Friday, March 26, 2010

Fungibility in the days of 10% unemployment

Karen Burns of US News has a piece 7 Things Your Boss Should Never Say to You which begins with
"I pay your salary. You have to do what I say." and includes It's the 21st century. Threats and power plays just do not cut it anymore

Gee, it's March 2010 and there's 10% unemployment. The ultimate threat is You can be replaced. Easily. That should have been number one on Karen's list.

Some time ago, when there wasn't 10% unemployment, there was a zeolite scientist at Exxon's Corporate Research Laboratories who told management that a certain program was basically worthless. He was audacious enough to say so in the lecture hall in front of other scientists. Management response was You can be replaced. Easily. The zeolite guy said no more. A few years later, the certain program was discontinued, but only after management praise of its great success. There's actually a lot more to the story.

Exxon's management did not use the word fungible, but that's what they meant. At law school, the Dean of Admissions mentioned to me that all but about 10 students in any entering law school class were fungible. He meant it.

As to law, the irony becomes that lawyers succeed by proving they are not fungible, even though most are fungible. As to science, with the diversity of training and research, most scientists really are not fungible, even though they are treated as if they were. With 10% unemployment, it doesn't matter much.

***from 6 Job Search Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make

Yes, there's a recession. Yes, a lot of folks are out of work. And, yes, finding a job is a hard job in and of itself. But, no, the sky is not falling. And yes, if you work hard and long enough at it, you will land a good job. The media's motto is, "If it bleeds, it leads." Bad news is their stock in trade. You will never see a story about company hiring back 10 workers or a person who landed a great job after a rigorous job hunt. A regular diet of bad news will convince you that no one is hiring (untrue), that you should avoid employers that have had layoffs (bad strategy) or that maybe you should just move to China (bad idea unless you speak Mandarin). Get out, have some fun, work at keeping your energy and spirits up, and network with optimistic people.


If you aren't getting rejected regularly, then you either aren't working hard enough to get your foot in the door or you're applying for jobs beneath your capabilities. No employer makes a decision not to hire you; they make a decision to hire someone else who did a better job of selling himself or herself into the position.

Of -- No employer makes a decision not to hire you --, employers make decisions "not" to hire people all the time. Don't know what Paul Powers ia thinking.


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