, and management skills.

Well that's the fucking point, isn't it? All those positives, and out of work for nearly a year despite his best efforts.

his plight is a drop in the bucket compared with real, actual homeless people, people who are effectively unemployable and will die an early death due to starvation, sickness, and/or being beaten up by cops and bored teenagers.

Jesus, by that measure nearly everyone is an asshole.
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:55 PM on December 8, 2008


"despite his best efforts"

Maybe this is the crux of people disagreeing about this guy. IMO, blast-faxing his resume and walking around in a sandwich-board are about the dumbest things imaginable for finding another job, maybe a small step above drinking Scotch and playing Nintendo Wii.
posted by bardic at 8:02 PM on December 8, 2008


KokuRyu - I don't know if you're trolling,

I am not trolling.

but I work with a population of individuals who are, for the lack of a better term, incapable of doing jobs that are /not/ the ones you describe,

I work in economic development, specifically assisting building an "innovation economy". I help develop policy, in my small way, to help people (workers) earn more money. It is something that I am passionate about.

and are more than happy to take them, even at considerably less than $10/hr. These are people who cannot hold down office jobs, who can't do customer service. These are people who cannot achieve higher, due to full lifetimes of hardship, physical or mental disabilities, or other reasons.

To be blunt, how many of these people are there in the workforce? I would argue that there aren't many (certainly, the amount of assembly jobs shipped off to China or wherever vastly outnumbers this lower strata of the workforce).

They, too, have families to feed. Stacking boxes IS their higher value, because they are not panhandling, or taking up space in overcrowded homeless shelters, or god knows what else, and providing a service industry needs.

Look, not every person who had an assembly job that's been shipped overseas is a panhandler or similar person who just can't fit into the workforce. So I find your line of argument either disingenuous or just plain ignorant.

Most workers are normal people with normal abilities, and certainly have the ability to go to school and upgrade their skills and increase their productivity. Who the hell wants to assemble toys for a living?

The real issue here is lack of access to training and education. The more education one has, the more one earns, the better health one will enjoy, as well as longer life expectancy.

Which is why I say we as a society need to have higher aspirations than assembling electronic components.

posted by KokuRyu at 9:32 PM on December 8, 2008


So, I would argue, tertiary education should be free, or extremely cheap. We need a new GI Bill that gets more people into university.

And, by the way, I am familiar with economic hardship. I have been laid off before Christmas on short notice, with no prospects. I have immigrated to a new country - twice. I have also had to reinvent myself, and somehow utilize and profit from transferable skills.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:35 PM on December 8, 2008


Maybe this is the crux of people disagreeing about this guy. IMO, blast-faxing his resume and walking around in a sandwich-board are about the dumbest things imaginable for finding another job, maybe a small step above drinking Scotch and playing Nintendo Wii.

Ok. Did you actually read the articles? Taking these "stupid" measures were the last measures he tried. He attempted the traditional more intelligent methods - to no avail.

So now he is desperate and perhaps he is about to join the homeless. Through no fault of his own.

For some reason I have a feeling you have never faced real adversity. I could be wrong though.
posted by yertledaturtle at 12:15 AM on December 9, 2008


Which is why I say we as a society need to have higher aspirations than assembling electronic components.

Sure. Lets all get higher education and do: management, teaching/training, software development, product design, marketing, project management, etc.

Oh wait... None of those skills is unique, special or rare - heck many of them require about as little talent as an assemly line worker (I'm looking at you "management" - the last couple years have proven that any idiot can run a company and most do)... Arguably any of them may be performed remotely - and many of them are, or soon will be...

There is something to be said for producing actual physical things... There is also something to be said for having a job where you have a nice fixed start/end time - a benefit that is often overlooked in the "always-on", "knowledge-worker" economy...

Who the hell wants to assemble toys for a living?

Quite honestly, I'd love to build toys all day... Admittedly, it would be in a nice workshop I owned, using wood. I'd probably make myself some templates/jigs and then be able to do some production-runs making a larger set of items, then maybe over time expand and hire a few people... Not every job has to be in a giant factory - some businesses are small and the act of making things can be its' own reward. Not everything is simple about how much money per hour you could potentially make...
posted by jkaczor at 12:43 AM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was let go from a job a few years ago. I had far fewer resources than this guy did, and I landed on my feet. It was a blessing, actually, although I realize this is a singularly difficult time right now with the economic meltdown.

Not to get all Horatio Alger on you, but I did what I had to do, which included working a job that was far below the pay-grade of what my educational background would indicate. And I was living in an area that had far fewer professional opportunities than the NYC/Jersey area.

So kindly kiss my ass.
posted by bardic at 12:46 AM on December 9, 2008


Sure. Lets all get higher education and do: management, teaching/training, software development, product design, marketing, project management, etc.

Oh wait... None of those skills is unique, special or rare - heck many of them require about as little talent as an assemly line worker


Do you really think that doing these jobs well requires little talent? Are you as stupid as you make the people in these professions out to be? If teaching and engineering are the equivalent of "assembly line worker" jobs to you, what isn't?
posted by Mikey-San at 2:20 AM on December 9, 2008


many of them require about as little talent as an assemly line worker

And you know what? I'm sick of seeing people using phrases like "about as little talent as an assembly line worker". It might not require a fucking Ph.D, but if you cared about other people at all—hard-working people doing honest work—you wouldn't insult the people who support their families with these jobs.

I learned at a young age never, ever to look down on someone who does honest work, no matter the skill or pay levels. Saying "as little talent as" might be objectionably descriptive, but it's cold and without empathy for people who've done nothing to deserve the look down your nose.
posted by Mikey-San at 2:26 AM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll be quiet now, sorry.
posted by Mikey-San at 2:27 AM on December 9, 2008


I was let go from a job a few years ago. I had far fewer resources than this guy did, and I landed on my feet. It was a blessing, actually, although I realize this is a singularly difficult time right now with the economic meltdown.

Not to get all Horatio Alger on you, but I did what I had to do, which included working a job that was far below the pay-grade of what my educational background would indicate. And I was living in an area that had far fewer professional opportunities than the NYC/Jersey area.

So kindly kiss my ass.

Good for you! Like I said I could be wrong.

Thing is this guy is probably twice your age and the times are a lot more difficult than I have ever seen them. I know that the older you get the harder it gets when times are rough. A few years back during the last down turn my wife and I moved my in laws in because my father in law had difficulty finding work and almost became homeless. Educated people become homeless as well.

FWIW I am one of those people that you claim should have a more difficult time.
I always seem to thrive when things get more difficult because I learned how to live in poverty.
I also learned to have compassion for those having a difficult time and to not look down on the honest efforts of those struggling to make it during hard times.

I figure as long as a person isn't turning to crime I salute them.

So why the insult?
posted by yertledaturtle at 8:27 AM on December 9, 2008




Maybe this is the crux of people disagreeing about this guy. IMO, blast-faxing his resume and walking around in a sandwich-board are about the dumbest things imaginable for finding another job, maybe a small step above drinking Scotch and playing Nintendo Wii.

Ok. Did you actually read the articles? Taking these "stupid" measures were the last measures he tried. He attempted the traditional more intelligent methods - to no avail.

It may be karmically impure for anyone to criticize this fellow, but honestly, the fact that he made a decision to start using "stupid" measures makes me honestly wonder how well he managed the traditional approaches. We only have his word for it, and I don't think it's totally irrational for us to make assumptions about his past attempts based on his current behaviour. Maybe he's got a lousy resume. I don't think a critical appraisal of his approach should be off-limits just because he's down on his luck.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:34 AM on December 9, 2008


It may be karmically impure for anyone to criticize this fellow, but honestly, the fact that he made a decision to start using "stupid" measures makes me honestly wonder how well he managed the traditional approaches. We only have his word for it, and I don't think it's totally irrational for us to make assumptions about his past attempts based on his current behaviour. Maybe he's got a lousy resume. I don't think a critical appraisal of his approach should be off-limits just because he's down on his luck.

Look. He is looking for a job in a legal and legitimate manner. He held jobs in various positions for 36 years. So, obviously he knows how to stay employed and get jobs.

This economic downturn is the worst we will probably ever see in our lifetime and things are going to be a lot different in terms of what will seem "stupid" to people who have never had to really get humble when looking for work or taking crappy jobs.

It has nothing to do with karma. It has more to do with applauding social behaviors that are at least within the realms of the law and aid society in the long run rather than tear it down.
I have compassion for this man and hope his "stupid" tactics yield him the desired result.
I also hope that a lot more people will not be reduced to using desperate measures like wearing a sandwich board on corners to find work.

In the final analysis:
He is looking for work. Period. He will probably get a decent job now and because of his "stupid" method he has been interviewed by Business Week and featured on CNN. That is broad exposure for free. What is so stupid about that?
posted by yertledaturtle at 10:56 AM on December 9, 2008


Do you really think that doing these jobs well requires little talent? Are you as stupid as you make the people in these professions out to be? If teaching and engineering are the equivalent of "assembly line worker" jobs to you, what isn't?

You missed the point entirely. The point is no matter how well educated you may be, your job can be done by someone else, somewhere else. For every one amazing highly trained professional in "localtown, USA" there are a hundred elsewhere that speak amazing English and would be happy to be employed via an internet connection and a VOIP line...

I am not saying those jobs are worthless - neither am I saying that assembly workers cannot be highly skilled. I am saying that just simply "educating" yourself to a higher standard is no guarantee of long-term stability and success in today's "global" market of outsourcing to the lowest possible bidder...
posted by jkaczor at 1:46 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


You missed the point entirely. The point is no matter how well educated you may be, your job can be done by someone else, somewhere else. For every one amazing highly trained professional in "localtown, USA" there are a hundred elsewhere that speak amazing English and would be happy to be employed via an internet connection and a VOIP line...

It may seem to be the case, but desperate times tend to bring out the tribalism and provincialism in people, not to mention protectionism. Also, it's hardly the case that any job can be done just as well by someone working over an internet connection. In many cases, whether it might seem attractive to a company's bottom line, it simply won't work. And some companies will be more or less forced to realize the advantages of having more people employed in your own backyard than less. If all the local (big and small) businesses provide almost no jobs, they won't really be supported by their communities, and they won't survive in the long run under those circumstances.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:24 PM on December 9, 2008


I saw something similar the other day. The guy was about 50, dressed in a business suit, handing out resumes on the corner. I felt incredibly sorry for him yet admired him for trying something different.
posted by dasheekeejones at 6:44 AM on December 10, 2008


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