Linkedin is the Blackberry of social networks. Everyone agrees it’s useful, but no one wants to be caught using it. However, it does serve as an indicator of how jittery people are getting about their job security. Lately I’ve been seeing a flurry of postings from people in my networks trying very hard to look stable and irreplaceable in their current positions, while clearly beefing up their profiles in an obvious bid to attract new employment. What’s up? Aren’t we happy? We’ve just survived a nasty bout of recession, so what’s not to feel good about?
Yes, generally speaking, things are looking up. We can all say hey-ya for climate change as we’ve had the most wonderful October and now November seems to be promising more of the same. Autumn clothing never looked this summery. Hemlines are up and the price of oil is down. The markets are frisky and positive. Unemployment is falling almost everywhere and currencies are stable … except for the rouble, but no one cares about that, right? After all, with trends like these, who needs anomalies?
Unfortunately there is one anomaly, and it’s a biggie. The rich are still getting richer while the middle class, the real wealth of any nation, is getting distinctly poorer. They’re overworked, overtaxed and underpaid as never before. At the same time, an overburdened social net, supporting more non-contributors than it was ever intended to provide for, will not be able to take up the slack if another financially engineered down-turn comes along. This means that everyone will just have to work for less pay, if the big corporations are not to move even more of our jobs abroad.
As if this weren’t enough, in about ten years time, governments will no longer be able to finance our future decrepitude and they are thus already planning to have us work several years longer. However, surveys recently carried out on sixteen to eighteen-year-olds tell us that kids from moderately well-to-do families who are currently finishing school are the first in over a century to harbour lower expectations and be actively targeting lower-income careers than their parents. So it’s clearly not this generation of school leavers who will be earning enough to pay for their parents’ pensions. We’d all better get used to wagging our tails a lot longer and harder for a smaller biscuit.
Of course, if the kind of people who use LinkedIn are looking for better jobs, this may be because they got themselves locked into less-well-paying positions during the recession, when they were either happy to have a job at all, got negotiated downwards in a post they already held or were promoted without a commensurate pay increase. With this mild autumn weather and its rising indicators, maybe they feel safer now, safe enough to test the waters in a slightly expanding economy. But whatever you do today, there’s always an Asian who can do it better for less, and this puts pressure on every decision your potential employer makes. So I don’t think the chances are good. It is highly unlikely that anyone changing horses in the middle of this particular stream will be saddling up to something significantly better. Either the money will be less, the responsibility more or the benefits reduced.
For my part, I’m glad I have neither to hire nor to postulate in the current environment. I never know what to say about myself that does not sound insufferable and I seldom read anything about anyone else that makes me say: “By gum, I wish he/she was working for me.” All these vaunted skills are a bit blah unless you really understand the material. Aurelia uses Ruby on Rails. Kevin has taken a course in new-media marketing tools. Frank holds Delta Seven certification. Sheila is a Vector-approved career counsellor for post-graduate students. Jane can flexibly manage backend and frontend integrated systems. Perry is an Agile programmer. I’m truly happy for all of them. Just don’t ask me to list my own skills, for I have none that can be easily expressed. What should I say? “Edwin does good stuff. No, seriously, he’s really good.”
A happy few of my friends, family and acquaintances are far above the fray. They have their own Wikipedia entries and can therefore be said to have arrived. They have nothing left to prove and the wreath of laurels they rest on is green enough and thick enough to take with them to the grave, should they so wish. Theirs is the satisfaction of a job well done, projects completed in a general glow of, at least, minor celebrity and approval. If only I were one of them, I would be spared this nagging feeling that I’m letting everybody down by not endorsing them for skills I know nothing about, because I wouldn’t be on LinkedIn anymore.
People who have arrived have no further need of social networks. They are at the hub. Things gyrate around them automatically without them needing to engage even second gear. They are never expected to endorse others for things they haven’t the foggiest notion about. They breathe rarefied air, like Albert Frère, Belgium’s richest man, who started out as a humble ironmonger and is now so powerful the government hasn’t the courage to ask him to pay his taxes in case he says, “Boo!” or something; Albert Frère, who flies everywhere in a private jet he has managed to list as a net loss within a shell company built entirely around “notional” assets and re-financed debt and based in Luxembourg; Albert Frère whose luxury jet, as a result, has not cost him a single copper penny.
Every nut and bolt on Albert’s jet, every gallon of fuel, every leather recliner has been paid by default through the taxes of the already stricken Belgian middle class, the class to which I belong, the class that is getting poorer that he might get richer, the class that is already paying for thousands of North African emigrants from failed or failing states to have an apartment and an education and full family allowance and a flat screen TV and three meals a day and free medical and dental care and free music lessons and their kids sent to summer camp at the coast every year. So Albert Frère’s private jet should be the straw that breaks this particular camel’s back, the one thing we really shouldn’t have to pay for. I should be furious at Albert for not pulling his weight within the social contract. But Albert has a coat of arms with the motto “amat victoria curam” (“victory loves the cautious” … the sly old fox) as well as a wiki entry, while I have neither. Oh, how I envy him!
© Edwin Drood
, November 2014
Top: Frontispiece by "Cham" (Charles Amédée de Noé, 1818-1879),
Impressions lithographiques de voyage par M. M. Trottman & Cham
Arnaud de Vresse, Paris, circa 1850.
Bottom: Cartoon by Swedish illustrator Oskar Emil "O.A." Andersson (1877-1906),
from a collection of his work, Mannen som gör vad som Faler in Honom
(The man who made everything that came into his head
Albert Bonnier, Stockholm, 1907.