Is Your ‘Job Snobbery’ Keeping You Unemployed?

Judging is part of human nature. Everyone is a snob about something, the most prevalent being job snobbery.

You encounter job snobbery when you meet someone for the first time and, after judging your appearance, they inevitably ask: “What do you do”? Based on your response, they’re either delighted to meet you or look at their watch and excuse themselves. 

Asking, “What do you do?” is how we evaluate a person’s respectworthiness. This is why many people are concerned about their job title, which often they manipulate. Who has more status? “I’m the CEO of Logifire.” (Logifire is a yet-to-make-a-profit startup with 6 employees.) or “I manage a McDonald’s.” (You have 46 employees.)? Answer honestly: If you wanted to improve your golf game, who’d you rather work with, a Golf Instructor, a Golf Pro, or a Golf Performance Coach? 

Due to conditioning, we associate our identity with our job title. I know people who’ve declined a better-paying job with advancement opportunities because of the title. Such a high level of status anxiety baffles me. 

Western society prioritizes what a person does for a living over who they are. (e.g., a supportive partner, a food bank volunteer, a caretaker for an aging parent, bakes the best ginger molasses cookies) Sadly, most people don’t try to get to know someone beyond their job title. Experience that’s humbled me has taught me that a person’s job title is an unreliable shortcut to assessing their character. 

We grossly overvalue our work and job titles. There’s no moral argument for working a 40-70 hour week, chasing promotions that may or may not happen, trying to build a career. Regardless of how you answer, “What do you do?” your job does what every job does; it earns you money.

I say all this to raise this point; job seekers know they’ll be judged by their job. This “knowing” greatly influences their career choice and, therefore, their job searches. There’s no question that job seekers who seek jobs based on their perceived status have a much more frustrating and prolonged job search than job seekers simply seeking to earn a living, who are of the mindset that work is work.

Three recent encounters:

  1. At the beginning of this year, my wife and I purchased a new bed from a major furniture retailer. We were assisted by a knowledgeable salesman who appeared to be in his mid-50s and seemed to enjoy his job.
  2. Several weeks ago, my wife and I had dinner at a popular steakhouse with my niece and sister-in-law. Our server, who I’d also place in her mid-50s, was friendly, engaging, and forthcoming in telling us she was approaching 30 years of being a server at that steakhouse.
  3. During a recent visit to a company’s business unit, I spent a few minutes talking with the receptionist. She told me she’s been the receptionist for over 24 years and was happy.

All three encounters highlighted that making a living, even a good life, is possible when you put aside your job snobbery and seek out jobs that, because they lack status, are much easier to land. However, the key isn’t simply to land a job as a server but to master skills that’ll make you an outstanding server, resulting in substantial tips and repeat customers. The salesperson who sold my wife and me our bed interacted with us professionally and had extensive product knowledge. He was serious about his job; selling furniture wasn’t a stop-gap job.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to make decent money as a…

  • Server, bartender (The key is to work in a high-end establishment, where the average spend is higher and hence the average tip is higher.)
  • Furniture, clothing, electronics, or car salesperson (A retail job offering a base salary plus commission can be financially rewarding for those who hone their sales and customer service skills.)
  • An orderly
  • Custodian
  • Inside Sales (I know you’re thinking “telemarketing,” “cold calling.” There are inside sales positions paying a base salary plus commission, where you’re making calls to existing customers.)

The above-mentioned jobs, and many more, especially if they involve labour, are plentiful and, therefore, much easier to land than covenanted laptop jobs with fancy titles. As a job seeker, when you consider all the other candidates vying for the job you want, it’s liberating to just look for “work” (READ: a paycheck) where you have less competition.

Searching for “work” per se doesn’t require a radical pivot, such as obtaining more education, certification, or apprenticing. Your pivot is entirely mental. There’s no shame in having been laid off from your marketing director job and, after months of job hunting in today’s hyper-competitive job market, taking a job selling cars at your local Ford dealership. As long as you’re supporting yourself and your family, why care what others think?

With the competition for white-collar jobs intensifying—it’s an employer’s market— job seekers would be wise to put aside their job snobbery, disregard the views of others, and consider jobs that serve what should be their primary goal: to earn a living.

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Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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