Book review: Bait and Switch


I read Bait and Switch: The (futile) pursuit of the American Dream last year because I had really liked the first book by Barbara Ehrenreich that I had read, Nickled and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America. Both books are set up in the same way, although on different topics. In Nickled and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America, Ehrenreich goes undercover as low income worker.  She takes on various jobs around the country and tries to make ends meet.  In the end, she shows that low income earners, even when working multiple jobs and doing their absolute best, can barely make ends meet.  They have no extra; any health crisis or family problems can sink them.

In Bait and Switch: The (futile) pursuit of the American Dream, Ehrenreich goes undercover to explore the world of the white-collard unemployed.  Through this, she becomes a job seeker and takes every opportunity available to land a job.  Although in the end she fails to gain employment, she does come to understand the difficulties of the unemployed, the frustration of continuing to apply, and a culture of acceptance that leaves no space to question the system or feel loss and anger of a life long gone.

Personally, I found Nickled ad Dimed to be a much stronger and compelling book; however, Bait and Switch has its highlights.  At the time, I though it was interesting to see how there was a culture of the unemployed, job-seeking, white-collar workers– how they were encouraged to stick with a routine, change into suits even for phone interviews, and the mass discussion of what color to wear to interviews.  Now, as part of the unemployed looking for work, I have a better sense of how true this culture is (even if I refuse to follow it and am only on the fringe because I am not failing to support my family or mid-career).

As a job seeker, I think that the number one frustration has been jobs not getting back to me. I understand that corporations and organizations get more applications than they con possibly handle. I understand, although don’t like, that in the first round you almost never hear anything.  However, there are jobs that I have been interviewed for, where they never managed to get back to me. I went on their website the other day to ascertain that they have, in fact, hired someone. Really, once they have talked to me and interviewed me, it would be nice to at least get a rejection email.



  1. what type of work are you looking for? good luck with your search. i hope you find what you are looking for.

    i don’t ever want to become a white collar office worker. it is so unstable because they downsize on a whim. i know a few people who have lost everything after being laid off mid-career.

    i have been reading about the increase in suicides ever since this economic crisis began. some people can’t pay their mortgage so kill themselves instead of telling their families and others have killed even their families because of the shame of losing everything. the more you have to lose, the harder the adjustment is.

  2. Basically, I am looking for something in either international development or counter trafficking. I am getting interviews, but a lot of the government jobs and major UN organizations take a long time. Also, I don’t really want a filler-job.

    I can’t imagine how hard it is for people who are downsized and have whole families they are supporting and no other outlet. It is hard enough for S and I, and really the major drawback is not knowing where I will work and therefore not being able to apply for visas and so being in limbo. Losing a house when you have kids is so much worse then being temporarily in limbo.

  3. Obama is hiring. You could send your CV through his site. Never hurts to try.

    Good luck! Looks like a tough field to break into. I imagine you probably already have a lot of resources in terms of how to find openings.

    My dad works for the government and I know ppl. who apply to his agency and pass the interview are put into an applicant pool and can wait up to two years to know whether they will be hired.

  4. I loved Nickel and Dimed. I had to read it for a class on diversity and I wasn’t expecting much, but once I started, I couldn’t put it down. Then I ended up finishing it before everyone else in class and happiliy reread certain parts for the class. I wonder if I can find her others here in Chile, or if I have to wait until I’m in the US?

  5. Keep in mind that you’re not likely to get an honest rejection, much less an honest rejection letter, in today’s litigious society. Companies don’t want to give anybody any possible reason to sue!

    Imagine if a company or hiring manager put out there, as part of a permanent record, their real reasons why they declined to hire person X and instead hired person Y.

  6. I don’t actually need a reason. Just a plain statement of fact. This job has been given to someone else. I get the letters from some places. What cracks me up is that I can get them from places where I don’t get past the first round and then companies where I have interview up to 4 times never tell me no.

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