Experienced Fry Cook or Why We Should Stop Looking For Jobs and Make Them Instead

The other day I was browsing online for job openings in Nashville.  I have friends that are in the market for full time jobs and I like to help spot anything that might be useful if I can.  But it seems like everyone is having a tough time getting any momentum on their applications these days.  No big revelation there.  Many people work for hours on the perfectly crafted cover letter and a résumé laden with job-specific keywords and don’t receive even so much as a “thanks for your application, the position has been filled”.  Nothing.  Nada.

Every customer service line you’ve ever called is picked up first by a machine, but we can’t even send an automatic reply to job applicants saying, heythanks chump.

Jobs have gone from a right to a privilege to the holy grail of the generation that was told “YOU MUST GO TO COLLEGE TO GET A JOB“.  Those graduates now find themselves fighting each other over a handful of unpaid internships without even the promise of a position once the internship is over.  The Corporate Ladder is now so far gone that it only exists as a distant memory.  Something from an episode of Mad Men. 
If you want a modern analogy, here you go…
If you’re looking for a job, then you’re hoping you’re Brad Pitt, which we all do.  The job is the helicopter which is only going to be there for a hair of a second and will only pick you up if you time everything perfectly and the zombies are all the thousands of other people you’re competing against for every…single…job.
So what is the state of the job market now?  Let me give you a little perspective…
As I was browsing job postings I came across one listed for a restaurant in Nashville, the words that stuck out at me most were these…Experienced Fry Cook.  
Let’s ruminate on that for a minute.  Fry cook.  EXPERIENCED Fry Cook.  We have now reached a level of critical mass of applicants vs. openings that a small restaurant can now afford to filter out anyone they might have to spend 10 minutes of training to do a minimum wage/no benefits/part-time job.  
I reminds me of a story I read about a guy who made a fake craigslist job posting to see what he was up against because he couldn’t get any traction with his job applications and got over 650 applications in the first 24 hours before he took the posting down.  That gives you some idea of the situation.
So what now?

Do we curl up in the fetal position with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and curse the cruel world for the bait and switch that was pulled on everyone?  For an hour, sure.  Then you gotta get stand up and brush yourself off and think about what we can do next.  What’s the solution here?  More education that comes with more debt?  You did 50 job applications this week so next week you should do 300?  I don’t think any of these are real solutions to the problem.  I also think depending all of our monetary needs upon the backs of a few giant corporate entities is how we ended up here in the first place.  

The first thing you have to know is that no matter what people tell you about how a master’s degree is now what a bachelor’s degree was 15 years ago, experience will always trump education.  You can disagree with me, but you’re probably not in the job market or trying to justify your doctorate in Russian poetry.  The reason being is that everyone has a degree now, or it at least seems like it, but no one has done the damned job.  Everyone is trying to fight over an entry level job to get some experience in something, anything.  
The people graduating today from trade skills or experience-driven programs can pick their spot.  You know, those people the academics have sneered at for so long.  The plumbers, electricians, carpenters, pest-removal experts (they get their own reality show to boot).  They also make about double what most university grads are getting out of the gate.  
The reason is we’ve spent the last 40 years telling people that getting a college degree was more important than experience.  We told people that if you didn’t get a degree you’d be stuck pumping gas, or flipping burgers…or cooking fries.  Nowadays everyone is telling us to get a degree in computer science, to learn programming, to learn to code.  Everyone should learn to code!  They’re shouting it from the god damned rooftops.  Great idea, except in 5-10 years, we’ll have 100 million coders with nothing to do and they’ll all be applying for the same 5 jobs because they read everything about coding, but no one made a program or an app.   
So I hear you bitching a lot, but not coming up with a solution, chumI can hear you saying.  To me, the simple solution is this: we need to work for ourselves.  We need to start businesses, choose experience over theory.  MAKE THINGS.  We need to experiment, to fail, to try again, to fail better.  I’ll elaborate more on this in the next post, I’ve already drolled on long enough on this one, but the point is that we have to stop putting all of our hopes and dreams and possibilities in the hands of faceless corporate entities.  
When you can’t even compete for a job dropping a basket of frozen fries in a bucket of oil without having had firsthand experience, it’s time to reassess how much power over our future we give to other people and take the control back in our lives.

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