Think about what a job really is.
You find a company that wants to pay you to do a certain kind of work, and they’re gambling really that because of the work you do, they’ll take in enough money to pay you and to make a profit. If they don’t, then sooner or later, they have to let you go.
But if they do, that means that you did all that work and then kept less money than the work produced. Whatever kind of work you did, it was either worth more than you were paid or it wasn’t. One way you gave away some energy, the other way you’re fired.
I think of it like publishing. When I was looking at the traditional routes you’re supposed to take toward publishing, I couldn’t help but find it insulting. Really, you’re supposed to spend months or possibly years begging gatekeepers to let you into Publishing Land, and then if they do grudgingly agree to do so, it doesn’t mean your writing is great or anything – it just means that particular gatekeeper happens to know what to do with it, whether it’s crap or not.
You can go and grab a book at random at the library and there’s a good chance it’s terrible. Getting traditionally published often means nothing in terms of quality. And since you’re a first time author, you’ll have to do the same grassroots, social media marketing for your traditionally published book as you would if you published it yourself.
So why the gatekeeper? Why not just skip the stack of rejection slips and the year-long banging of your head against a brick wall, and put the book out? Let the readers reject it directly, instead of allowing someone – who has almost never written a marketable book either – reject it in advance.
Bosses are the same way. What kind of work do you do? Whatever it is – cleaning, secretarial work, accounting, marketing, anything – it’s going to be relatively cheap to set up an LLC and start billing the work yourself.
Obviously not everyone can do that – firemen, cops, nurses, etc – but by and large, if you have the sort of job that would be hard to farm out on your own, then you probably aren’t unemployed right now.
I’m talking about the mundane, day-to-day office stuff. You know, using Google Voice, Grasshopper, and other free-or-relatively-inexpensive online services, you could for instance set up ten small business people, like attorneys, accountants, salespeople, each with their own phone number with numerical options to send calls directly to your email box.
In other words, you could answer and return calls for ten different people – saving them the cost of hiring a person each to sit at a desk all day in an office big enough to accomodate them both. Charge them each a fifth of what they’d pay to hire someone, and suddenly you’re getting paid twice what you’d be making sitting at a desk, and you’re busy all day with your ten clients, and they all value you because you do good work and save them money at the same time.
This is where the jobs are going. People are thinking less in terms of hiring and more in terms of tasks and responsibilities. Can I farm out the tasks that person I was going to hire would be doing? Usually, the answer is yes. That saves me payroll taxes, health insurance, liability, and it also makes it easy to let the person go if things slow down.
It’s been a while since I had an office job, but it was about as miserable as I’ve ever been in the workplace. And I keep reading articles about how to keep from getting laid off, how to walk on egg shells, how to spend your cubicle time frozen in metaphysical terror as your incompetent boss plays with your livelihood like a Rubik’s cube. Why do we give our lives to someone like that, when the best case scenario is, we get to keep doing it?
With unemployment figures approaching double digits, I’m starting to suspect that jobs are not the answer. Education is the first part of the answer – direct, web-based educational programs designed to show individuals how to carve out businesses online, based directly on their own interests and skills.
And then work is the second part of the answer. Not jobs – work. Self-employment. Positioning yourself so that you’re the one who benefits when you’re working the hardest, instead of a business owner who would fire you with a clear conscience, if things were going poorly.
Right now the debate is whether or not we need to extend a tax break to these same bosses, the idea being that if we don’t, they won’t hire anyone. They’ll just sit there on their piles of money. And it seems to me that they have the right to do that, if they want to. We empower them with our own refusal to become self-reliant.
If we’re really incapable of moving beyond the George Jetson/Fred Flintstone employee model, then extending the tax cuts is the right thing to do. We’re dogs, they own us, and if we want a bone we need to give them a reason.
But I don’t think we’re dogs. I think we can get up and be self-reliant adults with just a little education, and that once we do, education becomes a natural part of our lives as we strive daily to improve our efficiency, our visibility, our bottom line – just exactly the way we’d be expected to if we were in a traditional job.
Except this way, we can’t get fired and we get to keep that bottom line.
The unemployment figures tell me one thing – that American employers don’t really care about us unless we pay them to. So maybe it’s time that we stopped trying to please them.
Or maybe we’re just not capable of such as thing, in which case, trying to please them is the only move we have.