If you don’t want to work in dead-end jobs, stop applying for them


As I gradually begin my descent from self-absorbed twenty-something into the depths of socially-conscious, what’s-wrong-with-kids-today adult, one of the things that bothers me the most is seeing people waste their potential. I typically refer to this as textbook self-sabotage, and can rant at length on the subject for hours. I won’t do that all in one post, but I will give you a taste.

One of the ways my Millennial peers screwitallup is by failing to aggressively seek out and pursue a challenging and rewarding job.

It is all too common to see young people languish in food services, retail and common labor even though that’s not where they want to be. To add insult to injury, they often have university educations and a skill set above bagging groceries that’s not being put to use.

Sidenote: the employment environment is not created equal across all geographic locations. Some of my peers are languishing in service and retail out of necessity and I have no criticism for that, you do what you gotta do! However, in many places there is nothing but opportunity going entirely un-seized, and watching this waste of potential is infuriating, hence my ranting.

How do intelligent, skilled young workers get trapped in going-nowhere-fast employment even when they had bigger and brighter dreams for themselves?

They applied for it.


I hear many, many, many people complaining about their job and insisting they want something different, but when it comes to job hunting, I never see them actually go for the job they want. I don’t know why this is. One of my guesses is that many people seek out similar employment to what they’ve worked in the past because they feel comfortable doing those tasks and know what to expect. If you’ve served tables before, finding another serving job is easy and something you know that you can do.

Sticking with what you know might seem like a good idea, but it’s doing you more harm than good. Every year you spend working in unskilled jobs is a year you’re not working a professional one. As I get closer and closer to 30, I see more of my friends that have spent their entire twenties working menial employment. It seemed harmless at 22, but at 29 irreversible damage to their resumes has been done.

What young twenty-somethings need to do is apply for the jobs that they think are just out of their reach.

They might think they don’t have enough experience for it, but truthfully, most entry-level professional jobs are expecting kids that don’t have much experience — what they aren’t expecting is 30-somethings that have spent the past decade as a cashier, so don’t be that applicant.

If you really don’t believe you have the right experience or skill set to get a better job, the time to get those skills and experience is RIGHT NOW. One of the easiest ways to do this is volunteering. Keep your current job in whatever, and then in your free time start boosting that resume with transferrable skills. You should aim for volunteer positions that will teach you whatever your current job isn’t giving you: social media management, event planning, public speaking, etc. While walking dogs for your local animal shelter is a good way to give back, you have to find something that gives more to you. It might feel like unpaid labor, but it will payoff a lot in future salary years when you finally get the type of job you want.

So stop aiming low, and start applying for the jobs you actually want.

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8 Comments. Leave new

  • This is great advice! You can’t expect to get what you want unless you try and take it.

  • Great advice. It’s also important to be proactive when applying for jobs. Network, network, network. And follow up. Don’t just be another another name on a piece of paper.

  • It seems that some people are really afraid of change and trying new things. They’re probably the ones that need it the most. What’s worse? Applying for that dream job and getting rejection or not even bothering to apply and wondering what if?

  • Yes! Stretch, even if you don’t hit all of the bullet points in the job listing.

  • I sort of have mixed feelings about this…on the one hand, I see what you’re saying. There’s definitely an overall lack of ambition among a lot of 20-somethings, coupled with this weird idea that the stuff you do in your twenties doesn’t matter (re: Meg Jay) so why not just work some crappy job and figure it out later…this attitude is definitely detrimental to young peoples’ long term career and earning prospects.

    But on the other hand if there are simply no jobs to be had I’d rather see someone work a menial job than no job at all. I think it’s pretty messed up when people think they’re “above” earning money just because the job doesn’t meet their standards.

  • I know so many people that need to read this article. Great post and keep challenging people!

  • Although sometimes you’ve just gotta take whatever job you can to pay the bills, I think at the end of the day you need to choose a job you want. If you’re unhappy in your job, it’s gonna roll over into other parts of your life so go for the jobs you really want!

  • I think this is a good point. Sometimes you have to say things out just to get people talking about it! I think perhaps one exception is the few people that have to work crappy jobs while going after some bigger goal. These things are far more talked about than actually done, but if you truly are making lattes while going to school part time, or getting a certification, studying for a general exam for professional school, etc these jobs can be flexible, (sometimes) low stress and readily available.


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