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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

The Issue

So here’s the issue right now. Colleges see more and more students who don’t need or want to be there because there’s supposedly no life without a college diploma these days. Yet many entry level positions stand unfilled. Mention the word “receptionist” to any small business owner and you will plunge then into a bout of dejection. They either can’t find anybody or find people who make them lose faith in humanity.

Example. People come to work and discover that the email doesn’t work. The server is down. So what does the receptionist do? She sends an email to everybody at the company, informing them that the email doesn’t work. This is a company with six employees who are all sitting right there, 15 feet away from her. 

You’ll say well, this can happen to anybody, it’s not that big of a deal. But what if it’s a daily occurrence? Literally every day something like this happens. You’ll say hire somebody else. But what if it’s receptionist number 6, and it’s the exact same story every time?

It’s a very widespread issue that is the same independent of region or type of business in question. These are low-paid jobs that don’t really lead anywhere. So the workers are not motivated to take them seriously. There is no culturally approved narrative for them to integrate this kind of professional life into their worldview.

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21 thoughts on “The Issue

  1. Alex the Physicist on said:

    I have no answers, but you are identifying the right problems.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have no answers either, unfortunately.

      Like

      • Alex the Physicist on said:

        I think the answers involve a mix of community college certificates and parents and high school teachers who promote that as a good option. And I’m pretty sure the community colleges would be happy to accept the students who have the academic skills to get into college, the personal organization to finish college if they want, but more interest in a job than a 4-year degree. The problem is getting people to find that acceptable.

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  2. If there were national health insurance, decent retirement, decent vacation time, decent maternity/paternity leave, and some sort of civic life and community life, then the people in these jobs wouldn’t be condemned to a kind of unter-life. Since these things don’t exist they need a really good job.

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  3. Maybe they should stop hiring bimbos…

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  4. ” These are low-paid jobs that don’t really lead anywhere”

    One problem is that the business world made the collective decision back in the 1980s for these jobs to not lead anywhere and that is maintained by lots of other processes.

    Remember the post about the two cleaning ladies? One, in the 1970s, was able to rise in the company to an executive position and the other (now) can never rise higher than head cleaning lady.

    Lots of people say that the 1970s model is dead, but it’s only dead because people want it to be dead.

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    • I ordered this notebook online that was still in production and took over 3 weeks to get to me. And the wait was almost intolerable because I’m already addicted to instant gratification. That’s the hardest things for me personally, to wait for gratification. I don’t necessarily blame younger people who haven’t even seen anything but the instant gratification model for not embracing the life journey of the 1970s cleaning woman.

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      • “I don’t necessarily blame younger people who haven’t even seen anything but the instant gratification model for not embracing the life journey of the 1970s cleaning woman.”

        My point with the cleaning lady story (didn’t you read it?)

        isn’t that people don’t want to work but that that promotion from service to management is now structurally impossible. Companies don’t hire cleaning staff they contract a cleaning company which is maybe convenient but creates a de facto caste system of employment.

        At one time the big hurdle was getting your foot in the door and then seeing what was possible. That’s dead. And ethical employers like your sister are paying the price. It’s not enough for her to offer a good job if no one applying knows what a good opportunity even is.

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  5. Just a bit more. The fact that the conventional wisdom is to outsource lower level positions and close off promotion channels (except from outside or for people with connections) hurts people like your sister who tries to be an ethical employer as it does working class people.

    This, is another drawback of capitalism, it rewards short term profitable (but longerm stupid) thinking over longterm good judgement and ethics.

    I could go on, but I won’t for right now.

    Like

  6. Shakti on said:

    People come to work and discover that the email doesn’t work. The server is down. So what does the receptionist do? She sends an email to everybody at the company, informing them that the email doesn’t work. This is a company with six employees who are all sitting right there, 15 feet away from her.
    Funny.
    No amount of money or schooling is going to remedy a lack of common sense. However, the conditioning which leads people not to problem solve (let’s restart the router!) starts well before their first entry level professional job. After that many people learn that such problem solving isn’t rewarded (at best) and often punished.

    I think the answers involve a mix of community college certificates and parents and high school teachers who promote that as a good option. And I’m pretty sure the community colleges would be happy to accept the students who have the academic skills to get into college, the personal organization to finish college if they want, but more interest in a job than a 4-year degree. The problem is getting people to find that acceptable.
    HA HA HA HA Nope. The problem with that is these “certificates” are worth exactly nothing on the job market. Not when there are people with associate degrees, college degrees and master’s degrees competing for the same jobs.

    Yet many entry level positions stand unfilled. Mention the word “receptionist” to any small business owner and you will plunge then into a bout of dejection. They either can’t find anybody or find people who make them lose faith in humanity.
    So, what I see missing is what rates the small business owner pays for that position relative to others advertising the same position. Or what signals they’re sending out.

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    • “After that many people learn that such problem solving isn’t rewarded (at best) and often punished.”

      YES! If people are treated like cogs who should not show any incentive for 20 years or more you can’t expect them to stop just because the employer is nicer than usual.

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    • I don’t think people are stupid or anything like that. I think the email story is a result of simply not giving a toss.

      I know a much older lady who works at a convenience store. It would be very helpful to organize field trips for students to look at her professionalism, pride in her work, and the dignity she has. I go there even when I don’t need anything because it’s a great pick-me-up for whenever I feel tired and indifferent.

      And it’s not the age. I also know a very young guy at another store who’s also like that. Working class people don’t seem to have this problem. It’s the lower-level office work that seems to be the worst.

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      • I always cite the example of a woman who worked for years in the duplication/supply room. She was super enthusiastic about her job, always ready to help, and always in a good mood. She made a pittance, like the grad student salary here — maybe $23-24k — yet was always such a positive presence and proud of her job. I admire the people who take their job seriously and with pride, regardless of what the job is.

        Liked by 1 person

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