Going to university after prematurely leaving high school with no qualifications and working for a decade was the best thing I ever did. And while I have a hundred opinions about the validity of a degree and the uselessness of a feminist-Marxist education in postmodern literature, I felt empowered by my education and the opportunities it might afford me. Which, I now know in hindsight, were not afforded at all.
I assumed that a degree was the first step to changing my career, without having to ‘work my way up’ which gives the job seeker an unrealistic hope that a GM would ever progressively promote the cleaner to sales manager in a hundred thousand moons. I figured a degree would at least start me below the middle where I could work my way up, but trying to get a foot in the door of a new industry is about the hardest thing I’ve ever tried. The much waxed upon idea of ‘transferable skills’ is about as redundant as I am. Of course my skills are transferable; this is how I get through life without drowning every time I go for a swim at a new beach. Just because I haven’t used your particular computer doesn’t mean I can’t use the skills I’ve learnt on a hundred others to complete the tasks. The most meaningless example I’ve seen of ‘transferable skills’ was the job ad for a hotel maid that stated ‘previous hotel cleaning experience required’. Previous experience in what? Making a bed? Cleaning glasses? Vacuuming? Fucking tick, tick, tick, you sanctimonious pricks. If I ever live in a world where a hotel maid needs a diploma to clean a room, I’ll die.
It’s the same story for much other unskilled labour; the insistence that bartenders or retail workers require ‘experience’. I can state with certainty that if you are smart enough to maintain basic bodily hygiene, you can definitely pour a beer and wipe counters or hang clothes up and be a bitch. The most basic of morons who can connect to the internet can use a POS system, which are purposefully designed for the sophomoric employees that will inevitably use them. You do not need ‘experience’ to work in these jobs. In fact, at the bar I worked in, every drink had its own button on the register – if you can’t figure that system out then you should be in a special home, not pouring my beer. Skills can be taught on the job. What you can’t teach is how to relate to people, how to be responsible and how to not lie or steal. If you like the person, hire them – I’m sure they’ll be able to pick up your idiosyncratic stock management software in a few weeks and you won’t have to work with an insufferable jockstrap.
Even Anthony Bourdain agrees with me:
When a job applicant starts telling me how Pacific Rim-job cuisine turns him on and inspires him, I see trouble coming. Send me another Mexican dishwasher anytime. I can teach him to cook. I can’t teach character. Show up at work on time six months in a row and we’ll talk about red curry paste and lemon grass. Until then, I have four words for you: “Shut the fuck up.”
Jobs that want recent graduates with 1-2 years relevant work experience are dreamin’. So you turned eighteen, went to university and maybe found time for a part time job while you were there (good for you) and now you’re a fresh faced graduate who has to find an entry level job to get you into an entry level job? Exhausting. Even the worst salesmen among us find ourselves having to sell ourselves which is way harder than trying to convince someone to buy an insurance policy. The world of job hunting is fraught with rehearsed explanations and unfair value judgements and to succeed, kid, you’re gonna have to join ‘em. So while you always want to be honest, you never want to be frank.
I assume it’s much the same for those over ‘a certain age’ looking for work. While ancient society might have revered the elderly for their experience and wisdom, we condemn them because they don’t want to Snapchat. There is more to a functioning work environment than youth and dick pics. It may pay to have a few young attractive people at work – because they’re nice to flirt with, but if my dog dies I want to go talk to Barbara who has three grandchildren and will embrace me in her bosom. Barbara not only brings a staggering set of knockers to work, but a lifetime of ‘transferable skills’ that she can apply to everything from canine expiration to infinity. There’s a lot to be said for an old fashioned work ethic.
But if you’re fortunate enough to be a trust fund kid or someone that can live in the back of a van and eat freegan, then think of the job market as a hilarious human interest experiment and go have fun with it. Hell, do that even if you’ve got a crippling student loan that you can’t face because it’s so ripe to be lampooned.