Brilliant culture critic Rob Walker, author of the forthcoming book The Art of Noticing, just launched a new column at Lifehacker about "navigating the modern workplace," a continuation in some ways of his long-running New York Times column "The Workologist." Naturally, Rob's first column in the new series is about getting fired:
...What I’m suggesting is that you should not wait for a major crisis (getting fired, a horrible reorg, your worst rival becomes your boss) to start thinking about other objects. It’s better to always have a kind of low-grade, ambient awareness of and openness to other professional opportunities. That’s true even if you’re ecstatic with whatever you’re doing. Always take the lunch or have the meeting or go on the informational interview that pops up on your radar...
The absolute flat-out most irritating piece of career advice is this: Reframe challenges, failures, slap-downs, and humiliations as exciting opportunities.
Yes, we all get the logic. In fact we all get it so well that we don’t need to hear this advice anymore. Particularly right after we just got fired and it doesn’t feel exciting at all!
So let me try to offer a slightly different reframing. As noted, it totally sucks to lose your gig. But take a deep breath and try to keep an open mind about what might come next. This, in a way, is just a restatement of the “permanent job search” idea, with a little panglossian polish.
"How To Get Fired" (Lifehacker)
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One of the big problems I've had with taking long drives, anywhere, has been that I'm forced into unproductive time when I should be working. This isn't a problem when I'm going on vacation. But here's the thing: I seldom take a vacation. As I'm self-employed, there's no such thing as vacation pay in my world. When I stop writing, the money stops coming in. Working on the road is possible--all I have to do is tether my laptop to my iPhone and I'm in business.
So long as I can keep my laptop, you know, in my lap.
Maintaining a stable platform to work on while my wife wheels us across the continent has proven difficult. I've tried lap desks, balancing my computer on a backpack, you name it. My computer always slides around, making it damn near impossible to type. What's more, a neck injury that I sustained eons ago makes it painful for me to tilt my head down for any length of time. This combination of poor conditions has forced me, up until now, to twiddle my thumbs for hours at a time, working only once we've come to a stop for the day.
However, I think that I may finally have figured it out.
RAM Mounts makes a wide variety of mobile work solutions to keep nerd stuff in one place while you're driving along. Cops use RAM Mount gear in their cruisers to keep their laptop secure. Their in-vehicle smartphone and tablet stands are, arguably, among the best out there. Read the rest
It sucks to be ghosted. Last year, I was dating a guy for a few months and it was going well (or so I thought). But, after I got back from Burning Man, he had vanished. He was no longer answering my texts. Poof! He just suddenly ended contact without explanation.
It hurt at first but then I felt a sense of, "Good riddance." I mean, ultimately, who wants to be with someone who does that? (Not me!)
Now, USA Today is reporting that ghosting is happening at the workplace too. People are not only ghosting scheduled job interviews but are also not showing up to positions they've already accepted offers on:
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In the hottest job market in decades, workers are holding all the cards. And they’re starting to play dirty...
“You’re seeing job candidates with more options,” says Dawn Fay, district president of staffing firm Robert Half for the New York City area. “It’s definitely influencing their behavior.”
...Ghosting is happening across industries and occupations, Fay says. It was always somewhat of an issue for lower-paying jobs in construction, manufacturing and truck driving, says Alex Riley, president of Merit Hall, a Detroit staffing agency. Now, he says, up to 20 percent of white-collar workers in those industries are taking part in the disappearing acts.
To some extent, employees are giving employers a taste of their own medicine. During and after the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, when unemployment reached 10 percent, many firms ignored job applicants and never followed up after interviews.
This striking visual profile of a worker at the gargantuan Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works by director Evgenii Bakirov features Vladimir, The Metallurgist. The Russian title (горновой [the mountain]) is Vladimir's nickname. Read the rest
It is common in industrial and post-industrial societies to suppose a rigid, almost antagonistic division between work and play. We work in order to earn enough money to afford us time for something called fun or play—the antidote for work. Moreover, "play" is most often associated with children's pastimes, geeky video games, or other unproductive activities considered the opposite of seriousness. Maybe there is more to play than meets the eye?
In the classic study Homo Ludens, the great scholar Johan Huizinga pointed out the anthropological relevance and the profound evolutionary implications of the human activity called play. Huizinga saw the instinct for play as the central force of civilized life: "Law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom and science. All are rooted in the primeval soil of play." Five hundred years before LEGO registered the trademark, Renaissance magus Marsilio Ficino used "Serious Play" (Serio Ludere) to describe the way the fathers of Western thought operated: “Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato had the habit of hiding all divine mysteries behind the veil of (...) serious play". And speaking of divine mysteries, in the Hindu mythology the god Brahman creates the world itself, as it were, through Lila — "divine play." Play seems to be serious business after all.
Play is a state of mind, a highly sophisticated approach to life and work. Play is a fun, flow-inducing experience, among the most enjoyable states of consciousness available to humans. Play is a space for experimentation—a primal learning environment that allows one to take controlled risks without dangers. Read the rest
The Public Domain class of 2018 — authors with significant works entering the public domain next year — includes Aleister Crowley, Rene Magritte, Siegfied Sassoon and the other Winston Churchill.
Winston Churchill was an American best-selling novelist of the early 20th century. He is nowadays overshadowed, even as a writer, by a certain cigar-toting British statesman of the same name, with whom he was acquainted, but not related.
Here's the CSPD list of works that should have entered the public domain this year, but didn't thanks to congressional servicing of Disney. Read the rest
Salem Barker's kid isn't afraid of a little hard work. At five, he already knows how to run the hydraulic logsplitter they rigged up at their farm. Read the rest
Pippin Barr (previously) created a game that presents itself as a Windows 3-ish desktop from about 25 years ago. Mash away at each task in It Is As If You Were Doing Work until you win promotions and break time, wherein Breakout may be played.
“I positioned It is as if you were doing work in the context of the apparently near future of automated work (I read Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford recently in this vein). Thus the game poses as an application that humans who have been put out of work by robots and AI can play as a way to recapture the sense they once had of doing work and being productive. It’s a kind of semi-condescending service offered by this new world to those of us who can’t deal with it.”
Via Alice O'Connor, who points out the uncanny similarities to the pointless make-work foisted on the white-collar unemployed in Europe, training for jobs that will soon be extinct. Read the rest
Sheyla Veronica White was working at her desk at Cinque Terre Energy Partners in Fort Lauderdale, Florida when a piece of a sprinkler fell from the ceiling and unfortunately just missed her. Why unfortunately? Because if it hit her, she could file a worker's compensation claim. So she promptly picked up the metal piece and bashed herself in the head with it. From Fox 13:
Her employer's insurance company got suspicious and referred the incident to Florida's Division of Investigative and Forensic Services. Detectives requested security cam footage and were able to prove she staged the whole thing.
The employee... was convicted for workers' compensation insurance fraud -- a third-degree felony -- and sentenced to 18 months of probation.
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In University of Pennsylvania psychiatrist Jody Foster's new book The Schmuck in My Office: How to Deal Effectively with Difficult People at Work, she shares sound advice on dealing with narcissistic co-workers. From an excerpt at Quartz:
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On a day-to-day basis, appealing to this person’s egocentricity can be very effective. The occasional recognition of the person’s achievement, strengths, or values may go a long way in avoiding anger or demeaning comments; in some instances, you may simply want to remark upon a person’s good efforts. Fanning the embers of narcissism is particularly effective in avoiding unwanted conflict. Particularly if the Narcissus is your boss, you have to let them think that you perceive them as important. No matter how difficult it may be to do this, the Narcissus boss can make the workplace a living hell for anyone who they think is not on board with their success. Give them compliments, and try to do so without mocking them.
Remember that the only commentary that the Narcissus will be able to actually hear will contain some degree of praise in it. So when asking for a favor or for some type of change that could be perceived as an insult, definitely attempt the route of first praising him in some way. Even a simple statement like a reminder about a deadline might need some positive reinforcement embedded in it: “I can’t wait to see your draft of the proposal on Friday.” Remember that the Narcissus has special techniques for avoiding hearing criticism and can interpret even a simple suggestion or reminder as an insult if it doesn’t contain anything positive.
The glitched shimmer of a Fort Lauderdale office CCTV feed. A woman long of bone at the machine. A sprinkler head fell on her desk and she gaped up at the pebbledash expanse of the droptile ceiling. The metal thing just sat there on the melamine under the cold flourescent light. Then she took it up and bashed her head with it. I can't tell you what she was thinking but I can tell you what come to pass.
"Her employer's insurance company got suspicious and brought in Florida's Division of Investigative and Forensic Services." At least that's how Fox 13 out of Tampa put it. God might not see nor care but they had a camera upon her the whole while. They fired her and charged her with insurance fraud. The judge put her on 18 months' probation.
They never gave her money so she don't have to repay none. Read the rest
Our friend and frequent Boing Boing contributor Clive Thompson has a piece in the January/February issue of Smithsonian magazine entitled "Rage Against the Machines." He explores the 19th century Luddite Revolution, the first rebellion against automation, comparing it to the upcoming robot workforce revolution.
I didn't know that pre-industrial textile workers were well-paid and had lots of free time. No wonder they fought so hard against textile automation!
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At the turn of 1800, the textile industry in the United Kingdom was an economic juggernaut that employed the vast majority of workers in the North. Working from home, weavers produced stockings using frames, while cotton-spinners created yarn. “Croppers” would take large sheets of woven wool fabric and trim the rough surface off, making it smooth to the touch.
These workers had great control over when and how they worked—and plenty of leisure. “The year was chequered with holidays, wakes, and fairs; it was not one dull round of labor,” as the stocking-maker William Gardiner noted gaily at the time. Indeed, some “seldom worked more than three days a week.” Not only was the weekend a holiday, but they took Monday off too, celebrating it as a drunken “St. Monday.”
Croppers in particular were a force to be reckoned with. They were well-off—their pay was three times that of stocking-makers—and their work required them to pass heavy cropping tools across the wool, making them muscular, brawny men who were fiercely independent. In the textile world, the croppers were, as one observer noted at the time, “notoriously the least manageable of any persons employed.”
But in the first decade of the 1800s, the textile economy went into a tailspin.
Women Who Draw is a directory of illustrators interested in accepting work. You can filter by location and minority status. It's well-designed, too, displaying a straightforward example of each artist's style in a lazyloading grid layout.
Women Who Draw is an open directory of female* professional illustrators, artists and cartoonists who take freelance work. It was created by a group of women artists in an effort to increase the visibility of female illustrators, with an emphasis on female illustrators of color, LBTQ+, and other minority groups of female illustrators. We hope this directory will be used by publishers, art directors and editors to find less visible illustrators, and encourage them to work with these illustrators more frequently.
The BBC's Vicky Baker reports on an enduring problem: why do certain high-paying gigs in illustration get consistently assigned to men, when so many top-flight illustrators are women?
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Ms MacNaughton and Ms Rothman, who are both successful illustrators, said they were motivated to create the project after noticing certain publications were dominated by male artists.
"We counted a certain magazine that often has illustrated covers, and noticed that in the past 55 covers, only four were by women," said Ms Rothman.
Something seemed to be amiss, considering that the arts field within education is often dominated by women.
In the UK, data from higher-education admissions service Ucas shows that in 2016 the number of women enrolled in design studies courses (including illustration) was more than double the number of men.
Lars Martinson, creator of Tonoharu, an excellent graphic novel trilogy about an American teaching English in a rural Japanese village, made this video about the lessons he learned after spending a large part of his life writing and drawing it. Read the rest
Over the last year, my colleagues at Institute for the Future's Workable Futures Initiative conducted ethnographic interviews with more than 30 people across the country who use on-demand work platforms to make ends meet. There's Seda, who runs her own small business selling women’s clothing and accessories, but makes ends meet as a professional “lab rat” who participates, sometimes illegally, in clinical trial studies all over the country; Nichelle, a Ph.D. who crafts communications courses on an online learning platform while she takes it easy as an expat in Costa Rica; Jan, a homeless veteran who is using the Rover.com pet-sitting site to make a little money while she works with Swords to Plowshares to find a place to live and earn a degree; and many other fascinating people.
These ethnographic interviews informed IFTF's synthesis of "7 new archetypes of workers” whose input will be critical to creating better policies, technology platforms, and systems for people to have sustainable and successful livelihoods in the future, instead of just maximizing revenue for the platform companies. The research is presented in a new report, Voices of Workable Futures.
From a Fortune magazine article about the research:
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The overarching goal of the Institute’s report is to help create what it calls “positive platforms”—ones that “not only return profits to investors but also . . . provide dignified and sustainable livelihoods for those who use them.”
To that end, Gorbis says she’d like to see more support mechanisms—paid for by the platform companies—through which gig workers could access tax and financial assistance, physical gathering spaces for “social connectedness,” and a rating service capturing the employee experience on a range of sites.
Over at Democracy Journal, my Institute for the Future colleagues Marina Gorbis and Devin Fidler explore the "digital coordination economy" (aka the on-demand economy) and how "it may take deliberate design choices in platform architecture, business models, new civic services, and public policy to prevent this increasingly seamless “coordination economy” from becoming highly inequitable as well." From Democracy Journal:
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As software takes an increasing role on both sides of transactions—ordering and producing—it promises to bring vastly more efficient coordination to these kinds of basic economic functions. This emerging digital coordination economy, with its efficient matching and fulfillment of both human and nonhuman needs, has the potential to generate tremendous economic growth.
However, as software engineers essentially author a growing segment of our economic operating system, it may take deliberate design choices in platform architecture, business models, new civic services, and public policy to prevent this increasingly seamless “coordination economy” from becoming highly inequitable as well. Already the growth of on-demand work has allowed investors and owners in some industrialized regions to reap substantial financial returns while many of the people using platforms to generate income streams are struggling to maintain their standard of living. Uber drivers, for example, have seen a drop in earnings in the United States over the last couple of years, even as the company continues to grow at a dramatic pace.
It is clear that the fundamental technologies driving the coordination economy are neither “good” nor “bad,” but rather offer a heady combination of opportunities and challenges.