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The American Chemistry Game

The American Chemistry Game

(p.21) Chapter Two The American Chemistry Game
Flawed System/Flawed Self
Ofer Sharone
University of Chicago Press

This chapter describes the American white-collar job search process focusing on the role of the career-advice self-help industry. Drawing on a year of participant-observations at a job search support organization this chapter shows how the self-help discourses and practices, as found in best-selling career advice books and which underpin support organizations, focus job seekers’ attention on the importance of not only presenting their qualifications, but even more critically, presenting the selfbehind the qualifications. Career advice self-help emphasizes the importance of self-presentation, and trains job seekers to convey enthusiasm, passion, and other intangible qualities that will produce interpersonal chemistry when networking with potential referrers and when interviewing with hiring managers. While self-help discourses are dominant, the focus on intangible elements of the self and interpersonal chemistry is not the only way hiring can be understood in the American cultural context. A different set of ideas about how to find work is heard from staffing agencies, which are much more focused on specific skills than intangible characteristics.

Keywords:   career advice, self-help discourses, self-help support groups, participant-observation, self-presentation, interpersonal rapport, interpersonal chemistry, American hiring practices, job search strategies

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