Career, Chapter 4: What is the Problems? Dear Habermas Logo and Site Index Link A Jeanne Site

Theory, Policy, Practice of a Career

by Susan R. Takata and Jeanne Curran
Revision of Text from 1993
Copyright on Revised Text: Summer 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: September 20, 1999
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Chapter 4: What is the Problems?

Remember when we laughed during "Yours, Mine and Ours," "Cheaper by the Dozen?" Do you ever feel as though you've re-married into a "crowd" of new faces called "family"? Quite an adjustment for everyone, huh? This is more commonly known as the stepfamily or a fancier term, "binuclear" family. Rest assured, you're not alone. Because divorce is so common, new forms of family emerge. The step-family is nothing new, of course. The bi-nuclear family (father, step-mom, and kids from previous marriages) is probably as common as the nuclear family (father, mother and kids). Well, just imagine those individuals who have remarried over and over again -- trinuclear and so forth. What kind of family structure would be created? Confusing isn't it? Doesn't all this remind you of something we already talked about? Remember in Chapter 1 when we talked about the sociological imagination? C. Wright Mills (1959) explained the intersections of personal problems and public issues. If everyone is getting divorced and remarried, then the family structure is bound to change. And if enough people become concerned, it becomes a public issue. Mills advises us to look at the "big picture" in order to understand what's happening around us. Perhaps, we are not so isolated as we think. Don't feel so alone about a problem you're experiencing, because chances are many are feeling the same way. Getting back to stepfamilies, Mala Burt, president of the Stepfamily Association of America (yes, they even have their own professional association) said, "The process takes from three to seven years," for differences to be resolved (Maushard, 1989). How to deal with the stepfamily situation has resulted in very specialized professional groups, an army of researchers, etc. According to Mehren (1985), "studying the relationships of former spouses after the divorce, Ahron said she has become convinced of the need for a kind of binuclear family etiquette." Where's Emily Post when you need her? (We wonder if the latest books on etiquette have a special section on binuclear family etiquette). The main point here is that many social problems have a marked effect on the job market. Social problems serve as indicators of job market trends.

What Is a Social Problem?

Definitions of any and every sociological concept vary depending on perspective. To illustrate, we present a variety of definitions of social problem. According to Boughey (1978:37), "social problems are generally seen as localized and self-contained issues, matters that can be solved by experts or by agencies directed toward their specific solution." DeFleur (1983:8) specifies five conditions of a social problem, which are: "1) any situation, condition, or repeated form of action in a society, 2) that exists because of social influences and social causes, 3) about which a significant number of people are aware, 4) of which they disapprove because it is contrary to their values, and 5) which lead them to accept at least some shared responsibility to support collective measures to limit its impact on people harmed because of its presence." And, finally according to Pavalko (1986), social structure is the source of social problems. In other words, he (1986:22) views social problems as "part of the social structure or the institutional arrangements of society. In this view, problems develop because of the ways society is structured, rather than the ways individuals behave." Using Pavalko's approach to the study of social problems, returns us to the earlier notion of society as a social system and the interdependent linkages between its subsystems or social institutions. For example, when individuals are laid off because of changing technology (i.e, the move to robotics and computers), the unemployed may have no other marketable skills. As a result, Mr. Bluu Kollar declares bankruptcy and loses his house. Becomes homeless. But not only is Mr. Kollar out on the streets, but his entire family -- wife and two kids. What you have are entire families, not just a single bum; living off the streets with no shelter, food or clothing. These children are no longer attending school. What will happen to them? Are they destined to be homeless for the rest of their lives? Based on this scenario what social institutions are effected? Economy, family, and education to name a few. We haven't mentioned the impact this might have on the legal, medical and other social institutions. But you get the picture, don't you?

Social Problems Issues

What is the most pressing social problem today? Crime and violence. The AIDS threat. Unemployment. Homelessness. Poverty. If we examine social problems issues, they can provide us clues to job market trends. For example, with crime and violence on the increase, there is a need for more prison guards, more juvenile probation officers, more police officers, and so forth. As long as there is crime, there will be work in this field. Thus, crime pays (there's work to be done -- we're talking legitimate, law-abiding career!!). To further illustrate, if youth gangs are a growing concern, innovative as well as cost-effective programs need to be developed, which may create some interesting career paths.

In the previous chapter, we discussed the demographic connections, but we cannot help but mention again the impact the Baby Boom generation (Jones, 1980; Naisbitt, 1982; Aburdene & Naisbitt, 1992); for example, the issue of child care. When the Baby Boomer were having kids, it became known as the "Baby Boomlet." Most career-oriented Baby Boomers are busy working their way up the ladder of success. But, who is taking care of their kids? According to the U.S. Department of Labor (1992:1), "the use of relatives is the most common form of child care. Roughly 2 out of 5 (41 percent) working mothers used husbands, grandmothers, siblings, and other relatives to care for their child while they work. Over a quarter (27.7 percent) of the care was provided by nonrelatives." Sure, it's nice to have a family support system close by, but some young couples do not have that luxury. Then, what are you gonna do? The child care issue is complicated by other factors such as flexibility of schedules, cost (according to the same Department of Labor report, the average cost per week was $64.39), philosophy and approach of child care person, etc. High quality, reasonably priced child care is almost like searching for a needle in a haystack for some young parents. Baby Boomers face not only the issue of child care but Baby Boomer's parents are getting older, and who will care for them? New solutions to these kinds of social problems are creating new career fields. All along we mention that gerontology will be a booming field. It's obvious. As the Baby Boomers get older, what's going to happen to them? Who will have the expertise and know-how? Therefore, both child care and elder care are fields that might provide many career opportunities.

Another good example of career opportunities developing from demographic trends is "Mr. Babyproofer," (1991). Find a need. Fill the gap. Anthony Simnowski professionally babyproofs houses and apartments. He formed his own business called "New York Baby Proofing Company." He caters to Yuppies who are safety conscious but don't have the time or know-how to do it. So when people have the money but no time, they are more than willing to pay for services. So why not babyproofing? (Do you have a clever idea that might sell? Think about it!)

Remember how we began this chapter a few pages ago? We explained that social problems are an important indicator of job market trends. Articles on successful women and on affirmative action issues appear regularly in the media. The tone is usually positive, encouraging women and minorities to recognize that career patterns are changing and that opportunities are opening to them. But, on the other hand, we have numerous industrial plant closings, and the increasing numbers of bankruptcies, even among large businesses. Subtle messages? To everyone there comes a sense of increasing uncertainty about the future of any career. To young white males, there comes the fear that they will not have a fair chance at the "good" jobs in a tight market, because industry receives social and governmental sanctions for promoting women and minorities. To middle-aged white males comes the message that industry may well pass them over, after years of loyal service, to promote women and minorities who have just re-entered the system. It is against this background of muted perception that we talk to each other about our hopes and fears in the world of work. According to Naisbitt (1982:xxiii), "the most reliable way to anticipate the future is by understanding the present." The study of social problem issues permits us to know who will have access to what jobs and why.

Coping With a Dead-End Career Path

For obvious reasons, unemployment is an important social problems indicator telling us what's going on in the job market. According a January 13, 1993, U.S. Department of Labor publication, "Unemployment rates were lower in November [1992] than in the previous month in 25 states, were higher in 21 states and the District of Columbia, and were unchanged in four states. . . The national unemployment rate was 7.3 percent, compared with 7.4 percent in October [1992]." In addition, the report states: "The largest over-the-month decreases in unemployment rates occurred in Delaware, Mississippi, and Wisconsin (all slightly over 1.0 percentage point). . . West Virginia had the highest rate -- 10.2 percent -- and California was right behind with a 10.1 percent rate." (One cautionary note about unemployment rates as with all statistics is what the rate does not tell us. For example, those individuals who have maxed out their unemployment benefits but remain unemployed are not counted and that could be a lot of people not working, which tells us that the U.S. Department of Labor unemployment rate is just the "tip of the iceberg").

Many individuals unhappily punch the clock day in and day out but they continue to plod along. The paycheck puts the "bread and butter" on the table; not to mention clothes and other necessities. Marx (1947) called this "worker alienation." He observed how unhappy the worker was; for example, the worker feeling that he's just an extension of the tools to put together a car on a long assemblyline. The worker has no pride in the end product he has created. He is working for low wages while the car sells for an exorbitant amount (a price the worker could never afford in his lifetime!). Marx (1964:27) saw alienation "as the fundamental evil of capitalist society." In other words, the more capitalism advances, the more loss of meaning and a sense of isolation and powerlessness for the individual.

One way of examining worker alienation is to think about the very, very worst job you ever had. Why was it so bad? What didn't you like about it? That's Marx's concept of worker alienation. You certainly have experienced worker alienation at some time in your life (or perhaps, too many times for one lifetime). Feeling unhappy at the workplace may lead you to finally believe that you're in a dead-end career path. What are you gonna do about it? First of all, don't wait for that pink slip. Do something, and do it now! (Otherwise, you might be the latest addition to the unemployment rate!).

What are the options when you find yourself in a dead-end career path? Don't panic. There are some. Did your job dead-end because of a kind of caste system? If so, decide which other job might offer a good lateral move for you. That is, not a real promotion, but a move to a different job at the same level, (or maybe even slightly lower) from which you could jump back onto a career path. Look for chances in your present job to demonstrate your ability to do one of these other jobs. Talk to your supervisor (providing she does not, for personal reasons, oppose your jump) about your desire to grow. Volunteer to do tasks which will make you more visible and put you in contact with people unrelated to your job. For example, suppose you are an executive secretary in a corporation with a caste-like secretarial system. You are able to locate one job in purchasing and one in operations you could handle, and from which you could apply for promotion. In your present secretarial job, place any tasks related to purchasing or operations on a high priority. Do them well. Try to do them creatively -- maybe you can find a new way to expedite work and increase efficiency. Point out what you have accomplished to people who have connections with your goal. If you have subordinates, carefully train at least one of them to perform your job well. Sometimes the hidden catch in what looks like a caste system refusal to promote is really hidden dependence.

The second biggest reason for a dead-end job is specialization, or even over-specialization. In other words, their specialized competence in limited technical areas makes it unprofitable for the corporation to retrain them in more generalized skills. They missed a chance to gain a broad knowledge of corporate operations when they accepted narrowly focused (though high salaried) jobs early in their careers. Engineers, hired to work on technical developments, often fall into this class. But so do many others who choose to specialize in a single operational function. (We will focus on this dilemma in the next section of this chapter).

The remedy? This one's tougher. The problem results from having failed to adequately plan for the career path. Once stuck, however, you could develop an awareness of other corporate activities. Make your interests known. Show a willingness to learn new tasks. Try taking a course or two to gain additional expertise. Make friends with colleagues in other operational divisions and share in their job-related concerns. It's tough -- but it can be done.

Elaine Wegener, a successful career woman, president of her own consulting firm, commented that anyone who plans to remain with a specific job title (buyer, teacher, doctor, engineer, etc.) will dead-end eventually. (Remember what we said about 3 to 5 career changes becoming the norm?) One must be willing to change roles in order to grow. Even corporations diversify as they grow.

Even those who plan their careers sometimes fail to recognize the effects of dead-end paths. One successful male shared with us his frustration discovering after twelve years that he was denied raises comparable to his colleagues. His work was excellent; the corporation was pleased. But there were no more promotional titles in his division. Raises accompany promotions; and he wouldn't move to another division. He was committed to his work. He commented sadly, "Now, twelve years later, it hurts . . . I wouldn't recommend a dead-end career path to anyone."

Promotion (or comparable reward structure) does matter. Consider it carefully in your future plans. If you do choose a career path with dead-end in sight, plan constructive ways to compensate in your life for the missing rewards of promotion.

Exercise 4-1

Strategies To Circumvent Career Obstacles (such as Dead-End Paths)

This exercise is designed to help you apply the strategies you learned in this section to career obstacles you might face. Read each vignette and suggest some ways out of each situation.

1. You have just been promoted to director of sanitation for a hotel at the Gaspen Ski Resort. You have just realized that you have reached the top of this staff hierarchy and there's nowhere left to go. No one has ever been promoted from your position into hotel management. What can you do with your job to get around this career obstacle? Can you go back to school and get some management training? Will that help? Can you move to a different firm where your experience will lead to a line position? How can you plan this? _______________________________________________________________

2. You love your work in customer service for an electronics firm; and your employers think you're great too. The only problem is, you are in a six-person department in a division of the corporation that employs only 40 people. There's no place up for your supervisor to be promoted, let alone you. What can you do to get around this career obstacle? Can you increase your visibility with other divisions of the company? How? Can you make a lateral move in your own division that will open up different opportunities? What are the likely consequences of that?

3. You think you've found a way out of your career box. You've found an opening in another division of the company and applied for a transfer. But your supervisor says she really needs you and does not want to put the transfer through. Now what do you do? Can you go over her head and get the transfer approved by her supervisor? What might be the consequences if you did? Can you offer to train your replacement if she'll approve the transfer? How might this work?

Technical Skills Versus General Skills The Eternal Dilemma

According to Durkheim (1964), primitive society had very little or no division of labor. Everybody did everything together like planting and harvesting the crops. But as society grew, the more complex, it became. Work had to be divided up so that more could be produced for everyone. There was an increase in specialization. He called this "the division of labor." By increasing the division of labor, you become much more efficient (although it also brought about anomie because as things became more specialized, individuals felt more isolated because there was also more diversity resulting in less commonalities shared). Have you ever tried to grow your own vegetables? It is labor intensive (to put it mildly). Even if you have to pay an "arm and a leg" isn't it easier to just go to the grocery store to buy some tomatoes?

To illustrate the concept of division of labor, just look at any household. How does the work get done? In some households, the man does the outside work like mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage while the woman does the cooking and cleaning. Sounds like a sex role typed division of labor, doesn't it? In other households, the work is more equally divided between the outside and inside work. I remember one nontraditional student told me about an experiment she did with her family. She was tired of doing laundry every day -- the gathering, sorting, folding, etc. -- that she went on strike. She wanted to see how long it would take before her husband and kids would find it intolerable to have dirty clothes strewn throughout the house. She was tired of being taken for granted, picking up after everyone and making sure they all had clean socks and underwear. Well, it took a little bit longer than she had anticipated but it sure changed the way things got done in her house. Now, each kid sorts and does his own laundry. What works in one house may not work in another. Experiment! New divisions of labor are created all the time. We all laughed when the movie, "Mr. Mom" hit the silver screen, but it is becoming more and more of a reality. (No, there's no major revolution where the men will become the housekeeper while the women earn the "bread"). Not only do we have Mr. Mom, but the reintroduction of the nanny (remember Mary Poppins?). No longer is Mom home at 3 when the kids get out of school, so you have the "latchkey" kid coming home to an empty house to fend for herself until Dad and Mom come home from work. With today's dual-career families, how does the work get done? According to Arlie Hochschild (1989), working women typically come home to work "the second shift" putting in an average of 15 more hours a week. No wonder some women look so tired.

Let's focus on another kind of division of labor -- the dilemma of the technician versus the generalist in the workplace. Periodically, social critics berate society for having become too specialized, too dilettantist, depending on the swing of the pendulum at the time. When most doctors were family practitioners we decried the lack of specialized medical knowledge. Today we decry the preponderance of specialists and bemoan the lack of family practitioners.

Once upon a time, college curricula were very rigid, with a set of tightly prescribed courses leading to the completion of high specialized majors.Critics decried such specialization, demanding loosely structured curricula which permitted students to choose at will from many and varied disciplines.Today critics disparage the undisciplined choice allowed students, and deplore their lack of expertise in any given field.As a result, there is a new trend to highly specialized majors, often with a goal of providing marketable skills. To illustrate, aerospace engineers once acquired high degrees of technical skill. Industry was pleased; and the engineers were plump and satisfied.Then, suddenly, industry needed no more aerospace engineers; and the engineers were lean and angry at their lack of general skills.Other industries claimed their training had been too specialized to be of use in other industries or occupations.This threat lingers over the engineering field even today, as industry clamors for the highly specialized skills of engineers once again.

According to several individuals, we are shifting from specialists and technicians to a demand for generalists. Naisbitt (1982:32) states: "We are moving from the specialist who is soon obsolete to the generalist who can adapt." The problem of technical versus general skills appears to be a recurring dilemma.It's a bit like wanting to have your cake and eat it, too.There are no right answers. But it helps to clearly understand the problem.

The salary you will be able to command upon completing your college degree depends largely on the skills you can offer and your ability to package those skills attractively. In other words, it's not only what you know, but how well you can present what you know that will gain you entry into the job market. Consider the dilemma that industry faces. Technical skills are essential to most production. If you come with some technical background, in science, math, engineering, medicine, law, business finance, whatever, you bring competencies that will immediately add value to the organization. If you come with general skills, such as you will gain in the liberal arts or social sciences, you bring competencies that will not have an immediate payoff for the organization.You may have developed excellent skills in interpersonal relationships; but you can't very well put them to use until you learn what it is that people relate about in that organization.If you try to use your skills before learning what people relate about, the company will probably have to hire someone else to free you from the angry clutches of your fellow workers.(You've got to "earn your stripes" before you can assume a leadership function). Industry recognizes your eagerness to assume your role of importance in the scheme of the organization; but industry knows that will take time maybe years. Industry also recognizes the immediate value of technical skills that transfer directly to its operations. Thus, those with technical skills will usually find higher starting salaries than those with generalist skills. (We say:"usually" because the ability to package your skills well and sell yourself counts at this point).

Technical people have considerable power when they first enter the work organization.They have valuable skills and they often have a choice of jobs.Their skills often apply equally well to a large number of industries or companies.Industry must offer them high wages to attract them and keep them. However, as the years pass, the technical specialist becomes increasingly specialized in problems which are uniquely suited to the specific organization she works for.The more specialized she becomes, the less marketable her skills are for other organizations. The technical person slowly loses power to the organization and she develops a vested interest in staying with the organization.(Vested pension plans and tenure are major components in this loss of power).

Also, the technical specialist will be able to advance through only limited number of job classifications before encountering the need for managerial skills.If he chooses to move farther up a career path, generalized skills will have to be evidenced. For this reason, in large organizations, career paths for technical skills are often shorter than those for general skills.This phenomenon is like tracking. If you've hired onto a technical staff track, it may be difficult to move to a line management track, depending on corporate policy. This is certainly a topic to investigate in planning your career.

On the other hand, the generalist has very little power at the entry level. His skills apply to a broad range of activities and he brings little specialized knowledge. As the years pass, the generalist acquires more technical and specialized knowledge, enabling him to move into key positions in line management. Although the generalist, too, acquires a vested interest in remaining with the organization after several years, his skills remain more generally applicable to other organizations, particularly since he is working on less specialized aspects of problems. So even, though the generalist starts out at a disadvantage, he may have considerably more career options in later years. There is no right choice, only informed choices.The options for technical people versus ;generalists are different. You will have to choose according to your individual aptitudes and values. Both technical specialists and generalists can improve their career options through a very simple expedient. Don't block out communication from either source. Technical people often disdain generalists as bungling interlopers who don't really understand technical operations. And generalists likewise decry technical people as incapable of managing their own lives, let alone an entire organization. Obviously neither of the above is correct.

The self-fulfilling prophecy (Merton, 1968) is another sociological concept which can help us to explain this dilemma between the specialist and the generalist. In the selffulfilling prophecy, people who have the ability to perform equally well, will perform with differential success according to our (and their) expectations. For example, little girls learn quickly that they are not expected to like playing with frogs. They shriek at the sight of frogs in the premed lab. Therefore few little girls become doctors. A bit oversimplified. But that's the general idea. The theory of the self-fulfilling prophecy would lead us to conclude that technical specialists will exhibit specific operational skills and limited managerial ability when that is the behavior expected of them. Frequently organizations limit communications on strategic decisions to managerial personnel, so that many of the technical staff are rarely privy to discussions of overall corporate strategy and goals. It is not, therefore, unreasonable that technical staff may fail to take these overall plans into consideration in making their technical decisions.

Generalists are expected to devote their energies to broad corporate strategy and to fit technical demands into corporate goal priorities. The decision whether to continue with a particular technical endeavor may depend not on the technical merit of the project, but on its fit with corporate strategy. The technical staff, uninformed of the broad range of corporate strategy, will express appropriate hostility to what is perceived as an arbitrary decision by the generalists to terminate the project. If communication channels were held open, the predicted conflicts of these two groups could be minimized.

You can improve your career opportunities by refusing to block communication from either group. Make an effort to learn what both technical specialists and generalists are trying to accomplish. Listen to both; (take a generalist to lunch, or a technical specialist, as the case may be); and you'll be less likely to fall into either stereotype. The ability to bridge this particular communication gap is prized by most organizations.

Exercise 4-2: Maintaining Open Communication

Consider a job in which you might be interested.

1.Name several technical specialists who could relate to the job.

2. Name several generalist functions which could relate to the job.

3. List at least three items of interest you could use to bridge the communication gap between technical specialists and generalists. (For example, if the job of your choice were Assistant Producer of TV shows, how might you open communication lines with a cameraman?What might you ask of him?)

A College Education Is It Worth It? Can You Survive Without It?

Landon Jones (1980:366) explains: "In the sixties, students studied sociology so they could change the world; the seventies they studied psychology so they could change themselves; in the eighties, they will study business administration so they can survive." And now we are leaving the 1990's. What are students doing? Still trying to survive? The cost of a college education has increased astronomically in recent years.Most people make a considerable economic investment to get a college degree.Often, after graduation they find job opportunities disappointing. Industry is annoyed by what are considered arrogant demands for high salaries. Graduates are disillusioned by entry level salaries incapable of keeping pace with double digit inflation. College professors complain that students no longer want to learn; they just want marketable skills. And families of graduates demand to know what they "wasted" all that money on. Weinstein (1983:10) explains: "In this highly specialized age, advanced degrees are meaningless unless there is a demand for them," while Joan Lloyd (1984) notes, "although more schooling is certainly a good option, it is not the only one."

Let's see what behavioral science theory can offer to unravel this web of confusion that seems to have rendered everyone unhappy with the outcomes. In this section we'll consider three possible approaches to the problem: 1) exchange theory, 2) achievement motivation theory, and 3) utility theory.

Exchange Theory -- Basically, we interact with other human beings because it is rewarding to do (Blau, 1969). It is therefore logical to assume that we will be most likely to engage in those interactions that are most rewarding to us. There are, of course, many kinds of rewards. For purposes of this analysis, we will consider guaranteed monetary reward. (We may consider achievement motivation and utility theory as special cases of exchange theory with different payoffs). Many people want a college degree because the higher paying jobs have traditionally gone to college graduates. According to a 1993 article which hit the front page of the Racine Journal Times, the college diploma is worth $1,039 a month in extra pay." This article goes on to say that "it takes the typical four-year graduate just under two years to make up the cost - not counting the pay and experience he would have earned working rather than studying." The article concluded that "a diploma doesn't always open the doors to high pay and security." Exchange theory predicts that we are more likely to pursue a college degree for guaranteed monetary gain when we are most likely to be rewarded with a high paying job. Now let's consider the facts. Another Racine Journal Times newspaper article (1992) noted that "The period from 1990 to 2005 will see 19.8 million college graduates entering the work force." The article adds: "Though education is essential in a workplace with rapidly changing technology, a new government study comes to the alarming conclusion that 30 percent of the graduates may have to settle for jobs that don't require a college degree." Why is this? According to a study by Kristina J. Shelley (Kleiman, 1992), there will be slower growth in the 1990's compared to the 1980's and there will be more college graduates. It is disheartening to university students, especially those who are first-in-family, to realize that the B.A. degree is now required if you want to be considered for many jobs, but it is unlikely to prove a rewarding exchange if we look at the overall cost of capital and guaranteed economic payoffs. But it is the key to a chance at the high paying jobs. Many of us are uncomfortable with the idea that all we're getting is a chance to go for the really big job. In other words, the diploma gives us the edge at the start for entry level positions that require it, but it does not give us the kind of guarantee our parent's generation had.

Our malaise with this application of exchange theory can be explained by occupational norms. There is a long standing norm that hard work should be rewarded, and not with just a chance at something, but with a guaranteed payoff. The early bird is supposed to get the worm, not a chance at applying for worms of varying size. We need to incorporate a careful analysis of the cost of capital into our expectations. We still may not like the options. But at least we can eliminate some of the emotional stress. Graduation will be a more rewarding experience if our economic expectations are realistic. We can then concentrate on the other rewards of a college degree.

Achievement Motivation Theory -- McClelland (1961) theorized that different early socialization patterns develop in us varying needs to achieve. He further showed that societies with different cultural expectations show different levels of societal achievement. If we have a strong motivation to achieve, getting a college degree can be worth the capital investment because we see it as a personal achievement. There is another theory in social psychology, cognitive dissonance theory, which states that the harder it is to attain something, the more we are likely to value it. Taking this theory into account, the personal achievement of a college degree now costs not only personal effort, but also a large capital investment with an estimated small probability of big monetary rewards. Since it costs us so much more not to attain, we should enjoy an even greater sense of reward at having gotten it.

Achievement motivation theory also covers nonmonetary rewards, such as climbing the mountain of a Ph.D. because it's there or going to college because you're the only kid in your family without a B.A., or because it's a great way to find a smart wife who will be a good provider. In a 1986 issue of USA Today, a University of Michigan study found that "the better educated that people are, the more likely they are to make healthy lifestyle choices known to prolong life." This non-monetary reward illustrates how attending college may extend your lifespan!

Utility Theory-- If we make the capital investment in a college degree as part of a career plan, then we are really choosing to consume less today so that we will have more for future consumption (Copeland & Weston, 1979). Since we will have only a chance at high paying jobs, we shall consider this situation one of uncertainty. We can explain the payoff under this theory.We have invested in a college degree on the risk that we will have one of those high paying jobs. Whether we choose the degree, under these circumstances depends on how many such high paying jobs there actually are (i.e., the degree of risk) and the strength of our risk aversion. Some people have high aversion to risk they don't like it. Others have moderate to low aversion to risk they don't mind it; or maybe even actually enjoy it. In any event, the emphasis in this approach is not on the guaranteed payoff of the better job, but on the degree as an investment for the future. These sociological explanations don't make the immediate economic impracticality of the college degree any more palatable. But they do offer a framework for understanding your options, so that you can choose more rationally.

If you're interested in guaranteed monetary payoff, the college degree may very well be a poor payoff, unless you already have the entry job and can start to move up a career path with the degree. If you want the degree for reasons of personal achievement, the economic costs should make the degree seem all the more rewarding, since you must give up more to get it. If your degree represents an investment in your future, you will need to match the uncertainties of payoff to your own individual willingness to take that risk. So we ask you: Is college education worth it? Can you survive without it?

Where To Be? Regionalism and Growth Areas - Flee To Them Or From Them? -- Even after you've decided whether or not to obtain a B.A.or other advanced degrees, another question arises - where do I want to be, (geographically speaking)? The entire earth and eventually beyond is quite a large space to narrow down. Bolles (1992:309) states: "The average American, it is claimed, moves eleven times between birth and death. So, geography is an important consideration in life\work planning -- believe me. Sometimes you have no choice as to where you are moving; other times, you do." He also provides an interesting bibliography about places to work spanning the entire global community. In today's fast-paced society, people are on the move. Do I want to live and die in my hometown? Can I possibly uproot myself? Or am I a product of some distant nomadic "tribe" who is never long enough in one place?

The Sunbelt. The Frostbelt. The Rocky Mountains. Growth areas. Zero growth areas. Do I go with the masses or settle in a quiet corner of Montana? Do I want the hustle and bustle of the great metropolis? Or, should I search for some place more tranquil? All this seems to reflect some of our ideas related to "the quality of life." What kind of lifestyle am I looking for? How do I juggle my career with the career of my spouse? What considerations must be made when deciding to move?

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, "population growth varies greatly among geographic regions, affecting the demand for goods and services and, in turn, workers in various occupations and industries. Between 1980 and 1990, the population of the Midwest and the Northeast grew by only 1.4 and 3.4 percent, respectively, compared with 13.4 percent in the South and 22.2 percent in the West. These differences reflect the movement of people seeking new jobs or retiring, as well as higher birth rates in some areas than others." Where are the growth areas? According to Naisbitt (1982), "for economic growth, give me Texas, California and Florida and you can have the other forty-seven states." What does he mean by that? The states mentioned describe the "Sun Belt". Some of the nation's fastest growing cities are located in the Sun Belt.

In recent years, California is experiencing one of its worst economic recessions. The media flashed headlines telling us how California "dreamin'" has become a bad nightmare. To confirm this, in a 1992 Racine Journal Times article, "Rocky Mountain states and other parts of the American heartland are weathering economic hard times better than the once-booming East and West coasts." The article continues: "After Montana, the fastest growing states were Utah, Nevada, Washington, South Dakota, Kentucky, Idaho, Oregon, Mississippi, and North Carolina." Most likely people are starting to flee the metropolitan centers with their high crime and high cost of living. People simply don't want to get away from it all only during vacation times and long weekends. They want to be away from it all -- all the time! Long distance commutes between states is a choice some have made. Through telecommunications, personal computers, fax machines, telephones, etc. working at home is easier than ever before. According to Frank Clifford (1989), "Census figures provide evidence of the trend. Counties surrounding Vail, Colorado; Santa Fe, New Mexico and other popular destinations are growing twice as fast as the states they are in." He adds: "If long-distance commuters share one trait besides a desire to escape to the mountains, it is financial independence. Most are successful entrepreneurs, sole practitioners or well-paid performers, writers and artists whose schedules allow for long absences from the big city."

At the same time, some states are experiencing the "Brain Drain," where the best and the brightest are fleeing from the Frostbelt; for example, some of Wisconsin's brightest are leaving the state for opportunities elsewhere (the Sun Belt, where else? Maybe they got tired of the subzero temperatures and shoveling snow in the winters). But there is always the balancing of the good with the bad wherever we are. For example, Wisconsin is a very wholesome place to raise a family. The quaint Midwestern atmosphere of a small-sized city can sure beat the crime, violence, overcrowded and smog-filled metropolis. And, there may be a silver lining after all; for example, "the Midwest is at the forefront of a nationwide surge in the use of temporary workers that may be changing the face of employment in America. . . The growth is being fed by economic uncertainty and automation." (Bernstein, 1985).

Reflecting such mobility are new concepts such as telecommuters, commuter marriage, and relocation perks. Telecommuters are people who work at home all or part of the time. They are linked to the office by telephone and/or personal computer. According to an October 8, 1992 report from the U.S. Department of Labor, "the work-at-home rate -- the percentage of workers doing at least some work at home in connection with their primary job -- was 18.3 percent. The majority of these workers, however, were not paid specifically for the work done at home and they worked a comparatively small number of hours at home." Work-at-home traditionally is derived from white collar positions.

We also have the commuter marriages or bicoastal couples; for example, wife works in Los Angeles while the husband is employed in New York City. On weekends, vacations, and holidays, the couple gets together -- maybe somewhere equal distance like Omaha. During the work week, they live in two separate households. In a 1985 Newsweek article titled "Love on the Run," they stated: "The number of commuter marriages has increased in tandem with the growing number of two-career couples. It's especially common in the academic world where tenure-track positions have become too rare to give up. Commuters tend to be in the middle- and upper-income brackets and commute for an average of two years. Most view their double lives as temporary, a necessary but inconvenient way station on the road to success." And finally, the relocation perk is becoming more and more common these days. In the midst of major corporate reorganization and downsizing, companies are relocating more and more of their employees these days but families are reluctant to move, especially when the spouse has a good paying position. As part of the attraction to relocate, spousal job search assistance and placement is becoming more a part of the package deal.

Where to locate yourself. Where will you be most happy? Weigh your options -- both the pros and cons. There is no easy answer. Whether you are rooted to your present location or not, there is a price, (and sometimes it is not strictly monetary; for example, the quality of life, career opportunities, support networks, etc.)

New and Future Trends

"Time is money," reflected the early beginnings of capitalism. Weber described the emerging complex modern society as a process of rationalization. What he (1947) meant by rationalization was "the process by which society becomes dominated increasingly by norms and values, of efficiency, calculability, and demystification, which result in dehumanization." An assembly line is an excellent example of Weber's concept of rationalization. Increasing red tape (paper work) to get something done is another example. As simple society became more complex, according to Weber, things needed to run more efficiently, with more rules and more bureaucrats. (Sometimes we get frustrated by how inefficient bureaucracies can be, but on the other hand, Weber claims that it is the most efficient way of organizing modern mass society. If you can think of a better way, please let us know). At any rate, if we did not have an assembly line to build cars, how quickly would cars be made, if you were paid piecemeal? Let's say they gave you all the parts to make one car and you got paid on how many cars you built each month. Now doesn't the assembly line seem much a lot more efficient if one person is assigned to put door knobs on while someone else installs the engine, and so forth.

Also as things became more efficient, the magic was taken out. That's what Weber meant by demystification. Things have become so orderly and so efficient that there is little time to be playful and creative and innovative. For example, have you seen some of the latest toys kids play with now -- computerized games like Nintendo. Whatever happened to a chunk of clay for kids to play with? Another example of demystification is when kids are no longer kids, but are treated and told to act like adults. What happened to carefree play as kids are shuttled from piano lessons to soccer practice on a regimented schedule. Rationalization has in some respects destroyed the simple things in life -- stop and smell the roses for a change.

But as we became more efficient, we were suppose to gain more leisure time, but ironically enough, we have become instead more frantic, frazzled and frayed in trying to do more with even less because we have filled the so-called "free time" with more to do. We've become "time-locked." Ralph Keyes (1992) claims that "despite all our time-saving devices, Americans say they feel more rushed than ever." People have laptop computers to take with them while traveling; car phones so you don't miss that important deal; fax machines to get contracts sent in seconds; and so forth. What happened to the time we were suppose to gain from all the time-saving devices like microwaves, telephone answering machines, VCRs, etc.? According to Keyes (1992), we have too many choices, time-consuming time savers, and the vanishing pause." Keyes (1992) shows us how technology has fast forwarded our lives to "the vanishing pause." For example, we have gone from the button to the zipper and finally, to Velcro. (Do children know how to tie their own shoes any more? Who's got the time to teach them? And gee, Velcro is so much faster!). Another example of the vanishing pause is from U.S. Mail to Federal Express and now to the fax machines.

We have such a hard time just saying "NO!!" that we easily become over-committed and in a constant rush where time pressures are influencing our day and entire lifestyle. Never before have we had a generation of workers so stressed out and burned out. Some call it "workoholism." Workoholics are those individuals trying to get ahead by working 50 hours a week or more. In a New Woman article by Sue Browder, she (1991) notes that "Americans reported that between 1973 and 1988 our average work week jumped from under 41 hours to almost 47 hours, whereas our leisure time during that same period shrank 37 percent." But most recently, some men and women are not "buying" into the rat race to success any more.

Superwomen are still trying to "have it all." Book stores stock titles like Having It All (1980), Getting Organized (1978), and You Don't Have to Go Home from Work Exhausted! (1992). Can we believe these books? Hochschild (1989) in The Second Shift tells us how working women come home to do another shift averaging 15 more hours a week. Others have tried to tell women that "it's all not what it's cracked up to be" (Hewlett, 1986; Sidel, 1990). Hewlett (1986:15-16) states in A Lesser Life: The Myth of Women's Liberation in America: "In essence, I belonged to that 'lucky' generation of superwomen who got to combine the nurturing standards of the 1950s with the strident feminism of the 1970s. But as many of us discovered when we struggled to bear and raise children mid-career, the rigid standards of the 1950s 'cult of motherhood' are impossible to combine with equally rigid standards of our fiercely competitive workplaces." She (1986:44) goes on to add: "Becoming a working mother seemed to elicit the worst from all sides of society."

But in the rat race, Baby Boomers and others ran to keep pace up the career ladder of success. Eventually for some, "time is money" has become "money is time." Work isn't everything. Young parents are opting to delay career moves upward so that they can have more time with their children. Parents want time with kids over career advancement, (Aburdene & Naisbitt, 1992). Not long ago, putting family ahead of career was almost unheard of, especially for men. In 1992, Brandon Tartikoff, head of Paramount Pictures, quit so he could spend more time with his daughter. According to Shirley Fader (1993), "In one study, 60 percent of the fathers under the age of 35 say they're shaping their career plans around family concerns." The Daddy Track is certainly a major shift in priorities for men.

Relating to the Daddy Track and wanting more time for family, work time is changing to notions of part-time, flextime, and the nightshift. In an age of downsizing, the use of part-time workers is becoming increasingly prevalent. After all, it is cheaper; no benefits. The university is witnessing the increased use of part-time adjuncts rather than hiring full-time tenure-track faculty members. Some prefer working part-time because they want to work and have time to raise a family; while for others, that is the only option they can find.

The U.S. Department of Labor (1992) states: "The number of full-time wage and salary workers with flexible work schedules was 12.1 million in May 1991, up from 9.1 million in 1985." Some call it "flextime." Dovetailed to flextime is the increasing number of people working the nightshift. According to Sandy Bauers (1993), 20 percent of the workforce is working the nightshift. Electricity has spawned a new frontier of the 24 hour operation. With fax machines and overnight mail, work can get done any time, and sometimes it is more efficient to do it any time other than 9 to 5. Perhaps "9 to 5" is becoming a thing of the past for some who need more flexible schedules, which might mean working the nightshift. To illustrate, I "swore" to my colleagues that I would never teach evenings (because I cannot function so late in the day. I claimed my most productive hours were the mornings.) First of all, never say never. After my daughter was born, I taught two evening classes because it turned out to be the only way I could be home with her during the day and my husband with her in the evenings. Although, in "theory" it is so different from the actual practice. I must have been crazy to think I could take care of a kid all day and then be ready for a two and 3/4 hour class period. Talk about exhaustion! But ever since, I've taught at least one evening course a week because it was the only way of not having to bust my buns to get in (both of us -- my daughter dropped off at child care and me at my office and into the classroom). Even to be in at 9 o'clock in the morning is a major battle. So priorities change and schedules are juggled to meet different needs and new priorities. It means teaching with a 1 o'clock start up and some days not coming home til nearly 10 o'clock.


In this chapter we have considered several social problems that affect the structure of the labor market. We began by examining the problems caused by increasing specialization - coping with a dead-end career path. Next, we looked at that eternal dilemma of technician versus generalist. Industry needs technically specialized knowledge to maximize productivity; but it needs a measure of the generalist in its technical people to permit them to see their work within the broader perspective of overall organizational strategy. Industry likewise needs generalists to deal with broad strategy concerns; but needs a measure of understanding of the technical activities, so that the generalist takes technical considerations adequately into account. Today we have come to recognize that balance between technical and general skills is requisite to corporate development.

We considered also the structural response of the labor market to the burgeoning production of college degrees in the last decade. The economic effect of the B.A. on entry level earnings has been vastly reduced in recent years. And industry requirements for a B.A. in heretofore unheard positions has had a major effect on student expectations of what the B.A. proffers in the world of work. This requires now a structural response on the part of the university to redefine the value of the B.A. degree.

Next, we focused on the geographic decisions relating to career paths -- where to work. To flee or not to flee. And finally, we examined some new and future trends such as family first priority, the Daddy track, and the nightshift.

Appendix A - Sociological Terms in This Chapter

Achievement motivation -- Achievement motivation McClelland (see bibliography) theorized that different early socialization patterns develop in us varying needs to achieve. He further showed that societies with different cultural expectations show different levels of societal achievement.

Caste -- An ascribed status from which there is no possibility of mobility through achievement.

Cognitive dissonance theory -- Holds that attitudes tend to follow or fall in line with behavior.

Cost of Capital -- Cost of interest, points, fees, commissions, etc. to raise the money to do things with.

Division of Labor -- The increasing number of tasks and responsibilities become specialized into a complex interweaving of discrete units which make up the whole (of society).

Exchange theory -- We do things for each other because we get something in exchange (a smile, a $, or just a good feeling of having done it). The more we get of a particular reward, the less value we attach to it (decreasing marginal utility). Did you ever wonder why Mother told you to play "hard to get"?

Line management -- Line management refers to persons with decisionmaking responsibility, as opposed to the advisory function of nonline support staff.

Rationalization -- The process by which society comes to be dominated increasingly by norms and values of efficiency, calculability, and demystification, which results in dehumanization (Weber, 1947).

Risk aversion -- Behavior generated from the fear of risk.

Self-fulfilling prophecy -- People who have the ability to perform equally well, will perform with differential success according to our (and their) expectations. For example, little girls learn quickly that they are not expected to like playing with frogs. They shriek at the sight of frogs in the premed lab. Therefore few little girls become doctors. A bit oversimplified. But that's the general idea.

Social problem -- A localized and self-contained issue, matters that can be solved by experts or by agencies directed toward their specific solution, (Boughey, 1978).

Stereotype -- An oversimplified perception of a person based on limited information that identifies the person as a member of a group which is believed to share some characteristic. For example, the perception of a young man with long hair as being "radical" politically. The young man is perceived as belonging to that group of young men who wear their hair long. And that group is perceived as being "radical". I was going to point out that Jesus had long hair.

Structural response -- Ways in which social institutions adapt to deal with social problems. For example, open admissions was a structural response of universities to help offset patterns of discrimination against minority groups. By removing some access barriers to admissions, institutions made higher education available to those who might otherwise have been denied entrance.

Utility theory -- Utility theory was developed to take into account that people value things other than money and that they base their decisions on rewards that they value.

Worker alienation -- The sense of powerlessness, isolation and loss of meaning a worker feels when she is feeling apart from her work, fellow workers, the product, and so forth.

Appendix B - Self-Diagnostic

How good are you at figuring out what to do when your boss suggests you really ought to work late if you "care" about your job? Would you have known that many executives would see your working late as poor time management? Try your hand at some of these myths and dilemmas. Enter a T for True and an F for False.

-----1. Since technical staff spend most of their time analyzing highly sophisticated and detailed operational problems, they often fail to see the overall corporate strategy.-----
-----2. If you are a technical specialist in an organization, there's very little you can do to improve your chances of promotion to a managerial level.-----
-----3. It's hard to tell technical staff from generalists in an organization unless you know them well enough to know what their work roles are. -----
-----4. Stereotypes serve a useful purpose and should not be completely dismissed as discrimination.-----
-----5. It is unusual for a person to have more than one career change. More than that looks like job hopping.-----
-----6. One of the best reasons for getting a college education is the good economic return on the money you invest.-----
----- 7.A college education is necessary for a chance at the really high wages.-----
-----8. One of our occupational norms defines the expectation that hard work will be rewarded.-----
-----9. With increased specialization in modern society, a division of labor resulted.-----
-----10. Rationalization means to be reasonable in the workplace. -----
-----11. When you feel powerless andisolated at work, you could be experiencing worker alienation.-----
-----12. In recent years, young fathers are giving family more priority than career advancement.-----

Scoring and career forecast for self-diagnostic

Score one point for each correct answer.

1. True
2. False
3. False
4. True
5. False
6. False
7. True
8. True
9. True

Your career forecast for the chapter

10-12 -- OK, Whiz kid! You can handle social problems in the labor market. You're well on your way.
7-9 -- Not bad! But you're supposed to have to read the book first. Friday is a bad day for social problems crossing your career path.

4-6 -- Well, you're coming along.;Time to shake the dust of the Ivory Tower off your books. Oh! and watch out for falling objects today.

0-3 -- Are you sure you're planning to work? Sounds like you've been building sand castles. At this rate, you may become a social problem.


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