The end of it all

Once upon a time there was such thing as a "brilliant" career. You could follow your dream and the money would follow. People would buy houses on credit cards, put everything on line for one spine tingling month or so – buying nothing but cosmetic blather for the house, and make over a hundred thousand dollars profit a month later. Whole shows on "educational" TV cropped up in the reality genre to explain the process. Slap a warm coat of paint, redo the counter tops in granite and of course install the stainless steel appliances people, were advised. The sadistic producers would up the ante by making the home flippers feel anxiety over the month and a half they waited to resell the property. Finance 101, buy a piece of junk cheap on borrowed money, resell it fast while the market climbed.

What those shows failed to examine was the power of the inflationary market. Houses were going up in value at rate far exceeding what a new coat of paint is worth. Stainless steel appliances aren't that great anyway. They show fingerprints constantly, always looking smudged. Actual value increasing remodeling ideas such as adding another bathroom or putting in deeper sinks were rarely explored. The name of the game was profit. People were following their dreams until the bottom suddenly fell out.

Suddenly banks were no longer loaning money even to people with steady income. Without mortgage money the housing industry languished. Real Estate agents were the first to feel the "ouch", then developers, contractors and architects found themselves without work. As their work dried up they spent less money causing a second wave of jobs to feel fragile. Those in retail found less buyers, clothes and shoes went on sale. Boutiques went out of business. Luxury items such as flowers, candy shops, even coffee houses with their lattes felt the crunch. When looking for places to cut costs, many families ate out less often. Good on a personal level, but perilous to the economy.

"Why didn't I get the job?" I wondered for the fourth time in a year. I am floundering looking for work in a time period when fewer and fewer jobs are available. My friend reminds me I didn't do anything wrong. There are fifty people for every opening. Those with jobs are working harder, longer and for less pay. Once upon a time being bilingual was considered a "skill." Employers imagined you went to school and had additional training to gain the knowledge. Now I see jobs were Spanish and English are required – and the pay hovers above minimum wage.

Get more training, get more education, is the advice I see daily on the internet. Even AARP magazine touts the benefits of continuing education. They run happy stories of people in their late 50's and 60's making life changes. "Pell" grants are awarded to go to vocational training such as hair dresser college. I'm all for additional training, especially if you can get a grant and go for free, but once again, scams abound that take advantage of the weakest in our society. The front page of the New York times ran a story on how people pay upwards of 40k to go to tech training schools to find at the end no job available or no job that pays well enough to get out from the student debt accrued. Scary.

My twenty two year old son passed on the idea of college. Even though most of his friends are going, I think he's right to believe he won't do better by getting himself into debt. He's already an assistant manager at the organization he's worked at for more than three years. To cut back for school would jeopardize his position. He's doing better than most with a full forty hours and benefits. His friends float from one fast food job to another trying to squeeze hours around their college classes. Fast food being one of the few industries doing really well in this economy.

Product marketing a thing of the past? For the money, fast food restaurants provide a product, unlike most of the industries that have floundered. Things like Amway and Avon depend more upon you signing up friends than delivering products. Or who hasn't had a candle party? You can make money one time once by inviting all your friends and getting them to buy an item, but it won't sustain. You can make money a second time if one of your friends signs up to be a distributor, but since they have the same customer base as you, chances are they won't make money at all.

What's the answer? Should we all just keep believing in our selves in an airy-fairy new age fog? I hope things will get better but I'm not sure how they will. People are angry. Angry people make poor supervisors and dysfunctional corporate structures. Fear based companies value lame, they intend to dumb down the jobs until a monkey can do them. It's a plan to save money, so workers don't have to be paid as much. Jobs are leaving America, going places with out workers compensation, with out health benefits, all so the consumer can pay less. That's supposed to stimulate the economy, except everyone is too broke to shop.