Jobs Are Things You Pick Up Between Layoffs

This week, the Los Angeles Review of Books ran a review of our current economy, titled “Why Your Rent Is So High and Your Pay Is So Low.”

Read the whole thing. It has a chart. You’ll learn that housing costs used to take up 10 percent of people’s incomes, and now housing takes up 50 percent or more. As Tom Streithorst writes:

Then, everything changed. In 1982, wages stopped going up, while asset prices (stocks, bonds, real estate) began their spectacular rise.

But here’s the pull quote, the one you’ll probably see reblogged halfway across the internet by the end of the week:

Almost nobody has a job for life. More and more of us are freelance, hired on a job-by-job basis. If we get sick or injured or merely less cool than we used to be, our employer can forget he ever knew us and hire someone else. Risk has shifted from the corporation to the individual. And forget about working until you are 65. In a growing number of industries, once you are 50, you are well past your sell-by date. It seems the professional life cycle these days is get an unpaid internship in your early 20s, climb the ladder in your 30s, out the door at 45.

Then author Kameron Hurley responded to the LA Review of Books piece in a blog post titled “The Future of Work Is Here — and It Sucks.” Again: read the whole thing. Hurley explains her employment history:

I’ve been laid off from nearly every job I’ve ever had, and witnessed the deep dysfunction of corporate America again and again. The last job I had laid people off every six months, then rehired them. I was literally asked by HR, “So, is this your first tour?” on my first day. This was a running joke because there were people who’d been laid off and rehired there two, three times. Some were on their fourth “tour.” This is a messed up and backwards and expensive way to run a business, but when you’re looking for short term profit so you can show fake growth to investors (and you’re not actually invested in long-term success) it works pretty well.

She also lays out her current sources of income:

And let’s be real for a minute, it’s not like I’m poor right now. I make a good salary that I negotiated hard for and I hustle I hustle I hustle. I’m turning in three books this year. I have book contracts until 2018. Until recently when I supplanted freelancing income with my Patreon, I was freelancing for all of my old bosses as well.

And yet there’s always that feeling that it could all disappear. That if you stop hustling, or decide to take a vacation from freelancing, or say no to an opportunity, you’ll be on the list of forgotten names. That jobs are what you get between layoffs, and that you should be planning for your next layoff — or, if you’re a freelancer, the next email that begins “after much consideration, we’re closing our publication” — from the minute you get hired.

Or, as Hurley puts it:

People ask me, often, why I work so hard, and so much. It’s because at any moment I could lose everything.