First, the bad news: According to new analysis, 53% of recent college grads are probably going to be either unemployed or underemployed in jobs that have nothing to do with what they studied in college. But, next, the sort of okay news: There's a great resource out there for drifting twentysomethings trying to muddle through early adulthood. When shitty dating advice books are applied to the world of job hunting and job keeping, their advice is actually not terrible!
I first thought about the tie between dating advice and career advice at my old job — for 5 years, I worked in an industry that wasn't a good fit for me and I languished at a job that didn't enthuse me, but I stuck with it because I assumed that nothing better would come along. Plus, like a circa 1965 housewife depended on her husband, I depended on my company for money, health care, and socialization.
Then one Saturday, as I was aimlessly wandering around my apartment throwing shit away, I came across a copy of the book He's Just Not That Into You (it was a gift, okay?!) and began paging through it. And it was killing me softly. It hit me as I was summarily dismissing the advice in the book as it related to men that my job was just not that into me. I wasn't getting promoted. I didn't feel valued. I thought I was working my ass off to no avail. It just wasn't a good match. Move along. And I did. And I lived happily ever after, at least for a period of several months.
I thought about how I realized my old job was Just Not That Into Me yesterday as I read that the Associated Press analyzed data from the US government and found that a nowadays, a humanities-related bachelor's degree isn't a guarantee for anything — not even a soul-crushing job search/unfulfilling day job as a barista. It seems that what's in demand are math and science related degrees, and everyone else is sort of fucked. The piece interviewed a few liberal arts types who felt lost because they weren't using their college course of study in their day-to-day life.
Maybe, I thought, there's some hidden wisdom for these people in the pages of other overly simplistic wildly popular dating books. Could it be? Let's take a look.
Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
The advice book du jour, AKA Steve Harvey Appoints Himself the Official Spokesperson of Dudes. While Steve Harvey's grinning mansplaination isn't worthy of internalizing, applying his advice to professional advancement is actually... not terrible. Men are not simple, predictable creatures, but the job interview process is.
Take, for instance, Harvey's insistance that if you cut back on sex, your man (is there any worse phrase in the English language than "your man"?) will stray because men, at the end of the day, want "the cookie." But let's pretend Steve Harvey didn't just refer to your vagina as a baked good and men as overgrown children with unstoppable penises that control them and focus on the idea of not putting your best foot forward at work. In a terrible job market, any job — even one you're not terribly happy with — is worth working to maintain, even if you end up having to do things you don't want to. Giving it 100% all the time is good. Do that at work (unless you want to get laid off. If you want to get laid off, email me. I've got some excellent tips).
In relationships, a world view that expects women to do all of the work to "keep men interested" is bullshit and sad. As one one-star Amazon reviewer noted, "I spent a lot of time being amazed (and sort of, crying, or cringing with sadness) when I read this book at how selfish and entitled so many men are." But in a job hunting context, it makes sense to remind yourself that going above and beyond ("kissing ass") can play an important role in landing an interview, and landing a position. Go above and beyond for your job. Otherwise, your job will find someone else to do it.
Here's a way to feel old in 10 seconds: The Rules came out in 1995, which was 17 years ago. People who were born when that book came out are losing their virginities after prom and drinking distilled hand sanitizer now! Holy crap!
Anyway, The Rules was a tough one to mentally adapt from romance advice to job advice, but it works if you think of it as an opposite-advice book. When it was first published, it was roundly criticized for recommending that women play games in order to emotionally control and manipulate men. When you're looking for a job, though, playing "hard to get" is a terrible idea until there's an offer letter on the table. So, rather than playing coy and not returning a potential employer's phone calls, be assertive, outgoing, and enterprising. Act kind of slutty and let your potential employer know that you're really, seriously, specifically interested (don't act slutty toward your job interviewer or potential boss; act slutty toward the job). Act toward the job like how Isla Fischer's character acted in Wedding Crashers. Job interviewers don't care if you're playing "hard to get." Job interviewers want someone wet for the job.
The Angry Nerd's Guide to Revenge Fucking Younger Versions of the Girls Who Made Fun of You in High School was published a few years ago, and it teaches devotees to do certain secret manipulative things in order to convince women to sleep with them. Among the book's "tricks" are learning how to do magic tricks, wearing stupid clothes, and act like a dick to the girl with whom you want to sleep in public. Let's hope the girl Game devotees wants to bone hasn't read her copy of He's Just Not That Into You, because — dating book conflict time!
But underneath all of The Game's embarrassing desperation is a good nugget of advice for the life of an underemployed philosophy major with big dreams: be confident. Enter a room as though you own it. Don't be discouraged by past rejection; approach each day like it's yours and do your best. As a one-star review of the book noted, "This whole subset of people this guy describes are all just a bunch of nerds. That's it. Nerds who learned about confidence. And they think it's the greatest thing in the world."
When it comes to convincing potential employers that you're competent, confidence in your own abilities can go a long way. So I guess The Game wasn't a complete shart of human achievement.
Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough
Lori Gottleib's 2011 book urges readers to go against their instincts, lower their standards, and marry the fat guy you've been dating rather than dumping him in hopes of finding someone better. If you do that, you'll end up single and 34 and desperately trolling the lobbies of divorce lawyers in search for a man who is good enough to inseminiate you, and you'll probably end up alone. That word isn't scary enough just printed in all lower case. You'll end up ~a~L~o~N~e. Because you, ya stuck up bitch, wouldn't settle for a guy who left you as dry as a sheet of powdered sandpaper.
In desperate times, when you're desperate for a job, you're not doing yourself any favors holding out for that dream gig and letting several acceptable offers pass you by. Besides, unless you jump aboard the Less Than Ideal job train, when the perfect opportunity comes around, you'll lack experience and lack job interview skills. Open yourself up to the possibility that in a terrible job market, you might be stuck doing something you sort of hate for a little while, and that's fine. You're not marrying a job. You can always quit. And you need money. Settle, for now. It'll get better.
So do bad dating advice books double as good career advice books? Maybe. At the very least, pretending that they do is a nice way to occupy your sharpened, underutilized mind from the endless series of disappointments that is your early twenties.