On shitty advice

I’ve seen this video, or at least heard the audio clip, on TikTok several times, generally over a video of someone making something with their hands. I would talk about it there, except the way the site works there’s no good way to respond to a full minute of audio. I can talk over him and have the full minute, or I can clip out five seconds and then have 55 seconds of my own afterward, but neither really works, so … off to blogging!

Go ahead and watch the video; it’s only a minute long.

Look, I get enough of people not watching videos that are critical to understanding the next thing they’re going to do from my students. You haven’t watched the video yet. Watch the video.

Fine, figure it out.

This is terrible advice and this man is dumb.

Now, I don’t know when he said this, but the fact that he put it on his TikTok account implies that it was pretty recent. Which is odd, because the world that this might have worked in went away, like, decades ago. First of all, I love the implication that everybody can afford to take 90 days to work for free. So you’re either living at home and don’t have any bills or you already have enough money saved up that three months of rent, all expenses, potentially your student loans coming due (be real, he’s not envisioning someone who has student loans) and, oh, right, health insurance, which nobody gives to people who are working for them for free. Anybody who can afford to do that already has plenty of connections, and frankly if they’re planning on entering the business world their best contacts are almost certainly their parents. And entering the business world is the only possibility this person is really picturing; if the person who is “living your ideal life” is anything but the owner of a business this whole idea falls apart– you can’t approach, say, an author, or a comedian, or a school principal with a deal like this. The other possibility is some sort of apprenticeship model for a craftsperson, but guess what– we already have that sort of thing, and “connections” aren’t really all that useful if what you want to do with your life is build cabinets or chairs or something like that.

The other fun thing is his theory about how this process ends. After you have spent ninety days working harder than anyone this business owner has ever met, for free, you approach him and tell him (it is also certainly a him in this dude’s scenario) that you would now like to work for money. If you are told no, you shake hands and part ways (… and then what?) and if you are told yes, you have entered the odd question mark in this Underpants Gnome scheme for profit.

What if dude looks at you and says “I’m not sure, work for me for another 90 days for free and then I’ll decide?”

What if the wage he offers you is insulting? (Side point, but I will never as long as I live forget seeing a job listing offering $15 an hour and demanding a Master’s degree.)

Has this guy not realized that unpaid internships are already a thing, that they’re basically used as free slave labor by the businesses that sponsor them, that they have basically the exact same economic problems that I’ve already outlined above, and there’s an endless supply of them for anyone who wants to employ them? There is no fucking shortage of trust-fund shitheads who are willing to work for “free” (ie, everything paid for by their parents) and bring coffee to people for a semester in hopes that someone remembers their name when they hit the job market. There will never not be college juniors, dude.

I am sorely tempted to look more closely into this person giving this speech on a stage with a wireless microphone in his ear, to find out how his parents got their money.

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Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.