If you follow, or even just occasionally catch any news outlet chances are you’ve heard this phrase numerous times. I have, and it never really registered. I knew the sort of jobs/people they were talking about: those that worked in retail, customer services, call centres, waiters, waitresses’ and bar workers. I knew it meant those kinds of roles and didn’t think much of it.
Then I read an article on The Pool (it seems to have disappeared since) about the classism surrounding the ‘wellness’ and the clean eating movement. It discussed how ‘clean’ food was probably ranked low on the list of priorities if you were a mother struggling to get by with your unskilled job.
And seeing it ‘unskilled worker’ in print, in such a modern article hit me. It hit me and it angered me. I do like a good rant admittedly, and give me a reason I will happily get on my feminist high horse… however things about job types/general life doesn’t usually touch a nerve. I’m still not sure why it did in this instance, but here’s what annoyed me.
Some of the best people I know are, according to the media ‘unskilled’ which is ignorant at best, and insulting at worst. ‘Unskilled work’ gives you a lot of skills that others lack:
- Even if you are having the shittiest day known to man, you can slap on a smile and pretend you are so excited about the current sale. Being able to put your personal shit aside and focus on the task at hand is a skill valued in any line of work.
- Explaining to an inexplicably angry person that they cannot have what they want for free/cheaper/right this very second just because they want it is diplomatic skill at its finest. If all politicians/celebs were required to spend three sale and post-sale periods in retail there would be nowhere near as many gaffs.
- In these sorts of jobs you don’t get a single type of person, you get many from many different places, points of view and motivations. You get the people that are going to get the most sign ups on the mailing list ever¸ and those that are not even sure they are sober when the clock in. Being able not only to deal with different types of people but also learning from (or at least accepting) differing perspectives on things is a skill the world could do with more people having.
- On the practical side, these jobs usually don’t offer the best wages in the world. But hey, you are a highly skilled money manager and resourceful babe if ever there was one. You could probably show the Treasury a tip or two.
- Working on the ground floor with goods coming and going makes you a problem solver. So you don’t have the right equipment for this delivery? You have enough initiative to either find someone who does or make your own device because this lot ain’t going to book itself in. You can think on your feet, and when you know your boss is coming back soon, you can think bloody fast.
- You can forgive and move on. Working with the general public means you are, at some point, going to encounter a few idiots but instead of getting riled up and letting it cloud your day you’ve learnt to forgive and forget. Well maybe not forgive… if you take extra-long serving them next time, I won’t blame you.
So, here’s to the people that keep the world going round. Here’s to the ‘unskilled workers’ who are anything but unskilled.