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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Would You Work at Starbucks?

After publishing my last post, "Volunteering During a Downturn - Can You Do It?" a friend of mine, who reads this blog, asked what I thought of working at a place like Starbucks during this recession. He asked me if I thought that the Starbucks question was a blogworthy topic... and I thanked my lucky stars that someone is actually out there reading this stuff, and promptly answered, "Yes!"

Obviously, if you are a teen-ager, recent high-school grad, or undergraduate college student working at "the buckets", as I like to call it, is fine. However, such entry-level, minimum-wage, and certain service jobs, or so-called, "dead-end-jobs" seem undesirable to many adults. After all, working as a peer with people who are 5, 10, 20 or more years younger that oneself can seem degrading, and to some, doing so in a public, customer-facing situation would mean hazarding a reputational risk (either real or imagined).

For my part, I worked at a coffee house, years ago, when I was an undergraduate, but that is a story for my "Jobs" blog. However, I'm about 5 posts from addressing it there.

Anywho, I have no qualms about taking a paying job in any field that doesn't make me feel badly about myself. However, a job about which I am comfortable, may not work well for someone else. I have not been employed for A VERY LONG TIME NOW (see my archived posts), so I'm probably a lot less picky than people who think that this recession happened when the stock market crashed last October.

So, when my real job ended many moons ago, I applied to literally thousands of places paying equal to, significantly less than, and a good deal greater than what I had been earning. However, after getting interviews at only a couple of dozen places, I was offered only 2 jobs that each paid 10/hr, (during two different junctures) and guess what... I TOOK THEM. The first was in telemarketing, and surprisingly, it was not easy to get that job. I applied, didn't hear from anyone for about three weeks, and then called the contact person when I saw the same job advertised again, where I'd discovered it originally. I believe that I had not been called initially because HR thought that someone with my academic background, and experience would not really want to work there. Boy were they wrong!

I'd work at any place that would help me to pay my bills. ... Okay; that's not exactly true. To be completely honest, and I don't expect that I'll hurt any feelings when I say this, I draw the line at anything that pays below $7.50/hr. (After all, the current minimum wage is $7.25) And, I'll be out of there as soon as something better comes along, because of a not so little concept called, "Opportunity Cost". So, turnover is a real concern for employers, considering hiring someone who has ever made significantly more than what the current job is paying. Also, I am one of those people who will cross the street, or will get off of a bus if someone sneezes without covering his/her mouth; so, I'm not interested in sanitation, maintenance, or hospital work. Call me crazy, but I HATE GERMS!

But Starbucks? I would work there in a heartbeat! I should be working there right now. I love that place. I love all such places. They've got ambiance, and honestly... what more can you ask for in a workplace (besides good pay, nice co-workers, and a friendly boss?)

Finally, regardless of the attributes of my resume, I took the second of the earlier-mentioned $10/hr jobs. I graded tests. That type of job was fine for me. I.e., I didn't feel ashamed to work there simply because it paid the same as jobs that I'd had in high school. However, it was depressing to see so many teachers, engineers, former government administrators, and otherwise well-educated, articulate people all crammed into one giant room, like lambs being led to a slaughter. I mean, everyone looked so defeated, as if this was not how they had imagined the culmination of their years of hard work and dedication to intellectual pursuits. No longer admirable citizens in their chosen professions, sacrificing pay for respect, they were low-paid, relatively low-status workers, who had to take tests continuously, just to keep their assignments, and maintain the right to grade the tests of people who hadn't yet graduated from high-school. Furthermore, most of us had our broken-down cars parked in the lot, where we could go to take our 1/2 hour breaks, before dashing back, to clock-in to our non-assigned computers, post rushed pee. (Pardon my potty-mouth ; )  Worse, there were always at least two people whose cars had died, and who needed to get a jump from someone else whose battery could barely stand it. Further, many of the people there were holding that job along with 1 or 2 others in order to make ends meet, and it was wearing them down. Long story short, their dissatisfaction was contagious, and it weighed on me.

By contrast, the atmosphere at that place seems so different than that of Starbucks, or Caribou Coffee (for those of you who live in the Midwest/USA). Generally speaking, coffee houses seem more upbeat than a lot of white-collar jobs that pay a tad bit more. I think it's because taking a job at a Starbucks seems like something that you might do on a lark, for fun, or just to interact with people in a cool environment. Whereas working at some other places seems like settling into a life of mediocrity and failure. Still both types of jobs seem like they should be viewed as temporary for anyone who is ambitious. After all, who wants to be the creepy old, can-only-afford-to-be-junk-food-fed, misshapen, oddball in the corner, who all of the young, and upwardly mobile kids have to vouch for when customers report, "There's a strange person, whose been sitting in that corner for about a 1/2 hour."?

Barista (Whispering): "Oh. Ugh. No. He (She) works here. This is just his (her) lunch break."

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A Jab At Work Poetry (Poetry about Work)

“Work” by AJA-B, 08/30/09

The life I live is full of Joy,
But fool of sadness have I been,
If rumblings uttered prove us coy,
Then, truth be told both where, and when,
Was once a pair that teetered then,
O’er brinks or hills,
That they could scarce,
Find liquid, bars of salt, but bills,
And toil, though notice paid none dare’st,
To sweat, and pack, and tape, and wrap,
To call, and quest, rebuffed for cost,
To drive five states, and back, for gas
Traverse, from here to there to drink,
While aching back, and sweat-soaked shirt,
Proved naught the laborers’ worth, but stink,
And why should hecklers, wreckers blurt,
And hurl insults until they hurt,
While hypocrites sit conditioned in,
Till out a pair sent all they’d earned,
To others seeking extra, win,
‘gainst those that taught themselves, and learned,
Volumes, nearly choked and burned,
As plumes of hate, and stacks of smoke,
Sparked flames, which brinksmanship, did stoke,
Hellacious fires that GOD awoke,
& Smote the devils’ flames whose’ fire,
Could not the heights of clouds aspire,
& Up the pair in now a shell,
found seeds to plant that vines did swell,
Fat, filling, fruit and tasty cheer,
Revealing teeth, “from ear to ear,”
Now brimming, happily forgiving, hope,
Refilling cranial stores to find,
Surviving, counts for little more than sustaining life, and wasting time.

Digressing now though more is there,
I advise you work, but ne’er care,
Hard work, and success are not the same,
But without the first you’ll reap the blame,
For being weak, and seeming lame,
To end I wish you all the best,
Catharsis exhausts, I needs must rest,
Good luck, “You’re hired” I hope you’ll find,
To ease your cares, and soothe your mind.

© 2009 AJA-B

A Jab at Work Survey

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