When our parents came of age in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s,
working for "The Man" was the only game in town. Our grandparents—mostly
members of the Great Depression generations
for whom jobs were considered luxuries—reinforced the ideas
that getting a job and working hard were essential to building
a sustainable living.
Thus, the mantra was born: Work hard, get good grades, go
to college, and get a job.
Before we were even born, our parents fantasized about what we
would be when we grew up. They wanted things to be better for
us, but in a much different way than their parents had planned
for them. There was a generational divide here: To our grandparents,
getting a job was a matter of survival. But our parents wanted
more than survival for us—they wanted us to find our dream job
and thrive. We couldn't just get any job—they had much bigger
ideas for us. They wanted us to find a cure for a disease, write the
next great American novel, or become president of the United
States. The possibilities seemed endless. Their expectations ran
wild and knew no bounds. Before the doctor even cut our umbilical
cords, we were already winners who were destined to surpass
their wildest dreams—even though they had no idea what that
meant or how we could even begin to make their dreams a reality.
And, then the big day arrived. You might have entered the
world as an 8-pound ton-of-fun with a face that scared off
the family dog, but it didn't matter. The moment you left the
womb, you were a special, perfect, one-in-a-million diamond-in-the-rough
who would one day perform open-heart surgery
blindfolded, while climbing Everest.
From that day forward, the world revolved around your
every action. You giggled, and your parents thought it was
brilliant. You rolled over, and you were amazing. When you
walked, they told everyone who would listen how incredible
you were. You mumbled some incoherent iteration of "mom"
or "dad" that sounded more like "bus stop"—and it was life
changing. Relatives would even line up to clean your diaper just
to get a whiff of your majestic, rosy fragranced poop.
And the adoration didn't end at infancy.
It was time to call the NBA when you almost hit that
foul shot during your fourth-grade basketball scrimmage.
Graduating from middle school was a crowning achievement.
And when you made your singing debut in the high school
musical's background ensemble, your parents swore that you
were on your way to Broadway.
For years, your parents, teachers, and MTV blew smoke up
your ass at every turn. You were showered with undeserved
accolades, encouraged to aspire to unrealistic goals, and
praised for exaggerated achievements. You were the unwitting
victim of a coddling culture fated to screw up your perception
No matter how pathetic the award or how asinine the proverb,
you bought into it all, hook, line, and sinker. You were so
busy riding the Everyone-Is-a-Winner bandwagon that you
failed to realize that you were being rewarded for mediocrity—or
worse, out of pity. Your parents put you on a teetering
pedestal, instead of providing you a strong and realistic
foundation for the rest of your life. Encouraging you to aim
high is one thing, but by keeping you from feeling the sting of
failure—and not allowing you space to fend for yourself independently—your
parents, teachers, and coaches unknowingly
set you up to be a weak, ineffectual person, unprepared for
COLLEGE: THE DRUNKEN ROAD TO EASY STREET
From your time in the cradle, up to high school graduation,
you were likely force-fed everything from Sesame Street to SAT
prep courses. You were pushed to read faster, be smarter, and
raise your GPA in the hopes that one day you'd be accepted
into a top-rated college—and that would set you up for life.
But rather than instilling the desire to pursue a "real" job,
college taught you to hate them. Most professors were open-minded
thought leaders who encouraged discussion. Unlike
the mandated dress codes in primary and secondary schools,
college promoted a sense of individuality and expression. No
one dictated where or how you worked, as long as you got the
work done. Cheating or achieving grades so low that teachers
began to question whether you had a pulse were two of very
few reasons you might be expelled—which were better odds
than hoping for job security.
When you did manage to find the time to pay attention or
even make it to class, you probably realized that your classes
weren't offering you the critical skills necessary for the real world.
College courses seemed to train you for the same mythical dream
job your parents desired for you. There were no lectures on corporate
hierarchy, filing documents, or answering phones. When
you weren't wasting time taking classes that were about as useful
as a screen door on a submarine, you were receiving a high-level
education that taught you how to do your eventual employer's
job, not the remedial tasks of his entry-level assistant. Simply put,
you were told what to think—not how to think.
Instead of breaking free from the system and taking control
of your own life, you took the easy road. You decided to
allow your perception of reality to remain warped, because you
knew you had a reward just waiting to be cashed in. Your BS in
BS was your meal ticket to superior job placement and untold
Or so you thought.
DUDE, WHERE'S MY DREAM JOB?
The years passed by so fast that before you knew it, you were
finishing up your senior year of college. In a few short months
you'd be pants-less, wearing a cap and gown, accepting a six-figure
sheet of oak tag, and finding yourself one step closer to
retirement by thirty. All of the B– term papers and drunken
debauchery was finally going to pay off. It was time to get paid!
You typed up your resume in 12-point Times New Roman
with your name centered at the top in bold caps. You grossly
exaggerated your internship experience and gave yourself the
title of VP of Operations, Marketing, and Accounting. You
printed the document on 110-pound scented yellow stationery
and—along with your formulaic cover letter—proudly
handed the completed package to your career development
counselor for her seal of approval. I'm sure there was a tear
in his or her eye. You then proceeded to send resumes to all of
the best employers you could find on the Web. The excitement
was palpable. It was time to accept your dream job.
A few weeks went by, and you didn't hear anything—but
you didn't let that scare you. You had an accredited degree. But
still, where was the harm in hedging your bets? So you sent
out 10 more resumes.
A few more weeks passed. No responses.
No problem, though, right? It was only a matter of time
before someone contacted you to schedule an interview. After
all, you followed your life plan to the decimal. You got good
grades, and were accepted into college—now the next step
was to get the job of your dreams. Right? But just to be sure,
you sent out a few more resumes. Not too many. Just 75 or
so ... you know, to be on the safe side.
There's a good possibility that if you graduated several
years ago, you applied for a bunch of corporate gigs and still
haven't heard back from any employers. You're not alone. Juan
Somavia, the Director-General of the UN International Labour
Organization, has recently announced that global youth unemployment
has hit its highest levels ever, with 81 million young
people unemployed worldwide. According to a 2009 National
Association of Colleges and Employers study, 80 percent of
college graduates who were looking for jobs couldn't find one.
The Economic Policy Institute recently announced that the
class of 2010 faces the worse job market in a generation, with
the Bureau of Labor Statistics putting unemployment among
19- to 24-year-olds over 15 percent. Even more disturbing is the
recent study by the Pew Research Center indicating that nearly
40 percent of all 18- to 29-year-olds have either been unemployed
or underemployed at some point since December 2007.
If you did hear from a potential employer, there's a fairly
good chance you were denied a position because you were
either underqualified for the jobs you wanted or overqualified
for the jobs you applied for "just to make ends meet." It didn't
matter if you had a degree in electrical engineering—you'd
be lucky to get an executive assistant gig at a corporate event
planning company, if you got a job at all.
But there is a silver lining. You're now a card-carrying member
of the Boomerang Club: The first generation in history to
attend college only to move back in with dear old mom and
dad afterward because you're broke, unemployed, and in debt
up to your eyeballs.
Hooray for living the dream!
I'm sure this is exactly how you envisioned your postcollegiate
WELCOME TO YOUR "REAL" JOB, MR. JANITOR
Maybe you were "fortunate" and did manage to land a job
after college. However, chances are that whatever you're currently
doing was not your first choice. It's probably not even
your 10th or 20th choice. Heck, it's probably not even your
100th choice. Instead of being hired as the vice president of
fashion design at Ralph Lauren, you most likely accepted a
receptionist gig at Joey Fatayat's Mortuary where the motto
"You Kill 'Em, We Chill 'Em" is proudly displayed on a neon
sign in the parking lot. (I'm sure they have a wonderful health
And if, by some miracle, you were lucky enough to get a job
in your chosen field, then you're most likely grinding it out as
an underappreciated, underpaid, underemployed, bottom-ofthe-food-chain
receptionist-barista-gopher, who often gets
mistaken for the company intern.
What happened to the dream job that was dangled in front
of you like a carrot on a stick for your entire life?
You departed college with the notion that you were regularly
going to make life and death decisions and close billion dollar deals
over dinner meetings. So how is it, exactly, that you ended up
sitting in a cubicle typing up your supervisor's meeting agenda,
staring at a slow ticking wall clock, and wondering where it all
went wrong? Where was your standing ovation for handing
in your work early? Or the certificate for being on time every
morning? How about the corner office with a view or the
Where is your "A" for effort?
Claustrophobic cubicles, stale coffee, monotone dress codes,
idiot bosses, mind-numbing water cooler debates, migraine-inducing
birthday celebrations, infantile office politics, futile
reports, repetitive phone answering protocols ... the only thing
stopping you from running down the hallway screaming like a
madman is the thought of being forced to attend the human
resource department's new multicultural anger management
Truth be told, whether your collar is blue or white, your "real"
job is probably everything you never wanted it to be—and
you're not alone. More people than ever are less than pleased
with their current positions. In fact, according to a recent study
conducted by the Conference Board, 45 percent of Americans
hate their jobs, and—perhaps more shocking—73 percent of
Americans under the age of 25 hate their jobs. If that many
people are so completely miserable doing what they do on a
daily basis ... well, doesn't that tell you something about how
broken the system is? Despite the encouragement you received
(and still receive) to get one, "real" jobs present a problem for
the following reasons:
Real jobs offer you a false sense of security. You've been
conditioned to believe that a real job will offer you safety and
security. However, the truth is that job security no longer
exists—and it hasn't for a long time.
Consider the numerous corporations that went bankrupt
in the 2000s where the decisions of the few greatly impacted
the livelihoods of the many: Enron, Lehman Brothers, Circuit
City, Linens 'N Things, General Motors, and so on. The list is
frustratingly endless. Forget about gold watches and retirement
lunches; in many cases, loyal employees didn't even receive
severance or a shred of their decimated retirement savings.
And let's not forget about the recession that has forced companies
to lay off millions of employees—nearly 1 in 10, in some
instances—just to maintain viability ... and has caused the
unemployment rate to escalate to levels that haven't been seen
since the Great Depression.
Detractors may argue that employees benefit from more
security than entrepreneurs do. Yet although entrepreneurs
understand the risks they're taking in terms of their financial
security, they still maintain total control over its direction. People
with "real" jobs have very little—if any—say over financial and
job security. The list of factors that can send you packing will
only grow as employers continue to perfect their "better, faster,
cheaper" philosophy to keep stockholders happy or increase
top-level executive pay. There is only one thing that will undoubtedly
become more and more commonplace: pink slips.
Real jobs render you powerless. Clueless management.
Moronic colleagues. Tedious reports. Unrealistic deadlines.
What do all of these things have in common? It's simple: No
one wants or cares about your opinion on any of them. Your
job is to keep your head down and get whatever needs handling
done—no questions asked.
Don't kid yourself. In most instances, you're not a decision
maker unless you are the decision maker—and chances are,
you're scared of whoever this truly is. In fact, according to a
research poll conducted by workplace expert and BusinessWeek
columnist Lynn Taylor, the average U.S. employee spends more
than 19 hours each week worrying about what their boss
will do or say. That hardly seems productive to the corporate
Unlike entrepreneurs who succeed or fail based on their
own decisions, employees with "real" jobs must play the roles
of obedient cogs in the machine tasked with performing
X function Y amount of times to get Z result for the sole
benefit of the mother ship. Deviation from the carefully
designed corporate agenda dictated from above could result
in unforeseen losses—and consequently, the termination of
employment. After all, such actions prohibit you from improving
the wealth of others and that cannot be tolerated. Mind you,
even if you abide by the corporate agenda and there are losses,
it still doesn't mean you're guaranteed any sort of safety—or
severance. Say good-bye to freedom and hello to a life as a
corporate wage slave.
Real jobs overwork and underpay you. A recent study
conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety
and Health found that the average U.S. employee works two
months longer than an employee from 1969 for nearly the
same salary after inflation adjustments.
So, not only are many people overworked—they're also paid
less for working more.
What does this mean to you in dollars and cents? Maybe
$35,100 annually; the average salary for 25- to 34-year-olds
in the United States according to the July 2010 BusinessWeek
article "Retirement: Gen Y's Empty Piggy Bank"—a dollar
amount that has come to be after falling 19 percent over the
last 30 years after adjusting for inflation. For many entry-level
employees, the workday doesn't end at 5 pm—and it often
includes portions of weekends. So, we'll suppose that between
putting out your boss's fires at 10 pm on Fridays and composing
reports during football game viewing on Sundays, that
your actual workweek is 50 hours long. Breaking down your
annual salary, your actual wage is a little more than $13.50 per
hour. Now let's include overtime. Oops—I forgot; according to
the Department of Labor's overtime rules, you might not even
be eligible for overtime! Silly me. And let's not forget about
deductions to your paycheck for taxes and social security. So
we'll make that more like $10 per hour. After you subtract for
your clothing, travel expenses, college debts, and any costs
associated with your company benefits package, well, you're
lucky if you can afford a night out at the movies.
Excerpted from "Never Get a "Real" Job: How to Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke" by Scott Gerber. Copyright © 0 by Scott Gerber. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.