Freelining with Mike Freeman: A few thoughts on Florida’s true growth industry.

Florida's most in-demand workers: shadowy figures who are not a part of the company, but are on the outside, looking in, working for little to nothing. (Photo by Steve Schwartz).

According to Workforce Florida, Central Florida is leading the state in terms of job growth, and most of that growth is in the field of tourism and hospitality.
The theme parks are reporting strong attendance numbers, hotels are starting to raise rates after years of lowering them, and foreign tourists appear to be attracted here by a weak U.S. dollar. And for American visitors, it seems like we’ve gone beyond the concept of there being “pent up” demand for a vacation; after years of stressing about the job front, a vacation seems more like a necessity than anything else. We’ve agonized over our jobs for the past few years, so we’ve earned the right to just relax and take all that off our minds.
Critics have argued that it’s not enough to have jobs created in this field, since they’re more than likely to be low wage, low skill positions that don’t pay enough to support a family on. But it could also be true that most of them are at least full time jobs. Sometimes it seems to me that the leading job creation machine here in Florida isn’t in hospitality, or construction, or traditional fields like health care, education or government. The real growth industry, as I see it, is sales.
One of my colleagues, Dexter Miller, likes to point out that we’re all in sales, whether or not we recognize it. He makes a good point. How we present ourselves, the image of success (or failure) that we project, our ability to connect with others, is a key to our economic future.
But not everyone recognizes the salesman within themselves, so they hire others to do it — me, included. And as far as I can see, an awful lot of other employers are trying to do the same thing. Sales representatives are heavily in demand. I can also understand why, particularly if you dig a bit under the surface.
Check out a site like Craig’s List, the online marketplace. Anyone who has ever tried to sell a home by themselves, without a Realtor, knows the competition is stiff when you toss it on Craig’s List. On a daily basis, literally hundreds of homes in Orlando alone – or any city or town in this region – get tossed onto this site by people desperately eager to unload a home in a stagnant housing market.
Likewise, if you go to the Craig’s List jobs postings, you know that if you’re in sales, you can find hundreds of daily offers for people to do sales. The offers come with attractive words and terms like “Start ASAP,” “Xtra Income,” “Wanted: Sharks” and my favorite, “Great Earning Potential.” Note the use of the word: potential.
Anyone who has ever listed their resume on a site like Career Builder or Monster.com knows they get bombarded right away with emails and calls – job offer, job offer. It sounds so promising at first: a bad economy, but you manage to stand out and attract employers who call you – not the other way around. Impressive.
What you find is the sales job. They’re selling you. And you start to quickly wonder, why would anyone be trying to sell me a job when the Florida unemployment rate is at 10.7 percent, worse than the national average?
Good question.
If you’ve ever called back one of those recruiters, you know they work for a large company – maybe insurance, maybe banking, etc. They want you to come in for an interview.
You quickly figure out they want to tell you about your “vast” earning potential. Thousands and thousands of dollars – the sky is the limit. They provide you with the training. You become a part of the team. It’s a nationally known company. Wow, it all sounds great — at first.
I enjoy getting those calls, because I always love to ask those crucial questions:
“Is this a salaried position?”
“Um … no.”
“Commission only?”
“Yes ….”
“Is it full time, where I’d be hired by the company and have my own office, or would I do the sales on my own?”
“On your own ….”
“Would you train me in general sales techniques, or just on how to sell your particular product?”
Silence.
“Is the training paid, or would I do it on my own free time?”
Dead silence.
Welcome to our great job creation machine: not even part time, no salary, no benefits, no investment in you as a part of the company …. just someone to do sales for a flat commission, until you burn out and move on, and the next team of no-wage sales representatives is brought in.
I like getting on the phone with these recruiters; when they ask me if I want to come in for an interview, I always say, “Yes, but first let me tell you what I’m looking for. I see my future with a company that hires me full time, and makes me a valued member of the team, that provides me with paid training from the very start, gives me a salary, and invests in me and my future.”
If they haven’t hung up the phone by then, the few who stay on the line will say, “Um …. This is commission only.”
So I say to all of those who dismiss those tourism jobs: at least they’re full-time.
Right now, we have an enormous demand for sales representatives.
Work for us (but not full time), sell thousands of dollars for us (while earning just a small percentage of what you bring in) and still be your own boss (because we don’t ever plan to hire you.)
If Florida ever expects to get our economy up and running, we need companies that will hire people full time, and not rely on the “freelancer” to do what a full-time worker used to do, except now they’re doing it from their home and for a tiny fraction of the pay.
Until we get there, don’t expect Florida’s unemployment rate to do anything but remain stagnant. Because right now, the greatest demand is for the qualified worker who will do the job for next to nothing.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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