September 26, 2005 12:00 PM

By Barbara Ehrenreich

NONFICTION

To write Nickel and Dimed, her 2001 investigation of living on minimum wage, Barbara Ehrenreich worked as a waitress and a cleaning woman. When she began researching Bait and Switch, she was movin’ on up (or so she thought): Her plan was to land a mid-level corporate job paying $50,000 a year plus benefits. Instead, she found herself joining the mob of hopefuls under the sway of the “transition industry.” So she penned this zingy expose of shady employment coaches who wield meaningless personality tests; she also describes futile job fairs and networking events that sometimes turn out to be Christian fellowship meetings in disguise. Bait and Switch isn’t as gripping as Nickel and Dimed—partly because the concept is no longer new—but it is sobering: In almost a year, Ehrenreich never received a credible job offer. Today corporations demand not just hard work, but qualities like passion, and as she notes, “Not even prostitutes are expected to perform ‘passionately’ time after time.”

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