Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy (Anglais) Broché – 10 avril 2014
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Two years ago I was attracted to his "Why things are Falling Apart and What We Can Do about it." It was a very solid analysis of the problems that beset the governments of the Western world, especially the United States, and a prescription of steps that might be taken to alleviate problems. Since then he has restricted his scope a bit. It is no longer "what we can do about them" but "what you can do about them." Smith has accepted the reality of the fact that a person who would buy and read his books is above average. He will probably achieve success by virtue of those characteristics that set him above the common man. Therefore, rather than preach to the common man in the hopes that they will come to their senses, he now offers advice to individuals with regard to how to cope with the world as it is, common men included.
This volume builds on Smith's theses in "The Nearly Free University and The Emerging Economy: The Revolution in Higher Education." The American system of higher education, like that of most of the world, was established decades or centuries ago. The rationale was that education had to be centralized because (1) educational resources, primarily books, were scarce and expensive, (2) education had to be delivered in person, and (3) communication and transportation were slow, so students and educators had to be in the same place.
Higher education created a cartel. They control a scarce commodity, a credential called the "University Diploma," which is perceived as necessary for a person to advance into the workplace. They perpetuate the misconception that this credential is some kind of a testament to the capability and attainments of the graduate. Not only is this not true, but it has become increasingly less true as more and more students, increasingly less qualified students, are funneled through the system. The price of tuition has risen much faster than inflation, at the same time that actual learning has diminished. This is an overripe field for the kind of creative destruction that the Internet has brought to so many other fields, such as travel, law and newspaper publishing.
Every sector in which expenses, especially compensation, has grown out of proportion is ripe for "creative destruction." Costs that cannot be sustained will not be sustained. Health care, government and K-12 education are massively inefficient. Rather than calling for reform, as he has in previous books, Smith merely warns his readers to avoid these sectors of the economy. Just because some Newport Beach lifeguards have been able to retire at 50 with a $100,000 pension does not mean that one should look for that job today. No – that particular sinecure has been bled dry. The tax and tuition money is simply not there to support historical growth trends in government, medicine and education. An S curve graph depicts the birth, growth and stagnation of just about any field of endeavor. Higher education was in the growth phase of the S curve right after the war, when there were lots of returned servicemen and a great demand for educated workers. It has now peaked. College has an unsupportably high cost structure, and many graduates, mired in debt, cannot find professional jobs.
Smith's point is that people need to take charge of their lives: education, career, and personal lives. At the most fundamental level, people should not pay you unless your work offers them value. This is self-evidently true of paper boys, tax preparers and auto repairmen. If they can't fix your car, you don't hire them.
The fields to avoid are those in which the consumer has no choice. In public education, the parents have little choice over the teacher. Under socialized medicine, they have little control over the doctor or the costs. It is all controlled by bureaucracies. The bureaucracies must eventually collapse of their own weight and become unable to support all of the deadwood, employees who add no value. It may be a long time coming – and in that time the overpaid, deadwood employee is stultified by unfulfilling work and, due to being overpaid, not free to easily find something more satisfying. There is a reason why postmen "go postal" and teachers burn out. They feel trapped.
This book includes a number of useful lists. Here is what he says about professionalism.
Commit yourself to continuing to learn
Apply your knowledge as you master a subject
Be adaptable, responsible and accountable.
Take ownership of your work.
Learn to work collaboratively.
Master the art of communicating, orally, in writing, and via numbers and graphics.
Continue to build your networks.
Lastly, the only technical mastery in the list: learn to keep and to read financial and project management records.
Smith offers a number of suggestions for building your networks, building your value to an employer or client. The take-home message is that every individual must take charge of his or her own life. Institutions that claim to have an interest in your personal development generally do not. They, and their employees, are more interested in their own success than yours. Learn to look for opportunities to excel, how to present yourself so that you are given the opportunity, and how to take credit for your successes in a way that you can pass on to other prospective clients and employers.
A five-star book. My only caveat is the obvious one. The majority of people do not have the innate talent to follow his advice. Of those who do, a majority will still look for the easy way out, a steady job rather than taking charge of their career. It leaves room for those who really want to succeed – Smith's readers.
Smith's latest book, "Get A Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy," is a short, pragmatic tome that goes where few mainstream social observers dare to tread. For example, Smith dares suggest that, for many people, a degree has less value than the marketing departments of major universities would have you believe and that our current model of higher education is antiquated, with poor outcomes arising out of what he calls the "cartelization" process.
I sat down in a busy coffee shop with Charles Hugh Smith in his hometown of Berkeley, California (Ground Zero for all sorts of interesting points of view) and asked some informal questions about this book and why he thinks a person would want to read it. It was my first time meeting him (hopefully not my last) and I was impressed with his genuine concern for people, his brilliant insights and cogent observations, and his self-effacing humor and good will. It's hard to find anyone in California with genuine humility, particularly in a university town like Berkeley. That alone is enough to turn me into a die hard fan of all of his books and his fascinating "Of Two Minds" blog. "Get a Job..." is a great introduction to one of the 21st century's most original thinkers, but don't stop there, grab a couple more while you're at it...
Check out the raw interview, noise and all, here:
He builds a practical list of what personal skills you need to have to succeed - there's only two technical skills required, financial records knowledge (accounting) and project management skills.
There's more comprehensive reviews here so read those and the book!
A few "true life" stories about people who actually faced and overcame some of the problems might have spiced this book up, but alas, it was just the author holding forth, throwing out proclamations (that people can educate themselves via the internet, and don't have to worry about getting a college degree....) And how many employers will go along with that? Not a helpful guide at all. Also--very dense type, hard to read, and no index or footnotes.