My first job wasn’t glamorous. It was in a restaurant and, like most hospitality jobs, I spent hours wiping tables, serving food and constantly smelling like food. I spent hours on my feet and I was constantly dealing with customers who always thought they were right (plot twist: they weren’t). Weekends and late nights were part of the job description and I said goodbye to the freedom that public holidays bring.

On top of this was the idea that jobs in industries like retail and hospitality are ‘dead ends’. If you’re in this situation too, you’re probably getting asked when you’re going to get a ‘real job’ or when you’re going to grow up and earn some ‘real’ money. The stigma that surrounds waiting, or bartending, or being a check-out chick can make it feel like the hours you’re putting in and the money you’re getting out is not as real as someone who spends their days in an office.

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Why? Maybe it’s because these industries are filled with young people. Maybe it’s because our society places such a high value on jobs that require tertiary education. Or maybe it’s because these jobs have become subject to the casualisation of the workforce and don’t conform to the traditional nine to five working day. Whatever the reason, a lot of people tend to negate the importance of these so called dead-end jobs.

What’s funny is the people who complain about the unimportance of jobs in hospitality or retail are the ones who demand their services. These people claim that the young people who are working on checkouts or behind bars are going nowhere in life and then pull into Maccas at three in the morning and demand food. They head to a bar on Australia Day and complain about the shortened trading hours while failing to recognise the people serving them are sacrificing their own public holiday to make sure the place is open at all. These people demand a service whilst demeaning the people who provide it. Ultimately, they fail to recognise the value these jobs hold.

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And these jobs do hold a lot of value. For one, these jobs still pay. Whether you’re sitting behind a desk tapping away at a computer, or pouring beers at one in the morning, dollars are going into your account. Plus, whatever your job, you’re going to get some transferable skills out of it. The dead end jobs teach you how to keep on smiling when a customer is yelling in your face and how life goes on even if you can’t constantly check Facebook during your shift. They teach you how to work with people you might not like, how to handle money and how to talk to different kinds of people. It’s these sort of skills, rephrased as customer service and good communication skills, that employers love.

And, for some, these dead end jobs become the beginning of a solid career. These people flip the dead-end stereotype on its head and go on to become managers or supervisors. Some end up owning the whole place while others kick start their own business and open their own store or restaurant. Despite what people say these so called dead ends hold the opportunity to turn into roads that lead right to the top.

Emma Kocbek

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