I Am A Dinosaur

This hit me pretty hard this morning as I performed my new full-time job: looking for work.  I use many of the new technologies to locate potential opportunities.  This job requires a moderate understanding of technology and infinite patience.  It usually requires uploading a resume, then regurgitating this information in excruciating detail on form after form and page after page of online inquisition.  The technology exists to extract this data directly from the resume’ but very few use it.  They waste my time rather than employ technology to save it.  They want the last ten years of job experience.  As any contractor in the IT industry will tell you there is insufficient space for this list.

As I read the position description on this particular job I became aware that I didn’t recognize any of the technologies the required.  I did a quick search for this acronym soup to discover that most of these acronyms also apply to other fields like medical, and construction.  How could I know what they wanted?  Does anyone really know except the person writing the advertisement?  Is this a test for “buzz word” compliance?  Sure you can glean some information from the context and job type but there are so many new technologies that no one could possibly have five to seven years experience in something less than two years old.  Who writes this shit?  It’s the Human Resources Department.  HR is the gate keeper for all employment requests.  They create the job requisition (job req) from carefully written and approved templates.  By the time HR has sanitized and reworded the job req it barely resembles the request and could never possibly satisfy the job needs.

At my age (sixty-one) I believe that I have enough experience to walk into almost any management job and perform exceptionally well.  It seems that it’s not enough to have the experience; you must also have these new technical skills.

These new technologies aside, I am being evaluated by people about half my age with no understanding of these technologies or appreciation for my experience.  They have a laundry list of attributes provided by their internal or external client that they must validate with the potential employee.  All they know is that if you don’t have the exact match you are ineligible.  There is no room for interpretation.

Recruiting is a cut-throat business.  I have been contracting for about fifteen years and I am amazed at the number of new recruiting firms that appear every day and many offshore.  Here’s how this works in simplified way: A person looking for work posts a resume’ on one or more of the hundreds of Job Boards.  These Job Boards accept the job requirements or job requisitions from various companies that pay to advertise openings.  Many companies often advertise these open positions with recruiting firms who they also pay to find candidates.  These recruiters then post the job opening to these vary same job boards.  The company and the recruiters then scan these resumes for appropriate candidates with matching skills.  An exact match at this point is totally unnecessary.  The recruiter sends you the opportunity and expects you to evaluate your skills match to the job.  You respond to either the recruiter or the posted job ad and the fun begins.  The alternative is to sit patiently for hours combing through the jobs looking for an appropriate match. Very few of these jobs are full time meaning that you receive some benefits like health and vacation.  Most are contract positions.

Contracting – being paid to perform work as a temporary full-time employee without benefits and is a field of landmines.  Most companies discovered that it is far cheaper to hire contract personnel.  It is also much easier to gloss over violation of the Six P’s: Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.  My last several contracts are excellent examples.  These encounters were advertised as “long term” projects; those that exceed 6 months.  When the hiring company discovers that they failed to properly plan the contractor is released: read fired.  You must understand that there is no ‘contract’ in contracting, unless you violate the provisions of your hiring agreement.  Here in Arizona we work “at will” meaning that either party in this agreement can cancel the contract at any time for any reason.  This works to the advantage of the hiring company and rarely to the advantage of the temporary employee.  Short duration projects are the fault of the contractor not the hiring company.  I just went through a tedious exercise explaining in detail why my past several contracts were short durations.  Even after this explanation, I was assumed to be responsible.

Why do I fell like a dinosaur?

When I entered the work force about fifty years ago while attending primary school, I obtained work after a few conversations and a handshake.  My first few jobs, delivering papers, cutting lawns, and shoveling snow were done on a handshake.  If you did a great job and provided good value and consistent work you were asked to come back.  Your work was your best advertisement.  When I was young I had enough work to keep busy during my off school hours.  When I entered the formal work force forty-five years ago I did it on a handshake.  I had developed a very strong work ethic.  My father’s favorite adage is “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean”: meaning that there is always something to do if you look for it.  I worked for a produce company that hired me to perform menial tasks at first, and then began to train me for other work.  I was mentored by the most senior man in the company.  I was counseled by the owners on proper customer service etiquette and appearance.  My mentor was easily sixty years old and showed me how to do all of his jobs.  As I progressed I earned pay raises.  I was rewarded for hard work and loyalty.  I worked for this company until I entered the military.  I learned that experience is something you gain from making mistakes.  If you do everything correctly the first time you don’t learn too much.  I also learned that owing the mistake does not make you a bad person, but making the same mistake frequently indicates a real learning disability.

These days there is no loyalty and certainly no appreciable training or mentoring.  You are expected to be ready to perform when you land.  The expectation is that you already know everything, not just about your chosen craft, but about the intricacies of the company and their chosen processes and their methods to achieve their goals.  They expect you to know where all the files are stored, where the forms reside, the organizational chart, who you may call and whom you are forbidden to contact.  You are expected to know this when you walk through the door on your first day.  God forbid you should ask questions.  You are expected to know this… you’re the expert, right?

What counts today is your marketability, not your abilities.  I am a commodity, like corn and pork-bellies.  I am a disposable asset to be used as the employer sees fit.  My experience counts toward my market value only in as much as it satisfies the requirements of the job description.  My value is that of convenient scapegoat and whipping boy.  Full Time Employees (FTE) can deflect their inabilities and inadequacies to you placing the blame squarely where it does not belong.  If your contract is successful the FTE receives the credit.  If they fail you take the blame.  Either way you provide services above and beyond the contract terms.  You never, never suggest better or more efficient ways to do the job.  You must remember your place.

I am reaching the end of my serviceable work life and as I approach the end of my usefulness I am more aware of our disdain and disregard for experience: age.  What I mean is that as you age you are moved into a box called “too old to possibly know.”  I have found that I can adapt very quickly and I can learn if given the opportunity.  The problem is that I present an anomaly in the world order.  I am being marketed by people half my age that view our world as an opportunity for gain.  They don’t understand or appreciate the wisdom and experience of the older worker.  They look at everything as a financial equation.   They demand instant gratification rather than long term investments and completely ignore the value of experience.  They demand created by companies is equally to blame.  Many companies are managed by the same thirty-something kids with college degrees and limited business experience, but they are in charge and they are going to follow the text book.  Unfortunately these texts are written by academics with even less experience but who by virtue of tenure are the experts.  I recall the professor that failed the students that proposed a company called Federal Express.  He said that it would never work.  You know the rest.

There is no loyalty. 

There is no “Long Term” employment. 

Employees are a commodity, not an asset. 

Contractors, like military personnel are expendable. 

Commitments and agreements are just so many words with no basis in honesty or integrity and that no longer require follow-through. 

Promises and agreements are empty words.  They are like pie-crust; easily made and easily broken. 

Profit is everything!  It is the reason for a business to exist.  Gone are the days of the “Zen” of business: doing the right thing for everyone involved will grow the business. 

There are very few long-lived businesses. They have been morphed into cash generating profit machines that create nothing but revenue opportunities for the owners and investors.  AT&T, Western Electric, and the Bell System are prime examples.  Once the most powerful communication company on the planet it was deregulated and broken into multiple business entities.  They became the “Baby Bell’s” and AT&T.  The Baby Bells are now being acquired and merged into regional businesses that provide poorer service and higher consumer costs.  AT&T shed its manufacturing as unprofitable because of offshore products, becoming a “Cellular Services Provider.” 

We invented the MBA (Master of Bullshit Administration) that outlines the steps to plunder a viable business for cash and then discard the carcass.  These masters of disaster found ways to assess the profitability of a corporation then strip the cash and discard the remnants.  Oh yea… it cost thousands of jobs in the process, but then it was never about the people only the profit.

We now deify the Graduate Level academicians and professional students that have text-book knowledge but no practical experience.  They are taught by professors that could not perform in the business world; so they teach.  “Those that can do… those that cannot teach!  What we reap is a crop of know-it-all managers taught by know-it-all professors that could not perform in the real world.

We need to embrace the concept that profit at any cost is destructive.  Our continued slide to reduce US manufacturing and output increases unemployment and reduces our ability to rebound.  We cannot recover if the skills necessary to manage businesses is handed to inexperienced and junior managers with no practical experience.  We cannot create products using offshore resources.  We can employ technical teams offshore to supplement our missing skills, but we must dedicate ourselves to educate the next generations in useful disciplines.  We need engineers and technicians not BA’s in Communications or English Majors.  Where is the business value of a PhD in French Poetry or English Literature?  These are necessary skills of course.  Business Administration is also a necessary part of education but it should be a practical expression of reality rather than a method to produce wealth through acquisitions and mergers.  Managing a business is an art involving understanding all of the aspects including the value of personnel.

My age is a burden that I drag like the fetters of Jacob Marley in “A Christmas Carol.”  Rather than an advantage experience becomes a ponderous chain holding me back.  Our corporate world is changing rapidly but for the worse.  This country has no place for experience and certainly no place for the aging business people who should be admired rather than censured.

So I’ll go the way of the dinosaur.  What I believe will become extinct.  My values already have.  I also believe that unless we return to some semblance of honor in business we will become a third world country.  We are already a debtor nation how much further can we slide before we just pull the plug and become pure consumers?