Webster’s defines blue-collar as “Requiring Physical Labor; relating to or having jobs that require physical work”.
IMNSHO, this definition is as dead as Daniel Webster.
In the year of 2014, it is one of the many things that need to be redefined in light of changing times. It may lead to a larger discussion of class definition, labor definition and that sort of thing, but I am going to keep it simple. In 2014, Blue Collar is not defined any longer by what work you do, but your relationship to management.
It used to be that we often could define Blue Collar by education level. However, the steady rise of high school and college graduates has changed this:
As the chart above shows, the rise in education has been exponential. The original labor movements of the Industrial Age arose, as the large volume of people able to fill “blue collar” jobs was essentially limitless. This gave the power into the hands of the corporate oligarchy who could get rid of you at will. They could fire you at any time, as there were plenty of more hands out there to do the unskilled/semi-skilled labor. The end of Jim Crow and the rise of women in the workforce gave even more power to the factory owners, as again, we added to the surplus of hands willing and able to do the work.
Now, you’re saying, “Well Newman, I see what you’re saying but I work with my mind, not with my hands. I have a Master’s Degree. I am white collar, I am the capitalist, not the labor”. I am here to tell you that is what in World War II was called a blivet, meaning 10 pounds of bull sh*t in a 5 pound bag. You are nothing but a cog in a machine, as easily replaceable as the factory worker was in 1925. There is a limitless supply of people with the same Master’s Degree, who are younger, hungrier and willing to work cheaper. How many Baby Boomers do you know who were laid off during our latest recession? Do you think they’ll ever work again and if they do will it be at the same level and for the same salary? Ageism is one factor but the other factor is that these people are Blue Collar, and easily replaceable. From the highest level C level executive, to the most junior CPA, there are plenty of people willing to take these jobs, and do it cheaper.
Equity within a firm, either options or actual stock helps to negate the blue collar effect to some degree. By having a vested interest in the company, you take more action, work harder and have a say in how the Capitalist Owner runs the firm. However, it only negates it to some degree. Again, how many solid workers, how many solid thinkers and doers were laid off in this recession?
I know a lot of people reading this are going to say:
F-you Newman! I am not blue collar, I own my own destiny, I have an MBA, I am no automaton pulling a lever 10 hours a day.”
That’s right, your work isn’t the physical sort, but if you do not toe the company line, what do you think will happen? If the owner’s girlfriend doesn’t like you, what do you think will happen? I once trained a team of Junior Recruiters. I got a sweet override, I was the manager and I had some cool perks. Then, one day, the owner of the firm came and said:
Jeff, you did an awesome job training these kids. You can keep the override, but the management is passing over to XXXX (Name changed to Xs).
Yeah, the new manager was the boss’s daughter in law.
The loyalty of the 1950s and 1960s in white collar jobs is dead, from both the owner and the employee sides. The average person has 7 jobs in their lifetime. I think that number will only rise as the years go by. Even in Japan that type of security is gone.
We middle class stooges have been mystified by the Horatio Alger myth, that someday our hard work will be rewarded. As I have written about before its 98% hard work, and 2% luck to make it. The chances of becoming part of the 1% is just a lie they tell you to keep you toiling in the Machine, to keep you coming in day to day to further your acquisition of materiel goods and keep the systems we have in place.
If you have made it this far, you’re probably saying why is this on Undercover Recruiter and not a guest post in the Guardian where Glenn Greenwald’s articles go? It is because I want a very clear background on what I am going to tell you is a MUST.
You must update your resume once a month. You must keep your LinkedIn profile updated. You must keep in contact with your connections, with the recruiters and agencies you trust and tell them you are always interested in listening. Your loyalty to your company must run in proportion to the loyalty you are given. However, never forget that you are just as replaceable as that factory worker. For any reasons or even for no reason at all, you can be fired. So long, nice to know you, don’t let the door hit you on your way out of it!
2) The biggest must:
The biggest MUST is to always be willing to listen. All recruiters are asking you to do is dance. It never hurts to dance.
Okay, some of these looked painful but I stand by my statement. Just because we are dancing does not mean you need to come up to my hotel room and consummate the relationship. If we don’t dance, though, how will you know if you want to see my etchings? Work is an engagement – and engaged ain’t married.
I am not asking all my peers to form a Union. I think the union era may have passed into the populist political movement era, but again, that is a whole other article. I am not even asking you to buy into my idea that you are a cog. I will ask you to think about things like right to work, or that in the US you can be fired if your boss doesn’t like the slacks you are wearing, or for even less. I want you to think about that when you are about to hang up the phone on that recruiter because you’re happy and safe. While you may be happy, well no one is safe except the owner and his relatives. And who is to say you couldn’t be happier too? If you don’t listen, if you don’t look, you will never ever know.
So, keep all your papers and pedigrees up to date. Keep your eyes and ears open, learn about where your peers are, and see what else is out there. As Yogi Berra said, “No matter where you go, there you are” and that is spot on. However, the key is that you can always go. Most of all, do not be afraid to dance as who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky.