Employable Priorities

I bit the bullet and took another part time job. (That’s right—another. I already have two while freelancing on the side.) Despite my already busy schedule and a growing list of artistic to-dos, the impending holiday season and a slew of friends with weddings on their mind convinced me that my current freelance schedule might not cut it in the near future. And so, I am now a “Brand Ambassador” for a company that will remain nameless here. But suffice it to say, it’s a big one. You’ve heard of it.

To be honest, I was dreading the first training session. I’ve worked as part-time labor in a few fields, and I’m used to being treated as another body, a tool. My happiness level was of little concern to the bosses, as long as my body was present. I’m used to entering into jobs on the offense—immediately assuming that I needed to protect myself. A “stay strong” and “stand up for yourself” mantra is necessary to ensure that the lowly part-timer isn’t taken advantage of. I’ve always had to fight for fair hours, fair pay, and even a foundational level of respect.

But this job was immediately different. Everything about it was fun. We were given fancy food for breakfast and lunch, and when it came time to discuss our uniforms, the whole new team was taken to American Apparel and given a $350 budget to pick out whatever we wanted. We also were thrown presents: a phone, headphones, notebooks, a jacket, etc. To top it off, the last two hours of training were dedicated to a happy hour and bowling. I felt like my jaw was on the floor throughout the entire process.

This feeling of being valued, of being respected as part of a team was new to me. And here’s the kicker: This is by far the least-skilled position I’ve ever worked. Even hostessing was significantly harder a job that takes knowledge of the restaurant and an organizational prowess. This current job of high wages and perks is just plain easy.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I labor over a piece of academic writing—researching, writing, editing, and editing again. It takes hours of dedicated brainpower and inevitably causes more hours of anxious re-thinking. All this to hopefully publish in a journal that doesn’t even pay. But I rake in the dough standing around with a smile plastered to my face.

I’m grateful for this easy part-time job and its perks. And I think that all jobs, part-time or full, easy or hard, deserve fair wages and respect. But it does strike me that our values are a little off. Selling a product that objectively does nothing to better our world is a sought after job replete with perks galore, while highly skilled artistic and scholarly work that brings joy, knowledge, and awareness to the community around it is more often than not done for free. Where did we go wrong here?



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