The Value of Crummy Jobs

This is a great article, by James Franco, on the value he got from working at McDonald’s as a young person.

It is a very sad thing to me that young people do not get jobs as often as they used to.  Some of that I suspect is because regulation makes it increasingly difficult to hire people, and the lowest-skilled people will always bear the brunt of that (pay attention, you who think raising the minimum wage is a good idea).  Some of it, I suspect, is the narcissism of our society, especially among the youth, many of whom I think would find it degrading to do any such thing as burger-flipping.  I also suspect that there is a similar dynamic as that which happened in the American South during slavery, where menial work was associated with an underclass and therefore something that no self-respecting white man would do.  In Colorado, in the cities, I noticed a few years back that virtually all of the fast food jobs were held by Mexicans, many of whom seemed like native Spanish speakers to me.  If it was true in Colorado I expect it is even more true in other places.  So a great many entry-level jobs- fast food, janitorial, landscaping, etc- would be associated with Mexican immigrants and something no respectable middle-class white kid would do.

It’s sad, because a great deal can be learned from these kinds of jobs.  I worked at Taco Bell and Furr’s Cafeteria for the first few years of my working life.  I made minimum wage.  I suspect I was barely worth that.  I was lazy and unfocused.  And I got criticized for it.  Every young person, as soon as possible, needs to go work for someone who doesn’t care very much about their feelings; especially young men.  It is highly motivating.  I learned some of the most important life skills at those jobs- how to be on time for things, how to meet expectations, how to work with a team, how to take orders from a boss.  And I learned the joy of a job well done and a paycheck I’d worked hard for.  Some of those lessons took years to sink in.  But the seeds were sown there.  Those simple lessons are 90% of your success at any career you pursue.

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