Bait and Switch Book Summary: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream Paperback

by Accessory To Success December 23, 2020

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Bait and Switch Book Summary: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream Paperback

Main Takeaway

Ms. Ehrenreich came to the forefront of the book publishing world with a breakout editorial bestseller, Nickel and Dimed. She had spent time undercover exploring the issues that many who work for scant wages face, but in her latest book, Bait and Switch, Ms. Ehrenreich flips the coin. She goes after the biggest and best positions in business to see how this other side of the working universe equally leaves things to be desired.

Does she do it justice? There are some valid arguments that she didn't really do Nickel and Dimed justice because she knew she could leave behind her self-imposed poverty at any time. The argument with Bait and Switch is that she could have carried out her experiment for much longer to uncover many more of the inequalities in business.

To really get to the meat of the book, take a closer look at how this particular literary endeavor could help you understand business "culture" and find ways to make it better in your business/company.

What You Will Learn

  • Recognize potential for ageism and sexism in the workplace that might prevent you from getting a job or hiring someone valuable with experience.
  • Understand how certain business practices during the pre-employment and hiring process don't always result in the best candidates for the jobs available.
  • Learn how to make changes in the workplace, regardless if you are the employer or the potential employee.

The Book Summary

When you see these situations and similarities mentioned in the book in your own workplace, you may be more motivated to do something about them. Ehrenreich does expound upon what employers and employees can do to enact change in big and small corporations. Enacting change is a big part of the book Linchpin as well as Think & Grow Rich.

Her Undercover Steps to Finding a Job

More than likely your company employs personality testing, job fairs and networking events to find valid candidates to hire. In fact, there isn't a company out there that doesn't utilize personality tests as part of the pre-employment screening.

However, as Ehrenreich points out in her book, it is easy to fake the answers on these tests to reflect a result other than what you are.

"...One attraction must be that the tests lend a superficial rationality to the matching of people with jobs....and if you failed at one job, it is probably comforting to be told that it was simply not a good "fit" for your inner nature."

It begs the question, "Why should you employ personality tests at all?" Understandably, they are done to match employee personality traits and strengths, but if they can be faked, you may not get the employee you really want. A two-week intern position gives you a far better idea of what someone is really like and how well they work and work with others.

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Can you find a valuable employee at a networking event or job fair? Maybe. However, as Ehrenreich points out in her book, it's a mixed bag of unemployed characters that come to such events, and you are never assured in regards to what you might get. At best, you might get someone qualified for the jobs you are hiring for, and at worst you get some loose cannons that should be avoided.

Ehrenreich goes on to describe the rag-tag group of job-searchers who attend a networking meeting of sorts; some in sweats, some dressed for work, and others in between, all with varying attitudes about everything.

The Other Side of Business

Of course, if you are not the business owner and potential employer, there is much to be gleaned from Ehrenreich's book as well. As one seeking a job in the corporate world, you might be wondering why you are having so little luck in finding work.

Ehrenreich explores the extremes people go to to find a job in the business world, which often involves hiring a job coach for endless and menial tasks that are supposed to help you "improve your marketability." This is discussed at great length in the book WHO.

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Her very young job coach insists that attitude is everything, something Ehrenreich notes is the primary advice from a website entitled "Professionals in Transition."

"...your personal attitude will determine the ultimate success of your job campaign....Studies have shown that the hiring process is over 90% emotional."

Ultimately, she exposes the fact that it's less about what you know than who you know. Such a concept seems really outdated, but you may find it easier to get a job if you hear about an opening through a friend of a friend and that friend of a friend is willing to recommend you for the job.

Worse still, the older you are, the less likely you will be hired. Companies avoid hiring older employees, despite the level of experience and expertise older employees may bring to the job.

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There are many other topics of concern in her book. One of these deals with the fact that benefits employees have come to expect are not instantaneous or come with the job. In fact, most companies are avoiding offering benefits in favor of waiting to see if an employee will stick around for the first few months.

If you are a potential candidate for hire, you may not like this new approach to employment. If you are the employer, you may think it makes good sense because you aren't throwing good money after bad to hire someone that may or may not stick around. However, as a potential employer, you may want to reconsider this type of benefits-delayed plan since it does not make for happy employees nor does it effectively retain them well.

Is the book on target? A lot of people who have read it will say that many of the aspects Ms. Ehrenreich encountered with regards to corporate culture are spot on. Some other experiences of hers are a little off, probably affected by her attempts to present herself as a middle-aged, recently unemployed office employee with substantial skills.

Still, whether you agree with her findings or not, it is an enjoyable read with valid points on which to reflect in your career and/or your company. Another book we recommend about hiring and growing a business is Ready Fire Aim.

About The Author

Ms. Ehrenreich is an accomplished journalist, award-winning columnist, freelance writer and author. She has written hundreds of articles and columns which have appeared in everything from The New Yorker to Harper's Bazaar.

Her twenty-one books make her more than adequate to comment on finance and political and societal injustices in the corporate world. She continues to be an activist for many causes near and dear to her.

You should also know that she has a Sydney Hill Award for Journalism, a Ford Foundation Award for Humanistic Perspectives on Contemporary Society, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She also has a PhD in Biology from The Rockefeller University and a very long list of honorary degrees from colleges and universities from all over the world.

In addition to these many accolades, Ms. Ehrenreich regularly teaches a class on essay writing at the University of California Berkeley. Ms. Ehrenreich has a new book that just came out in 2020 and continues to appear as a speaker for commencement ceremonies at colleges and universities that request her.

Accessory To Success
Accessory To Success



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