An anthropologist explores the hiring practices of employers in a digital era.
To conduct the research for her second book, Gershon (Anthropology/Indiana Univ.; The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media, 2010) left the classroom temporarily and relocated to Northern California, where she interviewed job seekers and potential employers and mined existing data to seek a paradigm for job searching in a gig economy. She contrasts that economy with previous eras, when job applicants sent a typed resume by snail mail to a human resources office and waited for a reply. Those workers who were eventually hired could often count on employment for life, a vested pension, and health insurance. However, “over the past thirty years,” writes the author, “the employment contract and what it means to be a worker in general have changed. Workers are living anxious, unstable lives in which they are told they must shoulder most of the responsibility for changes in today’s economy….Instead of company loyalty, you are now expected to feel passion for your vocation and to be driven to prioritize work over all other obligations.” Gershon’s research verified what she had already sensed: that job applicants face floods of other applicants because job opportunities are so easy to locate, that a standard paper resume is no longer adequate, that job seekers rarely expect longevity if hired, and that employers often view new hires as project-based workers rather than permanent employees. The author suggests that applicants could benefit from viewing themselves as one-person businesses, marketing themselves to potential employers on a business-to-business basis. That paradigm would assume that moving on after a project is completed constitutes the new normal. Gershon bolsters her theories with a chapter on the viewpoints of those tasked with handling the hiring for employers. Throughout, the writing is easy to digest, but the repetition is tiring, and even at 250 pages, the book feels too long.
An intermittently useful book that could have been a long-form magazine feature.