Posts Tagged ‘jobs’

Where have all the reporters gone?

June 25, 2016


What with the closing and consolidation of so many newspapers and news outlets around the country, I hadn’t given much thought to where the reporters had gone.

Then I noticed that the attendance to my magazine of contemporary culture had trebled.  Also that the articles I had been reading in these professorial type journals with their college and think tank affiliated authors – also had the contemporary feel of a journalist’s beat.  Have the reporters found shelter in the coves of academic publications and non-profit think tanks?

I don’t know.  And I haven’t been able to find out anything.

I’m not much of a reporter.

(To read more of Carl Nelson’s work, go to:  )

Essays by Carl Nelson

February 11, 2016

Trail of Money

The Money Comes in Big Wads, or Not at All


This Mid-Ohio river valley town is a hard place to turn a buck.  As a salesperson you don’t have to make many phone calls to figure this out.  As I work my way down the Chamber of Commerce lists of local businesses I follow a lot of hardscrabble efforts and read a lot of unique business names.  I call and get a busy signal, a number disconnected, or a voicemail from six months previous.  Lots of pre-recorded voicemails predominate as the owner themselves are missing while out presumably massaging some other prospects themselves.  It often seems the selling around here involves a lot of sniffing of each other’s skat.  In short in this area, as in a lot of the rust belt and increasingly more coastal areas of the country, the hunting is getting scarce.  In these business pages you can certainly see people trying  …everything.  Pet salons, beauty salons, pawn shops, barber shops, chemical cigarettes, lawn services, clean-up services, insurance services, financial services, tax assistance…  Even the professionals such as accountants and lawyers are having to jog pretty fast just to get by, and they seem to go out of business nearly as fast as anyone else.  In my mind the local employment solutions remind me of when as children we tried to catch a bird or a squirrel with a box held up by a stick with a string attached to it with some yummy bait inside.  We used to wait a long time and rarely had any luck.  So also with fishing with string and a safety pin.

Most of the small business around here has been run out by the franchises.  The dime stores, the cafes, the hardware and clothing stores have been replaced by the Wal Marts, MacDonalds and Home Depots.  They take the money here, but their purchasing is done elsewhere.  The mines and oil companies pull the resources out, pay some pretty good blue collar wages, but they purchase elsewhere and take the money elsewhere also.  The chemical plants up and down the river are not as thriving as once, but they still pay some pretty good blue collar wages – but here again purchase and use the money elsewhere.  The government brings in some money in terms of schools and federal services.  There is a bit of farming and logging.  The industries with the most profitable looking presence around here are the hospitals, funeral homes, and tort law.  Just driving around you get the impression that the common activity is to die.  The most common posted historical photo is of some devastating flood.

Oddly there are some very good teachers and individual contractors around, as these seem to be relatively good paying jobs which allow some to the best people to remain in the area.  The majority of the service jobs remaining, however, barely afford a life.  And if you are a youngster trying to break into an occupation around here, there is not much job mobility and few openings.  Maybe every twenty years something will come along to rock the economy and a few job holders are lured from the safety of their sure employment into something else to create a vacancy.  Otherwise the suppliers and customers are as attached and committed to one another as an embryo to its placenta.

But, here, more and more it doesn’t appear as if we are alone out here in the woods of Appalachia.  Even in the metropolitan area of Seattle, where I once called home, and all around our nation people are talking about the hollowing out of the middle class.  At the dealership where we once worked in Seattle they demanded an extreme work ethic.  You could work extremely hard and earn quite a bit more money that we needed.  We could have also worked just a normal week taken home $150,000/year, gone to see all of our child’s games and made it home for dinner by 6 every evening.  Except that the latter was not an option.  The company needed $500,000/year from that territory.  Otherwise they’d get someone else.

I see this all around the United States.  The big game like an elephant, a whale or a rhino are still around.  And if you are equipped to hunt them, you will have more food than you can possibly need.  But most the deer, rabbits, squirrels, possum, fish, etc. are gone.  Normal people with normal skills need not apply.  You have been replaced by better software and robots.

Then, just the other day, this caught my eye.  It was an article written for “The Seattle Globalist” by Sahid Maxad, an immigrant who, after twenty years repatriated to Somalia.  Sahid writes:

“But I was also getting away from a mostly stagnant and unfulfilling life in Seattle — White Center to be specific.

I was tired of working dead end jobs just to pay the bills. I felt trapped in a vicious cycle, where I always ended up at the same starting point, with no end in sight. I felt as if I was living a real life version of the movie Groundhog Day.”

What Sahid found in Somalia was a very poor country, and yet one with “many continuous years of improved safety and infrastructure development.”  And the time seemed to be right.  “More and more people are choosing to take their savings and invest in startup businesses and NGOs in Somalia to help rebuild the nation on a grassroots level.”

“Returning diaspora members are positioning themselves for success beyond their wildest imaginations — especially compared to their prospects in the States. I’ve seen people come here with a modest amount of savings and leverage it into entire hotel chains and various other lucrative entrepreneurial enterprises.”

In other words, the game hunting is good there in Somalia for the burgeoning middle class.

I wonder if we might not see more and more of your own middle class heading for the poorer regions of the world in the coming years also, as they search out a better life.

Advertising Flattened


From the Editor’s Perch…

September 15, 2013


Circles of Intimacy / Where the Jobs Are


            Hiring takes place within differing circles of intimacy, which the forces of supply and demand determine, depending upon what the market for labor is.  (What a sentence.)

But the less companies desire labor, the shorter distance they will go to find it.  This struck me as I was chatting with a friend who is a technical writer.  He began his career in the tech boom times.  If you had a credible resume, then they wanted you.  And if you were competent, a full-time job was fairly certain.

Things have changed nowadays.  Whether it’s the economic downturn or outsourcing, having the resume doesn’t open the lock anymore.  You don’t come in through the personnel department.  There’s ‘a freeze’.  A large majority of companies aren’t looking for technical writers.

There are many parallels here with what has happened in the copier industry.

In the salad days of Xerox, salespeople were forking in the commissions.  Companies ran to Xerox for their equipment.  But nowadays our dealership has a large presence in Seattle, but it is extremely rare for anyone to call out of the blue looking for equipment.  Established customers might call up their sales reps to discuss an acquisition, but that’s as good as it gets.  Most often it’s the other way around; the sales rep calls the established customer to alert them to a special offer, or that a lease is coming up, or that they are paying too much for overages (and need a bigger machine).  The point is, the salesperson has to get in beside the prospect to convince them that they need new equipment.  The days of a customer needing something and then going out to buy it are long gone.  In other words, professional sales, as it is understood by the normal educated person, is not as it has been explained to be.  People do not need something, and then approach a salesperson to buy it.

Perhaps this misunderstanding for how sales works is because for most of us, this is how sales does work.  We need milk; we go to the store.  We need a house; we go to a realtor.  We need a meal; we go to a restaurant.  We need clothes; we go to Nordstroms.  This is not, however, how it works for copiers, and in many others areas of business.  As one newer, very bright, copier salesman said, flinging up his hands in exasperation, “I don’t know how anyone makes any money in this business!”

They do make money – but not where this salesperson had the point of sale located.  He was fishing way downstream.  He was calling people – and they were telling him they didn’t need a copier.  His ‘pool’ was all fished out.

Nowadays most of the prospects I call will say they don’t need any equipment.  To make money nowadays, a salesperson has to build a sale.  Over the phone the salesperson must qualify the prospect, that is, determine whether there is a possible sale there.  And then the salesperson must get an appointment with the prospect in order to assemble a need.  Few customers know they are paying $200/month too much for old equipment – except for those the salesperson who has gotten inside to discover this has alerted.  Suddenly, this salesperson has created a new need; they have created a possible sale where none existed before.

As I was chatting with my technical writer friend, it struck me that the same forces were at play.  Many tech companies no longer believe they need technical writers.  These are the day of Google and Wikipedia and crowd sourcing and forum threads….   A good resume cannot open this closed door.  Moreover, once hired, doing your job well will not necessarily keep you hired.  You must also have a presence within the company as someone who knows about technical writing issues and are worth speaking to.  By being taken seriously by those who decide to hire technical writers, the technical writer can use his insights to create himself a job.  But the job is created within a much more select circle of intimacy.  And to find that job, a lot of what you do is to create it.

Long ago my Engineer brother, who had a job in New Mexico, wanted to move to the Seattle area.   So he applied for a job with Boeing.  He applied through regular channels.  After he had sent in his application, he got to talking with another engineer who worked at Boeing and who was currently working on a project my brother was uniquely qualified to do.  The guy could really use my brother’s help.  So the fellow crafted a labor request for a position my brother was uniquely qualified to fill.  Soon, my brother was hired.  Six months later he got a letter, forwarded to him from New Mexico, from the Boeing Personnel Department.  They were sorry to inform him, the form letter stated, but there was no need for Engineers with his qualifications at this time.

This is what I am talking about.

Photo by Carl Nelson

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