Flawed System/Flawed SelfJob Searching and Unemployment Experiences

Flawed System/Flawed SelfJob Searching and Unemployment Experiences

Ofer Sharone

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780226073361

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

American white-collar job seekers engage in the “chemistry game,” a set of job search practices premised on the idea that getting hired requires more than presenting one’s skills; it requires presenting oneself––the person behind the skills––and establishing interpersonal fit. The focus on chemistry is not inherent to white-collar job searching in advanced economies. Israeli workers looking for similar jobs under similar economic conditions engage in a very different “specs game,” which focuses on presenting one’s skills and credentials and requires masking the person behind the skills. These job-search games are the products of different labor market institutions, and they generate different unemployment experiences. Unemployed American white-collar workers are vulnerable to highly personalized forms of self-blame and often end up feeling deeply flawed, while unemployed Israeli workers often report feeling dehumanized and invisible. Losing at the chemistry game produces self-blame; losing at the specs game produces system-blame. American blue-collar job seekers engage in yet another distinct job search game, focused on displaying their diligence, which generates a distinct unemployment experience. Stepping back, the book shows that understanding the experience of unemployment requires looking beyond global economic forces or national cultures and closely examining the specific institutions that structure the day-to-day activities and strategies of job searching. At a broader level, this book develops a theory of the mechanisms that link the objective structures and subjective experiences.