Nepotism (or, How to Get a Job in a Post-Modernist Recessionary Economy)

Apparently I was misinformed. We are not in a recessionary economy any longer. Silly me. I missed the memo! So, let us bid farewell to our aphorisms (calling a spade a spade) and instead activate our euphemisms (calling a spade a utensil). Thus, might I say that we are in a Post-Modernist Recessionary Economy?

Slapped silly into awareness, just yesterday the World Wide Web informed me of the good news: 18 months in duration, the longest recession in US history has been over for more than a year! Yes, it seems I’ve been laboring under a misapprehension for many months. But at least I’m in good company.

According to that same article:

It may be over, but you won’t be hearing any cheers from the millions of Americans who are struggling to find a job. Or are worried about the ones they have. Or have lost their homes. Or are behind on the mortgage.

As for the job seekers and dream tweakers among us, we must dig deeper, wax wiser, and perhaps follow a few old school rules for a new school of economic thought. It is time for a rousing return to nepotism. You remember nepotism – favoritism based on a familial relationship.

Is Nepotism simply a euphemism for 21st century networking?

Modernism, Post-Modernism (a rose by any other name?)

Indulge me for a minute – do you mind?

If Modernism derives from a “deviation from the ancient or the classic,” it generally refers to a slew of divergent 20th century styles and hypotheses concerning art, architecture, and literature.* They were indeed a departure from the accepted norms of the day, beginning in the late 19th century and continuing through the 1960s – hey day of Happenings and Pop Art. You know – Warhol, Rauschenberg, and others.

However, with the 1970s – (the sorry legacy of polyester?) – we are tossed into a murkier  bucket that historians call Post-Modernism, a reaction to Modernism. Personally, I consider Post-Modernism a movement that combines equal doses of quality, rigor, creativity and bullshit, with the latter couched in conceptual double-talk carried on with confidence. In light (or shadow?) of that premise – I hereby proclaim that we are indeed in the throes of a Post-Modernist depressionary recessionary swamp.

Now now, not to worry

Is everything deemed Post-Modernist muck and mire?

Of course not. Returning to examples in fine art, the 70s, 80s, and 90s offer extraordinary talent (and output)** which is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. But as I said, it is a rejection of what came before (while incorporating it), a philosophical approach that is infuriatingly textual and contextual – and an otherwise confusing period that offers up bath water and the baby. Yes, a mixed metaphor – but who knows which to throw out?

In the Post-Modernist employment-go-round, do no rules apply? Or is it that any rules you’d like are fair game?

Aren’t they really the same thing?

Furthermore, if Post-Modernist art rejects purist Modernist forms and instead melds art, popular culture, and the media – isn’t deeming the contemporary economy a Post-Modernist Recession almost classic? Or is that cynicism on my part? Or skepticism? Aren’t they both the hallmark of a healthy dose of Post-Everything?

Whatever we call our current economic climate – a recession, a recovery – isn’t it irrelevant if millions are still out of work, losing homes, unable to pay for health care, and generally speaking – scared shitless?

Nepotism, Networking

Now, back to nepotism – dare I say it is and always has been a reliable method of passing employment opportunities to blood relations? Oh, and a mechanism for handing off empires and dynasties, too. I won’t go so far as to say that zero skills are required, but it is (reasonably) assumed that one will learn on the job.

In modern, post-modern, or contemporary times – given the choice between many qualified candidates, aren’t you more likely to offer the job to someone you know? Of course. We all are. And we can justify it – less need to worry about reference checks or the candidate’s integrity. Or, you know someone who knows someone who knows the person in question.

Ah – time for an applicable aphorism?

It isn’t what you know, it’s who you know.

And so we wade into the territory of networking – the “friend model” of social networking, as a matter of fact. Aren’t we all helped by more than professional events, but via sites like LinkedIn, or our fave for all uber-cyber-(un)mentionables – Facebook?

Tired toes in wily waters

Given that (it seems) the recession is now over – would you dare to quit your job? Would you head out in search of greener pastures?

Happily, recent weeks have landed me nibbles, bites and the occasional catch – the result of a perpetual process of lead generation, income innovation, and sleep-deprived entrepreneurial machination. Once again, I’ve gone through a cycle of proposals and bids, not to mention one (irritating) experience of chase-him-down-for-the-check-and-hope-it’s-good. There has even been a surprisingly sudden (and satisfying) project – out of the blue – just last week.

Of course “out of the blue” is like the Overnight Success Story – never overnight, and generally the result of hard work and seeds planted, both coming to fruition.

Yes, I have my eye on the goal, my pokers in the fire, my tiny toes in various candidate pools, and a recent reminder of basic lessons.

Last month a friend passed along an application, I followed through, and possessing every qualification I jumped through the requisite hoops and even with connections – got nowhere. In a flash, the job was filled.


Nepotism. A friend or family member of the hiring manager was likely waiting in the wings; posting the vacancy was a formality.

Is this new? Of course not. Is it even bad? Certainly not. Legal? Yes. Presumably, the happy hopeful was also amply qualified. It is what it is – and that is among my favorite truisms.

So how do you get a job in a post-modernist recessionary economy?

Clearly, all is fair in love, war and job searching. As I have next to no family whatsoever, I find myself in a professional (Post-Modernist?) pickle, and I am left searching for aphorisms (terse truths) and euphemisms (to soften the blow). All negative truisms need not apply.

My (current) conclusion is that I must marry again (oh dear, that would require dating) – and do so into a large professional family with plenty of fingers in the proverbial pies of commerce or the arts. Surely a cousin-in-law will need a consultant, a writer, or a consultant-writer with a fine eye for the visual, and two willing “ayes” to never-say-die.

Another option? Adoption! Monsieur Louboutin may have ignored my plea, but might I offer myself as an orphan seeking shelter – preferably, not Post-Modernist?

*ArtLex on Modernism. Read more.
**Contemporary Art Movements in Post-Modernism. Read more.

Warhol image reproduced with permission of


  1. says

    My husband keeps up this steady stream of conversation intended to panic me into getting a job, then he insists I can only get a job between 10:30 and 2:30 since he can’t leave our store to do any child-related pick ups, etc. I signed up on IHire just for the enormous fun of it (yippee!) and I’m disturbed to see that, while there are jobs out there for writer/editors, they are listed as “temporary,” even if they’re for TWO YEARS! Of course, there’s nothing part time. Why not take a really long, full-time look at a person, and just about the time they have a problem or a medical issue, get rid of them?

    That, more than anything else, seems to be a big difference between this and the last time I was in the job market. Good luck!

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Having been one of those long term “temporaries” (and not technically an employee, therefore no benefits, no unemployment, no disability), I have to wonder what the real statistics are that tell the tale of our economic woes.

      I can also attest to having worked for a company as an employee – that “laid me off” as soon as I had to have a small surgery. Convenient, wasn’t it?

  2. says

    You said it all. Job searching is painful and much like dating. You never know if they are really available, if they will be good to you and honor their promises. There is rarely a cousin in the wings though.

    Good luck! From my experience, all networks (schools especially) are valuable in the job hunt.

  3. says

    Well, I suppose a form of nepotism got me the job I currently have (stay-at-home mother). After all, if I weren’t the mother of my kids, my odds of landing the job would have been far less. The pay is non-existent, but the benefits (other than vacation time) are pretty good. Slobbery kisses from babies and declarations of devotion from toddlers top the list.

    Last week I went to my first meeting of a new book club. Most of the other members work at my husband’s place of business. When I mentioned being in the market for part-time work after my third child is born this winter, I was instantly met with “Oh, you should meet X” and “There might be some work in the Y department next fall.”

    It really still is all about who you know. (Or at least, who you meet who happens to admire your shoes and your taste in books on a given night in September.)


  4. says

    Can’t knock connections, that’s for sure. Without a very random one, I imagine I would never have gotten the job that finally ended the long-distance stint my husband (then-fiancé) and I were enduring. It involved visiting my sister during a “family weekend” at her college. My mother got there ahead of me and started chatting with a woman at a reception, whose husband had media connections. The woman pressed my mother to send me for an informal interview with him, and he connected me with a colleague in the state where my husband was working.

    Without that job, I don’t know when we would have been able to get married.

  5. says

    I’m glad you’ve gotten some work, BLW. Very happy about that. And maybe that work will be a link to help get you to other work.

    Loved that article in the NYT on people over 50 who think they’ll never work again — I hope that isn’t the case. I have a feeling that the rising tide and need for workers will eventually lift even our slightly leaky boats.

  6. says

    It seems that if you’re going to marry you should shoot for marrying really really well (and very old and not in the pre-nup biz either) and then people will be trying to curry favor with you.

    In Hollywood, where the son-in-law also rises, nepotism is alive and well (and may well help account for so many of the piss poor movies we end up getting), however luck is the critical factor (once you’re doing all the things you’re already doing).

    So I wish you great luck, and suggest you get in a book club with Hermes (and maybe tell Aphrodite you like her shoes).

    As for aphorisms and implements, we might call a spade a bullshit shovel, but those who say the economy is fine, they we might call tools (or perhaps sons and daughters of tools, since the tool doesn’t fall far from the shed).

  7. says

    I saw that Times article, too. And I hoped that more HR dept. heads saw it, and that maybe the tides would turn. There is such value in experience and with this recession “behind us” (? Seriously? Tell that to the folks in Michigan.) maybe experience will trump the cheaper salary.

  8. says

    I always like to think that I will get hired for the job if I am the best fit and most qualified. Sad how low those qualities actually rates on the workplace totem pole these days!

  9. says

    Um, if this is what it’s like when the recession is over, wow, then I was lied to upon going into nursing school cause I still can’t get a nursing job.
    I do know quite a few people, Drs. and Nurses in my area who are all putting in very good words for me, writing letters for me, making phone calls, still nothing to report. I hate to break it to whomever thinks it has anything to do with who you know, it has to do with payroll, period. If the jobs aren’t there, I can turn in 5 letters of recommendations and be first choice on their list “if” something opens up, but it still doesn’t get me a job where there isn’t one to offer. I also refute the original articles saying the recession is over by home values still being down. My home is worth less than tax value by $5000. 2 years ago when it was assessed, it was worth $20,000 more than tax value. Recession is still going strong where I live, and as far as I can tell, around the country. Except Texas, but anyone who knows Texas is more like it’s own country than part of the US.

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