What Are the Options For Those Who Can't/Won't Get A Corporate/Government Job?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

To understand alternatives to conventional corporate/government jobs, we have to understand "the economy we have, not the one we wish we had."

The average jobseeker is hoping to nail down a corporate or government position, for the usual reasons: security, pay and benefits. This is understandable, and it works for those who do manage to nail down a corporate/government job.
But what about everyone else? What do they do for a career? And what about those who take the Corporate America/state job and realize it isn't a good match for who they are and where they want to go?
The conventional options are on the margins of the economy: a low-wage part-time job or risky self-employment. No wonder most people want a secure Corporate America/state gig.
But there aren't enough secure, high-paying corporate/government jobs for everyone who wants one. The conventional (and carefully unstated) view is: tough luck, welcome to the low-wage serfdom basement of the economy. Take a part-time McJob or three if you can get them and spend your life scraping by.
I don't see low-wage serfdom as the only alternative to a shiny Corporate America/government bureaucracy job. To understand the alternatives, we have to understand the economy we have, not the one we wish we had or the one we might have in the future.
I often receive emails asking for job/career advice, and this is to be expected, given my latest book is titled Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.
My first response is to list the four conditions that make finding paying work easier:
1. Living in a place with a diverse range of opportunities for work.
2. Developing a network of people who know I’m looking for work and who trust me to do a good job.
3. Having more than one skill so I can take a variety of jobs.
4. Knowing what kind of work I like doing.
Beyond these common-sense points, job-seekers and those changing careers need to understand the disruptive forces transforming the economy.

The Disruptive Forces Transforming the Economy

There are three fundamental forces disrupting the conventional order, and everyone with their eyes open sees them at work every day:
1.  Essential resources are becoming more expensive.
2.  The system of expanding credit/debt to fund more consumption (i.e. “growth”) has reached marginal returns and is failing.
3.  Networked software, automation and robotics are reducing the need for human labor on a global scale.
As a result of these three structural forces, economic instability is not going to go away any time soon.  Technology leapfrogs the obsolete and inefficient; no wonder conventional sectors and the market for traditional 9-to-5 jobs are both stagnating.
The realization that ever-expanding debt and consumption are unsustainable has given rise to a new understanding of the economy called Degrowth (French: décroissance, Spanish: decrecimiento, Italian: decrescita).
From the perspective of sustainable prosperity, growth based on ever-expanding debt-based consumption is the road to ruin.
This shift from debt-based consumption to a more productive sustainability is bringing profound changes to the nature of work itself and social arrangements in the workplace.
Though we can’t foresee all the ramifications of networked software, automation and robotics, we can predict one aspect of this systemic disruption: technology will disrupt the most expensive, least efficient sectors of the economy because that’s where the greatest reductions in cost can be reaped.
In our economy, these are healthcare, education, government and national defense, all traditionally viewed as stable sectors with guaranteed job security.   That is changing, as the soaring costs of these sectors now exceed the economy’s ability to fund them.  If an economy expands by 2% each year and healthcare costs rise by 5% each year, eventually healthcare runs out of oxygen—there isn’t enough income generated by the economy to fund its continued expansion.
Few “experts”—academics, pundits and advisors—have accepted the reality of these forces or thought through the interacting consequences. As a result, we’re on our own in setting a course and navigating the inevitable storms ahead as the old system lurches from crisis to crisis, weakening further as every politically expedient reform fails to address these structural realities.

Outmoded Career Advice Is the Norm

Though the transformative power of these three forces is self-evident, remarkably, conventional career counseling is still stuck in the past, offering three basic bits of advice:
1.  Choose a career that aligns with your core talents and interests.
2.  Get as many credentials as you can -- degrees, certifications, etc. -- because the gatekeepers who do the hiring require them.
3.  Since the goal is secure employment, try to get a job in the government or a big corporation.
In my view, the conventional advice has it all backward. What worked in the past is no longer working because the economy and the nature of work are both being disrupted by forces that cannot be controlled by those threatened by these fundamental changes. 
In the conventional view, a college degree prepares one to enter the workforce. This is no longer true, as higher education has largely failed to keep pace with technology and a fast-changing economy.
As for adding more credentials to keep ahead of the pack—degree inflation dooms this strategy for all but the few who manage to secure multiple degrees from elite universities. And even this is no guarantee of lifetime security for everyone, as the number of open slots in gatekeeper-dominated institutions is much smaller than the rapidly expanding pool of over-credentialed applicants.
What matters more than credentials is the ability to keep learning new skills over one’s entire productive life.
And while it’s certainly solid advice to align one’s work with one’s talents and interests, even this advice misses the key dynamics of the emerging economy—which I define as  the parts of the economy that are thriving on innovation rather than depending on cheap credit and asset bubbles for their survival.
The thriving parts of the economy rely less on gatekeepers and credentials and more on skills, flexibility, professionalism, mastery and networks of collaboration.
In the emerging economy, security arises not from institutional promises but from a diversity of skills and income streams and a flourishing network of other trustworthy, productive people.
As a result, the goal for jobseekers isn’t just to identify one’s talents and interests but to acquire a diverse suite of flexible skills and a network that enables you to put these skills to good use.
In this view, work isn’t what you do between 9 and 5: it’s a lifestyle informed by a flexible, open perspective and guided by entrepreneurial values.
In terms of values, conventional career advice is based on the idea that happiness and fulfillment require institutional security and ever more consumption. But the more we learn about happiness and fulfillment, the more apparent it becomes that family, community, meaningful work and networks of trustworthy collaborators and friends are the sources of happiness and fulfillment, not the accumulation of institutional promises and more stuff, which turns out to have little impact on happiness or fulfillment.

The Dynamics of Economic Transformation

Capitalism and technology are both disruptive by their very nature.  That mature industries shrink or disappear is not the fault of one policy or another; that process of creative destruction (a term coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter) is the heart of capitalism and technology.
Many have attempted to keep technology safely locked up so it can’t creatively destroy their regime or industry. But technology is a genie that cannot be kept in the bottle. To quote Bob Dylan:  those not busy being born are busy dying.  Every nation or industry that tries to protect itself from technological transformation either stagnates or fails.
One aspect of capitalism that disturbs many people is the mobile nature of capital—that capital will flow to the highest return, regardless of national borders or religious, national and ideological loyalties.
Though many attribute this mobility to base greed, capital that doesn’t seek to expand will fall victim to creative destruction: the only way innovation and productive investment can occur is if less productive investments and quasi-monopolies are dismantled.
This is true not just of financial capital (cash), but of human and social capital—what author Peter Drucker called the new means of production in the knowledge-based economy.
This will have implications for every worker seeking to escape the corporate rat-race or build a career.
One feature of capitalism that is rarely noted is the premium placed on cooperation. The Darwinian aspects of competition are widely accepted (and rued) as capitalism’s dominant force, but cooperation is just as intrinsic to capitalism as competition. Subcontractors must cooperate to assemble a product, suppliers must cooperate to deliver the various components, distributors must cooperate to get the products to retail outlets, employees and managers must cooperate to reach the goals of the organization, and local governments and communities must cooperate with enterprises to sustain the local economy.
Darwin’s understanding of natural selection is often misapplied. In its basic form, natural selection simply means that the world is constantly changing, and organisms must adapt or they will expire. This dynamic is scale-invariant, meaning that it’s true for individuals, enterprises, governments, cultures and economies. Darwin wrote: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent, but the ones most adaptable to change."
These new ideas, techniques and processes trigger changes in society and the economy that are difficult to predict. The key survival trait is not so much the ability to guess the future correctly but to remain flexible and adaptive.
Ideas, techniques and processes which are better and more productive than previous versions will spread quickly; those who refuse to adapt them will be overtaken by those who do.
This creates a dilemma: we want more prosperity and wider opportunities for self-cultivation (personal fulfillment), yet we don’t want our security to be disrupted. 

But we cannot have it both ways. Those who attempt to preserve the current order while reaping the gains of free markets find their security dissolving before their eyes as unintended consequences of technological and social innovations disrupt their sources of wealth and mechanisms of control.

The great irony of free-market capitalism is that the only way to establish an enduring security is to embrace innovation and adaptation, the very processes that generate short-term insecurity. Attempting to guarantee security leads to risk being distributed within the system. When the accumulated risk manifests, the system collapses.

Why This Matters

Why do these characteristics of free-market capitalism matter to jobseekers?
Opportunity is not randomly distributed; it results from what I call the infrastructure of opportunity. If there is no mobility of labor and capital, no transparent markets for labor and capital, no creative destruction of corrupt, obsolete, inefficient systems, weak rule of law, weak property rights, no self-organizing (i.e. transparent, decentralized) access to credit, limited means of cooperation, little room for innovation and no understanding of the essential role of risk in adaptation, opportunities for successful adaptation (what we might call prosperity) are intrinsically scarce. Virtually all bets made in this environment will be lost because there is no fertile ground—it’s a desert for opportunity.
In Part 2: How The Nature Of Work Is Changing, we explore the changing nature of work and what skills and values tilt the odds in our favor. (Free executive summary;Enrollment in Peak Prosperity is required for full access)


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DoChenRollingBearing's picture

When I was young (26 or so), private sector jobs paid more than .gov (on the average).  Now it is the reverse.


I think "who you know" is more important than he writes...

Sudden Debt's picture

Try to explain to a government worker what the crisis actual is...
"It's not that bad"

venturen's picture

if you were pulling down $100k for the rest of your life with full COLA and free medical it wouldn't be!!!

Arius's picture

few years ago, Hillary wanted to start a program to offer free school for those commiting to working for the state for 10 years .... got shut down without even starting ,,,, who knows how many applications and request they received .... talk about disconnecting from reality

nidaar's picture

My sister's boyfriend's aunt makes $10000 working from home, and if you are still reading this you are a sucker who couldn't secure a cubicle in .gov or .corp yet spending your time in front of the screen from your parents basement...

AldousHuxley's picture

If you are rich you don't need a job.


Tried and true ways to get rich:

1) Marry rich

2) Inherit

3) Become a workaholic, no wife, no kids, no fun

4) Steal

5) Get Lucky



Rattling Bones's picture

 "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"  - Upton Sinclair

Pesky Labrador's picture

Im contracting for government and I would disagree with your statement.

IronShield's picture

Which part?  And what do you do?

Pesky Labrador's picture

Can't say, Information Technology.

IronShield's picture

Costs more because of: profit, overhead, ability to dispatch a contract/personnel with limited recourse, etc...

Not sure what your point is, however.  This has been an ongoing debate since outsourcing began.  Bottom line, the key benefit to the Gov is the ability to end a contract and dispatch personnel.  Obviously can't readily do that with Civs (though plenty of deadwood in Gov).  Of course, the current bloat in Gov will be self-correcting once the current system resets.

IronShield's picture

Usually they do pretty well.  Of course it depends on what you do (not where) which is why I asked.  Sys admin/networking, cybersecurity, and development are all pretty solid areas (bonus of course for clearance).

lordylord's picture

Don't know about that.  Go on USAjobs.gov or whatever it is.  A typical 50-60k private sector engineering job is listed for 80-100k on the .gov site.

pelican's picture

It is more complicated then that. In DC the cost of living Iis 2x higher then other places in the country. I left government employment because I could make more on the outside.

The ones who make a lot of money inside the government are GS 15 and SES. They get huge amounts of time off, bonuses and high salaries.

Yes, they get bonuses during the recession.

Payne's picture

Similar to Weimar Germany,  secure jobs for Government workers with increasing pay as Reichmark devalued.  Instead the only jobs available are connected to the Government which has access to capital markets to issue more debt.  More jobs vs More pay.

Sudden Debt's picture

They can try to win the lottery
Become a pimp
A meth cook
Or a civil servant

venturen's picture

They don't call them "Civil Servant"s any more..., first they aren't "Civil" and these better capture their role "Overlord", "Retired Teacher and Living Large", "World Traveler"(ever see the number of teachers on a crusise or organized trip...they are the only ones that have big cash in retirement!) or simply  "Master" are more appropriate.

IronShield's picture

You must have missed the articles on the Pension issues; here now and just around the corner.  Don't think they'll impact everybody (i.e. all levels of Gov)?

PoliticalRefugeefromCalif.'s picture

Yeah for city and state employees.. fed employees have the printing press as a back stop.

CheapBastard's picture

"Son, I'd like you to be a brain surgeon when you grow up."


"No, no Daddy, please let me become a gubmint 'folk' and live high on the hog...pleeze Daddy..."

CunnyFunt's picture

Move to New York City and become a traffic warden. Apparently, the ability to speak English is not required.

venturen's picture

and you retire at 35 with 25 years of service....their maths is always great....and don't forget the 5 years of accrued sick time...since you worked 120 hours a week for your last year. 

PiratePiggy's picture

Scroll down to the second photo to see what a lifetime of service to the people will buy you:




headhunt's picture

and the only qualifications needed was she had to be a c**t

pods's picture

I made $9500 last week by only working 20 hours online.

Of course, I had to split it with the Donkey and the Midget 3 ways.


Motley Fool's picture

Logged in to upvote. ^^

Yen Cross's picture

lmfao! That made my day.

Jack Sheet's picture

usually it's your brother's sister's cousin who makes the dough ......

darteaus's picture

Dude, if there's a donkey and midget in the act, they are splitting the money with you.

813kml's picture

Is that an elected or appointed position?

Jack Sheet's picture

For those seeking diversion, Louise Yamada is awaiting "sustained penetration" over at KWN


blabam's picture

"sustained penetration" the definition of government. 

Lordflin's picture

The number one characteristic in demand in today's world... a complete lack of conscience.

headhunt's picture

Oh... you want a government job

Ignatius's picture

Good point.  Charles completely discounts 'a life of crime' as a viable alternative.

Seasmoke's picture

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

mayhem_korner's picture

What Are the Options For Those Who Can't/Won't Get A Corporate/Government Job?


Start a new government.  I am currently a finalist for governor of Mayhemville.

headhunt's picture

I would like the General Mayhem position in your new government

therover's picture

I want to be Chief of Stuff.

Inthemix96's picture


Here have laugh.

A bloke wakes up from a coma after sixs months treatment off a serious car crash.

He wakes up and starts screaming 'DOCTOR, DCOTOR, I CANT FEEL MY LEGS!!!!!'.

The doctor says, 'Cause you cant son, I've amputated both your arms'.

Fucking smile bitchez, its never that bad is it?


Seek_Truth's picture

How to curb the outbreak of ebola in Africa:-

Step 1 - Identify the infected
Step 2 - Prep the infected for travel
Step 3 - Place the infected on a Malaysian Airlines flight & hope they live up to their reputation.

Mr Giggles's picture

This kind off hopium, will cause you mental problems, (raise spirits but dash them harder).

It's over.

Loose Caboose's picture

You should change your handle to "Barrel of Laughs". 

SilverRhino's picture

>> What matters more than credentials is the ability to keep learning new skills over one’s entire productive life.

TOTALLY NAILS IT.   Nothing I learned in college or before 2000 has the slightest bearing on how I earn my living now.  

The best skillset one can have moving through life: Rapid learning.