The 2001 recession was the first economic downturn in history during which the sale of job search and career books went down. They’ve stayed down ever since.
Because there’s no lack of career and job search advice available online. Why bother to wade through something that has the look and feel of a school textbook when we can get everything we need in a couple of paragraphs on a blog or website?
Whether we’re employed and looking to get ahead or in transition and looking for work, that’s been the view of a lot of us for over a decade now. So, let’s ask ourselves how it’s working out. Just how much success has anyone had using this get-it-quick-and-on-the-Web approach?
The facts, sadly, are obvious to everyone. The number of long term unemployed in this country is now at historic levels. The percentage of those who are employed but worried about the security of their jobs has also never been higher. And, the vast majority of all Americans say that they are dissatisfied, bored or unhappy with their work.
It’s a miserable condition, but it doesn’t mean that the approach we’ve been using is wrong. Getting job search tips on the Web is helpful, but it also falls short of what we need. Why? Because today’s world of work in America is profoundly and permanently different from what it was just five years ago.
It may not yet be fully apparent, but we have entered a new era. Global competition, new technology and more have all come together to change the definition of what it means to be “qualified” for a job. And, that reality requires that we adopt an entirely new approach to employment if we want to find a new or better job and hang onto it.
So, the issue for most of us is this: how do we acquire an understanding of this radically different workplace of ours without subjecting ourselves to some job search or career textbook that offers all of the excitement of a brick?
My answer is a novel. Called A Multitude of Hope, it uses fiction to depict the very real dangers and equally as real opportunities of our time.
The book tells a tale ripped right from today’s headlines. It involves three out-of-work Baby Boomers and a shadowy online group of workplace activists practicing “economic disobedience” against the vulture capitalists of American business.
There are underground databases, corporate moles, coded messages and anonymous threats, as well as the discovery of a new set of principles and practices for succeeding in today’s tough job market and over the long arc of our careers. That’s why the subtitle of the book is A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream.
Here’s a passage from the novel in which two of the characters are trying to figure out how the new world of work will affect them.
She paused for a second. “Do you watch the evening news?”
“On TV, you mean?”
“Yeah. Do you watch one of the network news shows at six thirty?”
“Sure. I mean, not every night, but more often than not. Why?”
“Well, whenever I watch them, I feel as if they’re competing to see who can paint the darkest picture of things. It’s a disaster movie in HD with those people. They’ve defined news as something bad, and that’s all they’re willing to report.”
“News is just a form of information, Quint, so you take it or leave it as you want,” I said.
“Yeah, I know. We’ve talked about that. And, you said what we are really in is an Informed Age. But, to be informed you have to have information you can count on, and I don’t think that’s what we’re getting. To me, information is supposed to give a clear picture of what’s really happening. And, the information in this age, at least, is making it harder to understand anything.”
“Information is only what we make of it,” I replied, remembering, once again, my conversation with Constant. “It’s up to us to be informed.”
“Exactly, and being informed depends upon analysis. You have to have multiple sources of information, of course, but you also have to decide what makes sense to you. And, I choose to believe what I have always believed in. I know that’s not fashionable these days, but it is the way I am. I have faith that this country isn’t on the skids. I still think we can and will fix our problems. I may not have any proof I’m right, but I don’t accept that what gets reported is the whole of the story or proves that I’m wrong either.”
She stopped and smiled self-consciously.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to get up on my high horse. It’s just that I get so tired of hearing that America’s on its last legs. Sometimes, I wish there were an alternative universe out there where you could actually see all of the good stuff going on. Not a three minute segment at the end of a twenty-seven minute newscast of Failures R Us, but the other way around. A place where hopefulness was the order of the day, not the exception to the rule.”
Where and how we find that “alternative universe” is the secret of A Multitude of Hope. I hope you’ll get the book and enjoy it. Just as important, I hope it’ll help you rediscover your American Dream. It’s available at Amazon.com and at many bookstores around the country.