Let’s Get Boomer Jobs

Hey guys, you ever notice that the Lord of the Milfs guy made $50k? That’s $22k in 1985 dollars, when your parents were coming up. Was it hard to make that kind of money back then? Let’s ask the NYT:

Mark Hilderbrand, who just finished his sophomore year at Boston University, is pleased with his new summer job fixing air-conditioners… The pay is $8.20 an hour.

That wage annualized to $16,400 in 1985 and to about $36,700 in 2016, adjusting for inflation, or the equivalent of $18.35/hr today for full-time work. But perhaps that was an outlier. Let’s see what unionized labor was getting:

Wages were cut in Austin from $10.69 to $8.25 per huor [sic] on October 8, 1984.

$10.69 in 1985 annualizes to about $47,900 in 2016. Pay cuts, however, reduced the wage to right around $37,000 a year, what our college sophomore was getting. And today?

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Today, the 90th percentile wage in that industry is less than the annualized post-pay cut average wage in 1985. To give you a sense of 90th percentile vs. 50th percentile in the economy generally, the 90th/50th for household income today is $160,000/$55,000; a meatpacker earning $36,000 today is as rare, relative to his industry, as a family earning $160,000 is to the country as a whole. Pre-pay cut boomer slaughterhouse dad was making 87% of today’s average household income all by himself, so if his wife was a part-time school secretary or something, they were ahead.

All this is to say that the Lord of the Milfs is doing about as well as the average meatpacker was in 1984—sure, his college, housing and healthcare expenses are a lot worse, but on the other hand, he probably has an iPhone and he makes a few percent more. On the other hand, the average meatpacker today is making less than twice minimum wage and less than a random-ass college student made in 1985. No wonder boomers could pay for college with their summer jobs. Those summer jobs paid great. Meanwhile, the guy who ratfaced his way into a slick corporate IT job—good job, by the way, buddy, you’re an inspiration!—finds himself freaking out over a kid. Why? Because he’s working class, even if he does wear a sweet Van Heusen cotton-poly number that he bought on sale at Sears instead of denim coveralls. He probably makes quite a bit less than his dad.

What caused all this? Well, one explanation is that American labor just isn’t efficient enough to justify higher wages. After all, you can’t get paid what you didn’t produce, unless you’re a rat-faced man. But that explanation is crap. (See p. 4, e.g.) American workers are highly productive and have consistently gained relative to other first-world nations. I’m not saying it was highly exploitable scab labor from the third world, but…

However, I’m not here to point fingers. The question isn’t how did we come to live in a deindustrialized, juggalo-haunted hellscape, the question is how can you afford to move away from it. And the answer, as always, is to capture your value.

I was just talking to a rat-faced girl with a very slick job and she told me in confidence (sorry babe) that one of her friends had picked up a new job as a health-care finance consultant making $250,000. (This was or would be a pay cut for me and both of them.) You see, her friend wanted to chillax a little without stepping totally off the career track. But at her new job, she was making enemies because—get this—she knew, thanks to her old job as an investment banker, how to do financial modeling stuff. Not fancy Excel tricks, just like ten bullet points summarizing financial data from reports, not even any analysis really. And this was infuriating to the fat, insecure, 2.5-hour lunch-taking TTTs she worked with. It made that squad of ex-hospital administrators and failed lobbyists look bad. Stuff that you’d expect to be taught in 10th grade “Computer Literacy for Daily Living” at some free-lunch high school, and these exec-level people couldn’t do it. Or they’d spend all day manually dumping data into tables and doing it worse than a data entry clerk making $10/hr would have. One ex-banker looking to chill was blowing the doors off of them without even trying.

Hard as it may be to believe, there are lots of dullards out there stacking cash. They have what I think of as “boomer jobs.” In boomer jobs, you’re basically paid for existing and because you haven’t given anyone an affirmative reason to fire you. The problem is getting one.

Well, you’ll note that friend-of-a-rat-faced-friend got one. How? By having great credentials and a sense of her own worth. Realistically, you need much better credentials than a boomer to get on this track, and you almost certainly need to be a lateral hire instead of starting at the bottom. (Outside of a few industries, boomers have eliminated mailroom promotion in favor of lateral hiring, which is why the headhunter industry can ask $30,000+ for one professional hire and get it.) You’ll also notice that skill is almost irrelevant. Our banker FOAF got the job solely on credentials; when they hired her, they had no idea what she could actually do (and maybe if they had, one of the fat TTTs would have tried to block the hire.)

So my rule of thumb is to look at the qualifications that a boomer had and take them up two notches. They have a directional state degree? You need state flagship with honors. They got hired from the mailroom? You need 3 years of consulting experience. (To be fair, low-level consulting jobs are pretty easy to get now.) But keep your eye and your twitching, bewhiskered nose on the prize. The goal of exiting to a boomer job is highly achievable to a temporarily embarrassed white-collar worker. But not a boomer job in labor. Those are gone, baby. Gone.

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14 thoughts on “Let’s Get Boomer Jobs

  1. 180 as usual. Obviously TCQ is: Where are these Boomer jobs, and how do you get them?

    I’ll lend my two cents, which pertain to the same path you reference in your article: Begin career as a global-capitalist professional, then lateral into a fat, lazy boomer corporation.

    Aspiring rats take note — this is how you do it:

    (1) Attend Ivy UG. Lie about race if necessary.

    (2) Major in something easy that doesn’t appear completely frivolous. For some reason, economics seems to work. Poli sci or similar also acceptable. Maintain a B+ GPA and pad your resume with internships for which you can fudge the resume description to imply duties that were either (1) quant/analytical or (2) adventurous/outdoorsy. Ice climbing is almost as good as Monte Carlo simulations srsly.

    (3) Lose weight if needed. Fix skin, teeth and autism if needed. You don’t need to graduate as a 6’4 square-jawed Chad, but making yourself presentable will help you CAPTURE YOUR VALUE.

    (4) At on-campus interviews, focus on management consulting, investment banking and sales and trading positions.

    (5) Put in ~3 yrs at your first job.

    (6) Go to business school, or lateral directly in-house.

    If you seriously cannot fix your autism you can detour through law school.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good tips for the global capitalist. I think it would be good for us all to hear a discussion of (4) and what skills come up that way. Obviously it’s partly about “clubbability” as well, but surely you learn some hard skills as well…

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      1. I should caveat that it’s been years since I’ve participated directly in undergrad on-campus interviews. That said:

        Setting aside clubbability (“fit,” in recruiting parlance), they are looking for a combination of: (1) cognitive ability (particularly quantitative, deductive and inductive reasoning), (2) work ethic or “grit,” (3) leadership potential, (4) poise/articulation, and (5) some degree of rudimentary preparation/knowledge.

        I won’t write a comprehensive guide to interviewing, b/c I have rattier things to do and you can likely find decent ones online. But briefly walking through the above factors:

        (1) Cognitive Ability

        Dumbs are in ample supply, hence meager demand. So, you need to give the interviewer comfort that you’re smart. A few ways to do this:

        Put your test scores on your resume if they are good (top 1%ile is solid; top .5%ile is better). Many employers demand these scores as a matter of policy; in that event, don’t be afraid to supplement the requested info with any additional (better) scores obtained on other tests. Similarly, include any noteworthy achievements in math (Putnam is great), CS, physics or competitive chess. If you’ve achieved some distinction in professional poker or fantasy-sports betting, include that too.

        Practice “seeming” sharp and engaged. Personally I find it helpful to intensify my eyes (sort of a high-T autist stare, like concentrating on a video game), cock my head, and nod slightly as details are being relayed. Imagine you’re an actor in a scifi movie, playing an uncanny cyborg that exists solely to absorb and crunch data at the behest of global capitalists. Sounds silly, but goes a long way. Obviously you drop this affect after the moment has passed, to maintain “fit.”

        The notorious guesstimate/brainteaser Qs favored in the 90s and early aughts (“how many ping-pong balls fit inside a 747?”) have fallen largely out of fashion, but some employers still use them, so practice your approach. And even if you aren’t estimating 747 cabin capacity, you should have some intuition that lets you benchmark and react to numbers. Is $7b market cap a lot, or a little? What about $7b AUM? What about 7b humans? Rote memorization of relevant quant facts and figures may help you, here.

        You should also be prepared to answer basic quant-reasoning Qs (a ratfaced acquaintance likes to make candidates compute compound probabilities…many cannot), and definitely be prepared for “structured behavioral” Qs like, “Tell us about a time you solved a problem in a creative way.” The fake anecdotes you supply in response to the latter should be thoroughly fleshed out and credibly delivered. Have answers to any likely follow-up Qs.

        Ask intelligent questions. If the interviewer discusses a case, deal, or general phenomenon with which you’re familiar, signaling familiarity right away is not always best. A good alternative is to appear naïve but ask questions that target important issues and make you appear preternaturally insightful. (However, see #5 below).

        (2) Work Ethic . . . . (4) Poise/Articulation

        These ought to be self-explanatory. You should have well-developed anecdotes (and, ideally, hard credentials) geared to convey each of (2)-(3), and should be able to find plenty of tips online and irl for developing (4).

        (5) Preparation / Knowledge

        Approx a decade ago, a ratfaced girl obtained the most coveted of all IBD callbacks on the basis of the approach outlined above. But she conceded candidly that she had no prior knowledge of, or interest in, finance and wanted the job solely for the comp. This actually worked during Round 1 (interviewer was S&T guido), but by Round 2 became a concern. Citing this concern, interviewer asked her to explain the mechanics of an LBO and she couldn’t. Pwned!

        Basically you should develop at least some industry-relevant interest and knowledge. So, to continue the IBD example: you don’t need to know valuation formulas, but understand that valuation is a big part of what bankers do, understand why they do it, and understand broadly the sorts of approaches used. If there are four or five types of transactions or engagements that constitute an employer’s bread and butter, be generally acquainted with each. Having sat on the other side of the interview plenty of times by now, I can attest that we’re seeking at least some genuine interest in and understanding of our work because we want the ability to retain you for at least a few years. We want your acceptance of the position to be informed by more than a desire to get rich; otherwise, you’re likely to flake and depart on some eat-pray-love jaunt or accept a position w/your roommate’s ill-conceived start-up.

        Hugs and kisses & hope this helps,

        Rex

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    1. I was exactly at that point last year but doing much better now. A few months ago got offers for jobs from $35/hr to $26/hr. How? I learned how to weld and got some qualifications from there. Also, living close to NYC helps. I hope that gives you some ideas.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you ratface.

        You will be pleased to learn that my former job paid for me to get my welding certificates and my NY Department of Buildings welder license for a total cost of $0 to me and around $1000 to them. They said they needed someone for 5 to 10 years, I said sure. I bolted for a union job shortly after I got my certs, $16/hour and 55 hour work weeks was crampin my style.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Anon, it’s both better and worse than you think. Worse, in the sense that top-quartile personal income in the USA is a miserable $57,000 a year (source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/half-of-the-high-paying-jobs-in-america-now-require-this-skill-2016-06-21). Better, in that you’re not as comparatively poor as you think, and you probably have more mobility that you realize.

      26 isn’t old yet, but what you do in the next few years will have a big impact on your future. I don’t know where you live or what local prospects are like, and I don’t know what your VALUE is (from a CAPTURE YOUR VALUE sense,) so my advice is going to be a little general and a little geared toward helping you figure some of this out yourself; that said, I do have some concrete advice for you.

      1) Is there a path to promotion at this job? It doesn’t need to be a career track as such—those are often barred in manufacturing absent the opportunity for promotion to management—but can you move up and acquire industrially valuable skills and knowledge? If so, that could be a helpful step in moving to…

      2) Sales. Sales jobs are scary, frequently rip-offs (if you’re generating your own leads, it’s a rip-off,) and are frequently LIFO in hard times. That said, sales is one of the few areas where someone without a degree can be meaningfully promotable. Money talks and bullshit walks, and if you are moving product, no one cares what your resume says. Sales can lead to marketing jobs that are not directly client-facing. Some marketing execs do very well, such as the dad of this BLM protester (http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/columns/joe-holleman/mizzou-hunger-strike-figure-from-omaha-son-of-top-railroad/article_20630c03-2a68-5e63-9585-edde16fe05f3.html) who took home $8.4mm in 2014. Sure, Mr. Butler has two good degrees, but finishing your degree may look like a better value proposition once you’re on a better career path. Your job may even pay for it.

      A lot of people don’t realize how many sales jobs there are, but there are a lot. In particular, there are a lot of B2B sales jobs out there for products that you may not have ever thought about. Many of these are sales jobs with a technical component, where you will be expected to understand and demonstrate a device, industrial process, etc., and conduct informed discussions with the technicians and engineers who will interact with the product. One way to obtain such knowledge is as a user. Can you reach a technical role within your current position where you will be able to learn something useful like this? Alternately…

      3) Skills. JJF below is in a better position than me to tell you how to qualify as a welder and obtain necessary experience and certs, but note that his hourly is already better than a lot of assistant professors. I’ve heard of specialized welders, machinists, repairmen, etc. earning six figures. Sure, you actually have do so some work to get those six figures, but it sounds like that would be a lot better than continuing along your current track. Other options include applying to a reputable coding bootcamp or mastering a standardized test, if you think you may have the aptitude those tracks require.

      Best of luck,
      RFM

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would be happy to share my ratfacing with the fellas here. Nice blog by the way, I read all your entries and I must say they resonate with my experience in the working world thus far.

        You mentioned sales.
        One day while I was working I saw a sales guy come in and do some welding with a special kind of welding wire that his company was pushing. So, a welder with some experience could conceivably move into that role. He wasn’t doing anything complicated either, just simple plate welds in horizontal position that I could have done after two weeks of welding school.

        I have worked as a welder for one year in manufacturing. My first job was indeed $12.50/hr at 26 years old in a fucking sweat shop last year. Then, I got a better job with a different company. They needed a certified welder for their job sites in NYC and I lied and told them that I was certified from the trade school I went to (this trade school lied to me about getting us certified but they did teach me how to weld). So the company paid for me to go to an actual accredited welder training program for two days to get my certs. Since I’m a good welder, I passed and then I had to get my NYC welder license, which only requires a background check and $350 fee, which they also paid for. After these certs, I applied to other jobs, one offer was for $26 and the other for $35, but I turned them down for a union job (plumbers) which has better long term potentional as well as adding another skill under my belt in addition to the welding.

        No matter your treade, bottom line is you gotta hustle, get your certs, get experience, get knowledge with an eye towards self employment. Next step for me is a pickup truck and a welding machine for some side work as I work my union job. I’m just a prole college drop out with bad spelling but like ratface said, my hourly rate is already better than many fancy pants degreed people, and it’s only going up from here.

        I am also slowly but surely pursuing an engineering technology degree as I work full time. So, if the union lays me off, its unemployment time for me and full time school. Either way I’m good for the next 5 or so years and then we will see.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Are coding bootcamps really worthwhile? I’ve seen a lot of articles in the MSM trashing them, but I’ve grown more and more skeptical of their credibility on anything at this point.

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  2. Thanks for the advice everyone. I ended up quitting my previous job because the work conditions and hours were so bad and there was no chance for promotion or even extra training. I’ve got a retail interview coming up to hold me over, been putting in applications for sales jobs, although I live in a semi-rural area and they are not as easy to come by. Right now it’s difficult because I lack even the least amount of money I’d need to get some basic certifications. I think things will go well in the coming up year though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re here to help you get ratfaced, anon. Re your question about bootcamps, some are very reputable and can get you a great job because they connect you directly with employers. Some are complete scams. Before signing up for one, I would ask for contact info for alums and stats on typical outcomes. (Also, make sure that the outcome stats are truly representative—for example, you should ask what percentage of the class responds to outcome surveys.)

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    2. friend with a NEET (non)resume did App Academy and got several offers. tuition is “free,” though you’ll need to pay rent in SF or NYC for 3 months. still, one of the best and most credible tuition models in the bootcamp space IMO.

      Liked by 1 person

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