Title: The Pin Striped Prison (non-fiction book)Author: Lisa PryorFirst Published: 2008Publisher: Macmillan Australia Pty Limited"Big firms are terribly eager to make the jobs they offer seem fabulous and desirable. They go to expensive lengths to bribe students with free food, twilight drinks and sponsorship money. For all the questions overachieving brainiacs ask during the manic recruitment process, they seem to miss the most important one: if these firms are really so brilliant and do offer a life beyond compare, why do they work so hard to convince people to join?" (Page 61).
Lisa Pryor's first book, Pin Striped Prison is an honest yet extremely disturbing non-fiction piece of work that deals with our current societies' values and principles in the modern workplace. Exploring ideas of how one is 'sucked' into a future where they do not belong, Pryor asks us; how come so many of our best and brightest get drawn into demanding corporate jobs marked by absurd work hours, anxiety, and dullness.
Delving into the concepts of how overachievers get trapped in the corporate jobs they really, actually abhor; Pryor offers a witty, entertaining tour through several amusing anecdotes and explains the consequences of selling your soul in short, billable units.
Through constant analogies and juxtapositions between top-tier corporate firms and highly prestigious private secondary colleges: "To outsiders, a big firm is a big firm just as a private school is a private school. To insiders, there are endless nuances and graduations. Steps down and steps us. Mallesons or McKinsey might be Geelong Grammar or Sydney Grammar. Smaller corporate firms such as Henry Davis York might be a Roseville College or Loreto Normanhurst. Marsdens might be a suburban Catholic school. Big firm employees are teased about their particular firm's paper shredding scandal, corporate collapse or rumoured troubles in the same way that private school students are teased about their particular school's gay sex scandal, sporting failures or reputation as a repository of dumb rich kids or nerds or try-hards or losers."(Page 132), Pryor is able to parallel similarities regarding how one 'fits in' with the rest of the community or society. Explaining the misconceptions of societies' beliefs on the differing views of tertiary education, especially law and its high requirements, Pryor reasons effectively how overachievers are slowly yet inevitably and ultimately led to their demise, at the manipulative hands of law and business firms. Through valuable literary techniques such as the use of sarcasm, irony and the cynic view of the entire issue at hand, Pryor is able to convey compelling messages and her individualistic approach to this affair. This is mainly done through empathizing with the readers and audience, targeting young adults and university students who understand her usage of colloquial and slang language, as well as writing in such a witty and humorous manner that such a younger generation of audiences will comprehend and appreciate. "A dictionary of recruitment speak:Ã¢ÂÂ¢Dynamic Environment: we spend lots on our at collection because it's a tax write-offÃ¢ÂÂ¢Client-focused: we are willing to lie and shred documents to meet the needs of our customersÃ¢ÂÂ¢Diverse workplace: not all the consultants play golf. Some row and others play tennisÃ¢ÂÂ¢We have flexible options for parents: mothers are allowed to work five days a week while being paid for three. "Examining the never-ending circle-like process in which overachievers are stuck in, Pryor clarifies how such brilliant, dazzling and ambitious students are tricked into joining a future they never intended for themselves. Expressing how those who do, never really understand, or belong to their workplace environments. This is further exemplified through a mÃÂ©lange of examples and personal recounts of those same recruits who now regret the decisions they were basically forced into in the past. This technique is extremely persuading in convincing audiences to visualize the real world as Pryor describes it. In a way, she pulls the blindfolds off our eyes, allowing us to really see how the corporate world really works and its deceiving conceptions of what life is like while working for them. The Pin Striped Prison is an ingenious method of opposing society's beliefs and morals, whilst reflecting Pryor's own personal experiences and opinions.
Interesting Quote: Page 61"Big firms are terribly eager to make the jobs they offer seem fabulous and desirable. They go to expensive lengths to bribe students with free food, twilight drinks and sponsorship money. For all the questions overachieving brainiacs ask during the manic recruitment process, they seem to miss the most important one: if these firms are really so brilliant and do offer a life beyond compare, why do they work so hard to convince people to join?"Page 39:" When I met up with her one morning for a coffee and a muffin, she was strident about the importance of teaching and nonplussed about the ribbing she gets from friends for her choice. 'All my guy friends, they say, "What are you going to do?" and I say, 'Education,' and they say, "That's for losers".' She says her peers at her selective school favoured engineering, business, commerce and law. 'They look down at you if you do education. They're like "we are the law buddies" or "we are the med buddies". "Page 47/48:" The high levels of sponsorship also help explain the rise of a new phenomenon on law campuses across the country: law camp. Law camp is a revenge of the nerds. It is kind of like a high school camp that takes place over a few days at a modest location such as a holiday camp, where everyone has to sleep in bunks and eat meals in a big hall. In spite of the similarities, there are two important factors that make law camp different from a high school camp. First, the quantities of alcohol available. Second, the nerds are at the top of the social hierarchy.
A few weeks into the first semester of the first year, the camp is a time for new law students to let their hair down, meet new classmates, drink, bond, drink, party, drink and learn what the future has in store, chaperoned by older law students. Many of these first year students spent their teenage years as earnest swots and dags. Law camp, and law parties generally, provide an opportunity for these teenagers to cut loose. As Emma Truswell, the law student at the University of Sydney, explains, kids who may have found the social world of high school quite difficult now find they belong. Emma has heard students say things like, 'There are people here who are nerdier than me. I can be cool here!' 'There is lost of drinking at law parties so people can show they are cool. The number of people who have told me about really awful bullying experiences at school is surprisingly large.' "Page 50/51:" Kids without financial support from parents, who have moved to the city from the country and thus are forced to pay rent, kids who cannot get away from working only two days a week because they have lesser paid jobs in retail or call centres, older students who work full-time or raise children when they are not in class, do not have the time to dominate the social events. Even if they did have the time, they often feel too intimidated or repelled by the tone of these gatherings to want to attend.
Emma describes a culture in which many students, particularly the boys, want to be investment bankers so they can earn big money quickly. 'In some circles it's cool to be right wing, it's cool to want to make money.' A few students in her year drive Audis or BMWs to class, presents from their parents for achieving a certain exam mark. One boy has an Audi he bought himself with savings from his tutoring business. Arrogant private school boys abound, especially arrogant boys from Sydney Grammar, one of the most expensive and selective private schools in the country. 'It's just a sense of entitlement,' Emma says. 'They know how it works and they're right.' Emma knows one boy whose decision about which political party to support was based not on principles but on where his networks lay. At first he decided he would have to join the Liberal Party because he had contacts in that party through private school. Then, as a second-generation Australian, he decided he would be better off joining the Labor Party and taking advantage of his ethnic networks. "Page 52:" Emma says that some students object to full-fee payers, who pay tens of thousands of dollars a year for the course because they missed out on a government-funded place, but it seems most law students are not too concerned about them. Full-fee payers may be ribbed gently. When someone makes a stupid comment in a first year class, it has become a standing joke for classmates to whisper, 'Probably a full-fee payer.' Some full-fee paying students are sheepish about their status. Emma knows a boy who denied his status for six months before quietly confessing the truth. Others boast freely that they are there because rich parents are footing the bill. Sometimes students who aren't full-fee payers will defend their presence by arguing, for example, that the fact they have lower marks makes them less nerdy and therefore makes them better fun at parties.
They argue 'we need full fee payers because they're more social so they keep the social life going'."Page 68:"Like yoga devotees in an ashram, bankers challenge and stretch themselves daily." (Yoga/Ashram originate from India)Page 69: (Sarcastic, cynical, disbelief-complete contrast to what we all know-Education, work, etc)" Some firms go so far they could be describing life in a hippy commune or deodorant commercial. A solicitor named 'Paul' could almost be talking of a community art collective when he describes the life of a lawyer in the brochure for Freehills:'When I walk around the different floors, there's vibrancy about the place. Everyone is busy with interesting things, things they're enthusiastic about. People aren't running around constantly worried about that they have to do. You know people who are really busy but they're still remaining calm. It's a hospitable placeÃ¢ÂÂ¦you feel comfortableÃ¢ÂÂ¦it's pretty easy to fit in, regardless of where you come from or what you're like.' "Page 70:" In appropriating hippy language, big firms are using one of the oldest tricks of advertising: turning the greatest weakness of a brand into its greatest strength. Firms present themselves as champions of individualism, even when they require rigid conformity. They highlight flexibility and family friendliness even though they are notorious for expecting employees to work punishing hours. They emphasise freedom even though so many recruits who take big firm jobs end up feeling imprisoned. "Page 115:" 'You do feel like a bit of a rock star, to be honest. You get to catch cabs everywhere. They make you feel important.' " (Like you belong there, that people understand you and respect you)Page 124:(Heading) The private school/big firm education-industrial complex"The race for status will be familiar to anyone who attended an elite private school at which a similar sorting out of the social hierarchy takes place. Whose family has a tennis court? Who gets to go skiing in Aspen during the holidays? Who is the star rugby who helped win the premiership? Who has a beach house they can invite friends to? Whose father is a CEO? Whose mum drives a Mercedes? Whose big sister is always being photographed in the social pages? Whose sixteenth birthday party will be held on a yacht? Who is having a couture dress made for the school formal. In this way, and in so many others, big firms are just like private schools. Private schools in tall steel and glass towers."( Keeping up with the Joneses', fitting in with society's expectations, belonging with everyone else-materialistic view/perspective)***Ã¢ÂÂ¦(continued): "they have a clear social hierarchy, with recruits having secretaries just as they once had nannies, cleaners and women to do their ironing." (Belonging to such a lifestyle, what is normal for them may be different from everyone else's outlook on life.)Page 126:" Firms are willing to accept hothouse flowers if their marks are impressive enough, but if those hothouse flowers want to get along and prosper they will need to learn the ways of old roses. Why do big firms want old roses rather than hothouse flowers? Because they need people they can understand and trust. Trust means more than knowing that the recruit will not defraud the company or make silly technical errors. Trust means more than knowing that the recruit will act appropriately in a social setting. When a closing dinner takes palce at Flower Drum or Nobu or Rockpool or Claridge's, the firm wants to know that a recruit will not gawp at the surroundings and the prices. " (Successful firms want people who are able to fit in with society, those who belong with others, a social setting scene-apart from just academics contrary to popular belief/ Importance of belonging)Page 128:"What about the recruits who don't get it right, the ones who do not recognize proper corporate style and must walk every day upon a minefield embedded with a fashion faux pas? May Jesus save their souls. To dress in a manner which is ethnic rather than WASPY, to wear polyester or spread the collar of your blouse across the lapels of your jacket is to invite ridicule. To wear a suit with four buttons is a disaster, as is wearing a cheap white shirt through which others can spy a white singlet or chest hair. Fashion dunces who are oblivious to their mistakes may also be oblivious to the harsh criticism whispered by their colleagues." (Materialistic view-clothing-method of belonging in the firm, in society, in life. A superficial viewpoint)Page 130:" And, just as in private schools, there are insiders and outsiders and this distinction is dealt with discreetly yet decisively. 'No one ever gets expelled,' Sam says. 'It's that private school thing. That's not the way things work.' Just as private schools suggest that certain students might be a cultural fit at another school, the big firm outsiders who fail to shape themselves into the born-to-rule mould are told, in not so many words, that perhaps their future lies elsewhere. Outsiders, whether through lack of skill or lack of style, are given dud tasks. There is no shame in that, the bosses say: big firms aren't for everyone. Not everyone is 'partner material.' " (Contrast of insiders/outsiders, belonging vs not belonging in life.)Comfort, security and pastoral care (Heading)"Private school kids come from vibrant school communities in beautiful, well-tended settings where every student is a blessing. Strong pastoral care programs ensure that newcomers are teamed up with buddies in higher grades and school spirit is fostered through competitions with other private schools. By holding school musicals and dances with a brother or sister school of the same religious denomination and socio-economic status, relationships which do not cross class boundaries are encouraged. And so it is with big firms. Work takes place in pristine offices overlooking parks and water. Mentor and buddy programs ensure new arrivals are fully inducted into their new world, taken out for coffee and assured that the mentor is available to answer questions if necessary. " (Helping others to belong)Page 132:" To outsiders, a big firm is a big firm just as a private school is a private school. To insiders, there are endless nuances and graduations. Steps down and steps us. Mallesons or McKinsey might be Geelong Grammar or Sydney Grammar. Smaller corporate firms such as Henry Davis York might be a Roseville College or Loreto Normanhurst. Marsdens might be a suburban Catholic school. Big firm employees are teased about their particular firm's paper shredding scandal, corporate collapse or rumoured troubles in the same way that private school students are teased about their particular school's gay sex scandal, sporting failures or reputation as a repository of dumb rich kids or nerds or try-hards or losers.
Just as there are among Sydney's GPS schools (Greater Public Schools) some which claim to be the most elite of the boys' schools, there are similar categories in the corporate world. In law, there are Top Tier firms. In accountancy, there are the Big Five firms. In the London legal world there are Magic Circle firms which include the most prestigious operations such as Freshfields, Linklaters and Clifford Chance. The boundaries between these categories are carefully policed. When the firm Herbert Smith described itself in its recruitment literature as 'top tier', 'recognised as one of the UK's "Magic Circle" and 'one of the world's "global elite" law firms', internet posters scoffed. 'Categorically tell them that they are not in the Magic Circle and any attempt to state as much in their promotional material is tantamount to deception,' one poster wrote on the legal website www.rollonfriday.com. Ã¢ÂÂ¦ (Contrast between schools vs firms, belonging in both)I think that's a major tactical mistake on their part - it just makes them look desperate. As far as I can see, they are pretty much as good as any MC firm, but the desperation to be officially counted as part of the MC just takes the sheen off.' " (The want to belong may actually backfire)bibliographywww.booktopia.com.au/the-pin-striped-prison/prod9780330423502.htmlwww.smh.com.au/news/entertainment/books/book-reviews/the-pinstriped-prison/2008/09/19/1221331197568.htmlwww.panmacmillan.com.au/picador/display_title.asp?ISBN=9780330423502&Author=Pryor,%20Lisa - 31k