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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Impediment to Gainful Employment: Expecting too much too quickly

There is an insidious attitude that I think underscores many situations of unemployment and underemployment. I've seen it in the world at large. And I've seen it in the frum community. But as I see it, when this attitude rears its head in the frum community (in America or in Israel), the effects on the community at large are far more direct.

The infamous "Ed," who likes to spend his blogging hours disagreeing with Rabbi Harry Maryles posted a comment that underscores this bad attitude in all its glory. It appears below with emphasis added and a minor spelling change or two below.

A Meshulach from Kiryat Sefer knocked on my door, and I offered him a drink which he graciously accepted. He seemed not to mind to relax a couple minutes, so I had a little talk with him.

In a polite way, I asked him why so few avreichim are willing to study and work. He responded along the lines, that to begin with, the Matzav Ha'parnassa is in general very difficult. The million or so Russians which have recently immigrated are willing to work for much less as their needs are much less, and they have overtaken a significant part of the job market.

To have a good job, it usually requires one to be in the Chiloni "territory", where the anti religious atmosphere is very strong. Thus, it is in general a Matzav of Sakana Ruchni and therefore discouraged as many are not able to withstand the constant pressure and ridicule.

He mentioned that in America, this is not so. Here, we are among mainly Goyim and its much easier to create lines that ought not to be crossed.

Whereas there in EY, the lines are very often blurred. (Take for example the Daat Emet site, where he attempts to use Torah to disprove Torah. For one who isn't particularly knowledgeable in certain specifics, his anti Torah arguments can sometimes sound very persuasive.)

Whereas in America, where frum Jews are much more influential and have much unity, its a lot easier having many people in the workforce since they have a strong Torah community as a backbone. Whereas for example France lacks that, and therefore, there's a stronger need for a stricter adherence to Torah.

The attitude underscored is one that cripples employability. An entry level worker who expects far too much, far too quickly in terms of pay, hours, and location is just not an attractive candidate. And, entry level workers are disposable. If this one won't take the job for $30,000 annual salary, there are three in line behind him who will. And if the employee in line behind expresses more flexibility regarding location or shifts, you can be sure that the first entry level candidate will be told to go to the back of the line.

One cannot ask for a salary beyond what the market will bear. One must expect to put in their time and be rewarded later. Those who expect too much too soon are bound to be passed up even when applying for minimum wage jobs! Landing a job is a competitive process, and so one must compete.

I remember landing my first job as an employee during the summer following my first year of college. I called nearly every contact in the classifieds if I thought I was remotely qualified: camp counselor, hostess in a restaurant, secretary, front desk person, telemarketer, ice cream scooper, dish washer. . . .you name it, I applied. Unable to wait it out and watch the summer go by making it more unlikely I would land a job, I took the first job I was offered.

It was a minimum wage job at $4.10 an hour. But I couldn't be unthankful. I was lucky to get that job! The employer didn't really need me. There were other people willing to take the job too. But, I think he chose me over the others because I was willing to work almost any shift that he asked of me. I had scheduled the accounting class that I was taking at 6:30 AM to be available to take nearly any job that would come up, and I ended up with a busy schedule that summer since I often ended up working the late night shift at this job. I also had a second job tutoring and I took a third job later in the summer which involved some heavier labor (at $8.00 a hour).

While the job offered me no marketable skills (unless you can count cleaning up after other people at the end of the day, something I do far too often now), it offered me a chance to prove that I could be a loyal and reliable employee, and it gave me something to put on my resume that involved working for someone besides me or my father.

I'm really glad that at this point in my life I have been able to bury my few jobs in the annals of history. But, I expect that when I return to full time work for an employer someday, I will be expected to demonstrate the same flexbility and loyalty that landed me those first two jobs and the professional jobs that followed.

On a related note: a couple of Pesachs ago, my son took an interest in watching a family that would drive through the neighborhood collecting trash that had value to them. For little children, dirty work does not seem to lack respect, as even the trash collector can be a hero for a little boy. We saw this family at least three times during the Chag as they would appear in various parts of the neighborhood.

It sparked an interesting conversation between me and my husband about what types of work we would be willing to do should that ever become necessary. While we never reached a hard and fast conclusion (nor do I wish that upon us), we did conclude that employment is far superior to unemployment.


Anonymous said...

I think you mean "impediment", not "impetus" in the title.

SephardiLady said...

Oops. You are correct. I had to cut and paste this post and a few things were changed. I think I even started with a different title.

Oh well. Any other comments?

just another jewish accontant said...

love this post - it is something i have said many times before. I see many younger people (including college grads) that have absurd expectations about working including salary, flexibility, etc. which ultimately leaves them either without a job, or performing poorly at their job, b/c they arent willing to put forth the required effort since they think they are entitled to be there.

What about when people think they deserve a raise b/c their needs have changed? i had a friend tell me it was disgusting that her husband's boss didnt give him a raise "after all, he knows we just had a baby and have another kid in school". um, i thought compensation is based on the job being performed. I was flabergasted and told her that in the real world noone cares that your expenses just went are paid for the job you do, and if you want more, you need to take on more and move up.....

David said...

My first job was at $3.35/hour. I have no sympathy whatsoever for those who are unwilling to put in the time & work required to earn more than the minimum wage.

After all, the Torah does say "Six days shall you work..."

triLcat said...

There is actually a second side to this argument - If you ask for too little and accept too little, you may well find yourself undervalued as an employee, and you may find yourself quite resentful of the job - which could lead to you being less serious about it.

A few years ago, I was kinda desperate for a job, so I took something at basically minimum wage (4000 shekels/month) despite being halfway through a master's degree at the time (and the job being related to job experience I had). When they wanted me to put in unpaid overtime and come in when I was sick, was it surprising that I started to get a bit of attitude?

After about 4 days in a row that I worked 10 to 12-hour days while running a fever, I refused to answer any more customer calls after 5pm because I had too many calls to return still(I was doing customer support, and was supposed to work until 5:30). They fired me
on the spot.

You could say I was too demanding, but I think the real issue was that I let them undervalue me by accepting a job that didn't pay well enough and by not insisting on better terms.

Zach Kessin said...

Ok, everyone who's first job or two were really lousy. I know my first job in high tech is something I would not care to do over again. But it did teach me a bunch of the skills of the workplace world that I have been using ever since. Working is in itself a skill, that takes some time, and a lousy job or two* to master.

* some people never seem to do so

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure you meant to write "annals of history". You may want to correct that.

SephardiLady said...

TriliCat-An entire other subject, but an interesting one nonetheless. Sometimes one can ask for too little. . . . but when you don't have a job history or certain skills, not likely!

Also, I don't know if you were in Israel at that point, but unpaid overtime for hourly workers is illegal in America.

TzviNoach said...

While I agree 100% with your point about expectations for entry level employment, I don't see what in the world this has to do with the comment from "Ed" that you quoted.

His comment is entirely about attitudes in some circles (actually, the attitude of one individual, which he apparently projects onto a larger group) about work in general, and working in a not-frum atmosphere in particular. It has nothing at all to do with entry level expectations for either salary or working conditions. I'm not sure what made you think it is relevant to your point.

SephardiLady said...

TzviNoach-I bolded the quote that had the most to do with my point, about how some people (in this case Russians) are willing to work for less because their needs are less.

I've heard plenty of such explainations myself and believe they are prevelant enough that it isn't projecting (I certainly have seen such in America many times over. . . . . not just in the frum community as I stated at the outset).

I didn't deal with the meshulach's point about dealing with the non-religious. Such is a challenge. But it is one that needs to be dealt with. Parnasah is difficult. People can't always choose their location, work with the people they want to work with, live where they want, etc.

I'd say both points that Ed raised are relavant and I only dealt with one, and not even sufficiently.

TzviNoach said...

SL --

1. If part of the quote is supposed to be bold, it doesn't appear bold on my browser. (Might that be because it's an italicized orange font?)

2. To take one quote from one person and consider it representative is projecting, even if you've seen the same sentiment reflected elsewhere.

3. The "meshulach's" main point --and Ed's -- is about not wanting to work in a non-observant environment, which can be a real challenge, if widely held.

4. Again, your primary point is very valid and deserves reinforcement, regardless of whether this anecdote supports it or not.

Tova said...

With the typing of spending that goes on at times you'd assume every family age 25+ is pulling in a $250K/yr...truth be told not everyone graduating with a degree in finance/eco/business/accounting is pulling in those bucks-- but many are living as though they are.

SephardiLady said...

Tova-Couldn't agree with you more. :)

1. I changed the size of the font, so the bold will show up.

2. There is a fantastic book called "Generation Me" which I completed reading a month ago but had to return to the library. I want to write a review of it, but have to put it on hold since it isn't available through my local branches. It outlines just this problem in the world at large, among many other issues. You can define this at projecting. I would interpret it as just another sign of the obvious.

3. If religious people won't go to work in respectable workplaces then there will never be a minyan, nu?

4. Thanks and I appreciate your comments a lot. Thanks for reading and writing too. :)

SephardiLady said...

Just a post from the past that I forgot about on related issues and a memory from the past:.

Chaim B. said...

Chazal say pshot neveilta b'shuk - better to skin non-kosher animals in the marlet, which was menial labor - rather than take charity.

The perception that the American workplace does not pose challenges to religious jews is almost absurd.

SephardiLady said...

The perception is absolutely absurb, even if one works inside the frum world (maybe even more so based on my varied working experiences).

While I have never sat down with a meshulach as "Ed" has, I know plenty who have and the reasons for not working ring hollow as chazal tells us differently.

Jacob Da Jew said...

Guess how much my first job paid?

6 shekel an hour. Cleaning and stocking shelves. I learned alot from working there, like being on time and loyalty.

I disagree with Ed. No matter where you work, there will be "Michsholim.

BTW, I have to apologize. The link to your blog was screwed up and I just fixed it.