Job Snobbery: Helpful Motivational Tool or Shameful Hindrance

Are you a job snob? C'mon, admit it. Are there certain positions or places of business that you just couldn't abide for whatever reason?

Not ready to talk about it? Ok, I'll go first. I'm ashamed to say I've come to the recent realization that I am a job snob.

Exhibit A:

During an early afternoon last fall, I was really dragging. In between interviews for articles I was writing and buying birthday presents for upcoming parties my children would be attending (or hoped to attend if I could just get the details right in my calendar-I'm sorry, Elise!), I decided to pay a visit to what is, to me, the happiest place on earth: Starbucks.

Holding that steaming cup of whatever dark roast is on tap is as close to a religious experience as I can get without stepping inside a church. So before I make this confession, let's get something straight, when it's 2 p.m. and I'm fighting the urge to curl up for a nap in the third row of my minivan, there's no one I love more than my friendly barista.

And yet, I as stumbled in prepared to grab a pound of my beloved French Roast to go and a medium- (sorry, "grande"-) sized elixir guaranteed to propel me through the next 8 hours of activities, something went horribly wrong.

The barista was no nose-pierced, androgynous, would-be slam poet; it was a mom. A mom I know. Wearing the whole black hat and apron. And she looked happy, or as happy as one can while trying to process the complex orders ("Venti Soy Caramel Macchiato - not too full!!") barked by the public above the roar and spit of the foaminator. (I'm guessing that's not the technical term for it, but you know what I'm talking about.)

Honestly, my reaction to seeing her smiling face was shameful. I lurched backwards, the way I imagine I would if I walked in on her sitting on a toilet, before fumbling through my, "Hey, how are you? I love this place!" I gushed as if she were Howard Schultz, clearly overcompensating for my initial shock.

When I was back in my car, I felt so strange because:

 a) it wasn't like I was Katie Couric or BeyoncĂ© where I had any right feel like my own career was so glamorous


b) if we went head-to-head in a hours vs. earnings battle, I'm sure that woman was doubling my wage handily

So why did I recoil as if I'd just caught her buying yeast infection medication? Clearly, she wasn't being held there against her will and Fortune consistently ranks the java giant among the best companies to work for, so what's my problem?

I wish I could say this was a one-off, but it wasn't.

Exhibit B

Earlier this year, I discovered that my son's former preschool teacher is currently working at Old Navy. This woman, previously a force to be reckoned with as she expertly shepherded youngsters through cutting and pasting, was wearing what appeared to be five layers of cardigans as her register was a mere six feet from the exit.

As I waited in a line that snaked past colorful dog bowls and Hello Kitty underpants, I couldn't help but wonder: How did she end up here? Gambling debt? Escaping an abusive husband? A gripping denim addiction? Though it was none of my business, I was dying to know what drove her out of the classroom and into the arms of the Gap's hillbilly cousin.

I'm sure teaching the not-quite-potty-trained set gets old fast and maybe there's an amazing physical release that comes with screaming out for a price check, but still, I felt stunned. I'm embarrassed to say I prayed another register might open to spare us from making small talk. It didn't. And when I approached her, her eyes betrayed no flicker of recognition, to the point that if she hadn't been wearing a nametag, I would've doubted it was she.

When I left, a million questions spun through my mind. Was it a sign of the times that skilled professionals were now turning to retail? Or, were they simply supplementing their income? Was it a dearth of opportunity? To paraphrase Jack Johnson, "Where'd all the good jobs go?"  Or, are these careers less stressful? Let's face it, when you're done you're done. No one follows you home to ask you for a peasant blouse in medium or to fix a Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino. Your email probably isn't blowing up and you can sleep knowing what you'll face tomorrow will be much like what you encountered today.

Or, did they take these jobs as a rest stop on the way to the next big thing? That whole "bird in the hand beats two in the bush" thing?

I know from personal experience that sitting on the sidelines waiting for greatness can sometimes backfire. The summer after I graduated from college, I was holding out hope of landing a job in the world of publishing. Books, magazines, newspapers, text books, I didn't care, I just wanted in. So, while biding my time, I babysat for what felt like every child within a 10 mile radius, mainly because my dad was all: "You'd better do something because I didn't just pay for you to go to college so you could sit around all day watching Love Connection.

And one evening, as I was wiping up puddles of toddler vomit, he called to say, "You have an interview if you want it" at a financial company ... in customer service. It wasn't publishing but it meant I could say goodbye to Barney and runny noses. And so, in a moment of weakness, I dialed that corporation as fast as I could and ended up spending 18 months in what turned out to be a crazy sweatshop of a call center, donning a headset that practically wore a bald patch into the side of my skull. Even though it wasn't really the right move, I made an incredible friend whose humor and support have lasted two decades.

So I guess the moral of the story is: there is no perfect job (but if you know of one please share it in the comments section). Each position is really what you make it. And while I'd like to say that my job snobbery has motivated me to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company that makes enormous charitable contributions, clearly it hasn't or I wouldn't be writing a snarky blog about unemployment.

As the months since my lay-off continue to mount, being a job snob probably isn't serving me well as pride and hubris are unlikely to make me too popular when I end up in a trailer park.

And perhaps, just perhaps, "Would you like fries with that?" is the new black anyway.


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