Books navigating middle America to better (higher-paying) jobs fill up entire sections in bookstores. Any given week will yield dozens of books impressing upon the reader the importance of a perfect resume, winning smile, and interview style. Indeed, in the last twenty years an industry of job transitioning and searching has emerged that generates millions of dollars every year. Books, seminars, videos, conferences and other byproducts can be found in every major city, all relating to this new market.
At the onset of her new book, Bait and Switch, Barbara Ehrenreich sought to examine the corporate world of middle America - an increasingly dwindling population in this country. As companies downsize, export jobs, or find ways around hiring long-term employees, the educated and more privileged classes in America find themselves losing access to the guarantees and jobs they once took for granted. Ehrenreich’s book looks directly at those who have fallen from well-paying, well-benefited jobs and landed in the world of job-hunting. Though highly skilled, they are not in high demand—or much of any kind of demand, for that matter.
As in some of her previous works, Ehrenreich utilizes her journalist background to get into the muck of things, going undercover as Barbara Alexander and creating a faux resume to see what life is like as a middle class citizen in transition. She explores the different strategies available from networking gatherings, job coaches, and the ever-dreadful resume rewriting.
At times, her results may disturb the listener. Ehrenreich’s commentary on and exploration into the evolving business world will disrupt anyone’s faith in their company. But what’s worse is how the job transition market coerces people into giving up so much in order to get a job into which they will put their entire effort without any likely chance of reciprocation.
Ehrenreich’s wisdom and sharp criticism abounds in this audiobook, and people will certainly have much to consider after listening to it. However, at times, her tone can feel a bit condescending and judgmental. Yes, the business and job transition industry are abound with flaws, contradictions, and blatant lies; however, the venom she uses on individuals she encounters in this book can sometimes be undeserved.
Anger, compassion, wry humor, and frustration are but a few of the emotions that Ehrenreich emits in her writing, and Anne Twomey captures all of them and more with her narration. Her tone and aged voice truly embody the Ehrenreich style. Yet her energetic read of Bait and Switch might also contribute to the feeling of condescension mentioned above. Perhaps her narration overemphasizes the point, but it seems unlikely. The words themselves seem to generate the mood, and Twomey seems to act merely as the catalyst.
Bait and Switch should be the audiobook that all businesspeople listen to or read. The observations and critiques offered by a seasoned veteran of work-environment investigation may turn an upset stomach in some businesspeople, but others may realize that their true calling might want to redirect itself toward another field.