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I have a friend I want to help but I am not sure I have enough knowledge to do it.

He works in a field where it's very hard to find a job. He and all the friends he's made this past 2 years (I know most of them since they are a fun group to hang out with, despite the patch they are going through) live stressed, depressed, and often end up crying for the stress half way through a shift. For them, simply resigning is not a solution since it is so hard to find job and, in our country, if you are not fired you do not get paid what you earned with your taxes for when you are unemployed.

If someone is in a position where they are poorly treated, often times even abused verbally, and the workload is so bad that even when working full time, non stop for 40 hours weekly, there is not a week they do not have to make several overtime, unpaid hours. What can they do? How could I advise them to proceed?

This is in Europe, in a place where overtime should be compensated and it has an annual limit (which they can surpass 3 times over without a problem).

The issue they struggle is, they see that whenever someone in their field loses their job, months can go by looking for another in their field, or places where they would take them. Most of them have studied Journalism or something close to that, and most are working as community managers, but the pressure put on them and what I know about their work is more like a Consultant job where they are constantly pressured to take on more clients, constantly.

Firing is frequent and the salary is sub-par, at best. They have 2 years or more of experience (intense experience, at that, since they LIVE in crunch time), and yet find it near impossible to switch jobs.

How should my friend proceed given his dire situation and high unemployment in his industry?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man Jun 12 '18 at 7:45
  • What field do they work in? What country? Private or public sector? – Grimm The Opiner Jun 12 '18 at 14:07
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Unfortunately, if this culture is widespread throughout the industry your friend works in there is little they can do with immediate effect. Working conditions like these are why trade unions exist.

If your friend alongside their colleagues can find the relevant trade union for your industry, they might be able to seek help in terms of employment law get representation in dealing with unlawful contract conditions for your friend and ultimately assist in fighting the unfair working conditions laid down by their employer.

Always seek legal advice before dealing in matters of law.

If a trade union does not exist, a little covert operation may need to begin to form one contacting people working in the same industry as your friend, whether they be colleague or competitor.

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    That might seem obvious in retrospect, I should have thought about an union, but I didn't. So thank you for your comment. I will see if there is any for their particular field, and since I suppose there won't, since it's relatively new, a more broad one, I guess. Thanks again. – monkey intern Jun 11 '18 at 12:29
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    @monkeyintern if there is no existing union for that profession, and your friend(s) still wish to unionize, it might be possible to form a new chapter of a seemingly unrelated union. I’m in the US, so there might be differences to how unions work in Europe, but my graduate student union is actually a chapter of the United Auto Workers. We get the benefits of the larger union’s infrastructure (e.g., lawyers for contract negotiations) as well as (ideally) more bargaining power, and they get more dues-paying members (I believe we’re actually their largest chapter now). – Dennis Jun 11 '18 at 22:26
  • I have no experience with trade unions, but the issues here seem to surpass a particular trade, e.g. verbal abuse and not paying overtime for worked hours. As far as I'm aware, not every union is trade specific. The three Belgian unions are all general unions (separated by political ideology, not trade sector), but will assist with these problems. – Flater Jun 12 '18 at 10:08
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This happened to the IT industry during the great collapse of the early aughts.

If the situation is that bad, then your friend needs to get out regardless of the immediate consequences before his health or even his life is in danger.

Then, your friend can decide if he wants to continue in his career or launch a new one. The book "What color is your parachute" has some wonderful advice on how to transition form one career to another, if need be. I've done it myself, so I know it is possible.

  • This. At some point, you just need to cut your losses and look for a different career. I'm pretty sure none of my friends are still doing the careers they started with. If the whole profession has such horrible standards, it probably means it's either "going out of business", or needs a significant restructuring (in which case, your expertise might be worth little anyway). For the most part, the only thing a union could do is exclude some of the workers for a boost to the retained workers, but ultimately, it sounds like the profession is in a severe crisis, and nobody wants to risk change. – Luaan Jun 12 '18 at 6:52
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In situations like that the best bet is usually to switch to a better career field. As far as I can tell from what you wrote, there are no reasons to stay in this one. They are not enjoying the work, the pay is bad, there is no path to better jobs in the industry. Why are they not looking for a related field or re-training to something better?

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    Other than sheer inexperience, because they already did. They studied, prepared, and wanted to be journalists. They wanted to inform the public. There is barely no work for that, so they switched to manage blogs and social media of companies. That allowed them to go from getting paid 0€ to being paid above minimal pay... And now look for a NEW field is proving hard, both in terms of opportunities and "state of mind" :/ – monkey intern Jun 11 '18 at 13:45
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    @Monkey I can't imagine a social media manager making big money in the states... The money in that niche is in SEO, both as employees and independents. People talk about moving career fields like... one day you're a pilot and the next a ship captain, when in reality there's plenty of related fields just about anybody can transition to from their current fields. – RandomUs1r Jun 11 '18 at 17:13
  • Nobody I know makes big money nor there is usually any pretention to get there. We are not bankers or medics. However, being paid slightly above minimum wage is discouraging. Many of them are learning SEO, for sure. Eventually that market will collapse, too, I'd guess. – monkey intern Jun 12 '18 at 6:29
  • @monkeyintern Of course, that's unavoidable. There's no guarantee a business is going to survive unchanged forever - the only thing you can bet on is if there's no change, it's going to keel over eventually. Given how awful journalist companies have been at adapting to changes, there necessarily needs to be a big crash - either a sudden change in approach (which would probably mean significant re-training anyway) or most of the companies going out of business. In the end, in a free society, only one thing matters - are you producing more value than you're consuming? – Luaan Jun 12 '18 at 6:55
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    @monkeyintern They can choose to stay in their field - but they'll probably have to live with bad working conditions (unless they manage to change their field, but that sounds even harder than switching fields). Or they can choose to look for another field that a) marginally interests them and b) has better average pay and working conditions. To find out about b), they could e.g. search online for average salary. They could also try to get support for retraining with the employment agency in their country. Unfortunately, your question is pretty vague on country and fields... – AllTheKingsHorses Jun 12 '18 at 15:07
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There is just a bunch of solutions:

  • change your field into something linked to what you do now, e.g. become a copy editor, language teacher, editor, PR specialist, marketing employee, e-commerce specialist, translator

  • retrain; do you have a hobby you could base your future career on? Any transferable skills? Or maybe do you want to try out something completely different? Or maybe you could become an entrepreneur yourself and e.g. start up an editing/ translating business?

  • stay in your field but change your job; but if you consider abroad keep in mind, you probably won't be working as a journalist/ PR specialist abroad; you can however work as a language teacher or in marketing

  • learn to cope. The truth is the current labor market in most countries is horrible and mobbing/ salaries are awful; actually at least in my European country historical data says that my parents earned much more after finishing studies than I did.

Also, this is just my subjective opinion, but I've worked both in IT/ engineering environments and in language/ marketing environments. My experience is that the latter are frequently quite toxic. Which is funny, as these are the fields that stress the importance of "soft skills".

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Emigrate. That's what I did. The country won't change anytime soon. If they stay there, all that happens is more misery. You can stay in such conditions for 20 years and all you will have is 20 years of wasted life.

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    Would you mind telling what had you studied? I have the feeling, since I lack any experience in this area, that even when emigrating, if you are an Engineer like myself it's going to be much easier than if you studied something from the social or hummanities part of the knowledge. Would you agree? Like, it is worth taking it into account, but I fear it would only switch the playing field, not the game itself. – monkey intern Jun 11 '18 at 13:55
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    Since you are in Europe, you can move to other countries in the EU relatively easily. – HLGEM Jun 11 '18 at 13:57
  • This is what my partner did. He studied to be a journalist/editor too, in the UK. He took a job as a delivery boy in Netherlands at first, living in with me and my parents, but has been working in a factory for a while now (not the unhealthy type), earning a proper wage. He's studying to become a software developer. – Cyonis Jun 11 '18 at 14:01
  • @HLGEM yes we can but my fear would be that they may experience that same job insecurity, but in another country (without a safety net of your family and such). Any known countries where Journalists and community managers and video/photo editors can thrive? – monkey intern Jun 11 '18 at 15:05
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    @HLGEM Except for the language barrier, that is. Moving between US states is significantly easier :D – Luaan Jun 12 '18 at 6:58
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Journalism as a profession by itself alone is becoming obsolete as we speak, or at most generic journalism.

People need to invest in itself and specialize in a field.

The people I know off that are still on the profession, do not work on it full-time.

The most versatile person in this situation, with whom I have worked in the past, he is quite well known in my country as a reputable journalist, having worked in our more renowned newspapers in the past. He reinvented himself as an IT specialized journalist, and does side jobs setting and maintaining web news sites for African countries that speak our tongue.

I know other example that specialized in computer games, and another colleague of mine that graduated in IT, but did a lateral move to a journalist with an IT degree writing for computer magazines and making TV shows about IT.

Journalism is not the only profession in this situation. If you are becoming obsolete/less requested you have to diversify your profile instead of crying over the situation.

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sorry to hear about your friends. It sounds like a horrible situation and I've been there before. From your answer I understand that their profession is simply always in bad conditions and badly paid - correct? If so, it seems they should look for another field of work with better conditions and salary. Would it make any sense to even look for a job in the same field, if chances are very high they end up treated the same way?

As to switching fields - what professions could these guys use their already acquired skills in? Having a background in journalism can perhaps open doors in corporate communication, content creation or management, if not even more general fields such as business etc?

  • Some are already trying, to both corporate and content creation, but it's a kind of catch-22 since this fields do not, from our limited perspective of course, pay any significantly better. – monkey intern Jun 12 '18 at 14:16

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