Why I’m A Job Snob …

My name is unemployedhack and I am, apparently, a job snob.

I have qualifications for which I worked hard. I retrained in order to stay in employment. I would not be happy working in a job for which I’m over-qualified and in which I have absolutely no interest.

I didn’t get my degrees and professional qualifications in customer service because I’ve no interest in such jobs – and I’m bad at them. As a worker in a bingo hall I was dreadful: I lost money, I missed calls of “house” and risked being lynched by angry old women, and I was bored. I did this job while studying for my first degree with the sole intention of earning money until I was qualified enough to leave.

But I don’t look down on people working in Tesco or elsewhere, nor do I look down on those without qualifications. This was my choice and I was encouraged to do this by teachers who assured me it meant better prospects, more money – going to work and looking forward to it rather counting the minutes till home time.

Now our young people are job snobs if they want more. They used to be lazy if they didn’t choose to sit their GCSEs. They lacked ambition if they wanted to be hairdressers or work in supermarkets. They were dismissed as failures if they didn’t go to university.

Now, if the Tories are to be believed, they’re just snobs who should do any job for any pay and be bloody grateful for it – whether they have qualifications, ambition, aspiration or a big hat.

I wonder if Iain Duncan Smith ever considered working for no pay in a supermarket.

The reality is that Iain Duncan Smith who came up with this new insult will never earn a living stacking shelves – and it was never ever considered as a job option for him as he grew up. He knew what he was entitled to and had both the financial and educational means to achieve it.

He says of us, though, that we are “armed with an unjustified sense of superiority and sporting an intellectual sneer […] determined to belittle and downgrade any opportunity for young people that doesn’t fit their pre-conceived notion of a ‘worthwhile job’.”

So, the working class are dismissed as chavs and spongers if without work. We’re lacking entrepreneurial spirit if we don’t set up businesses. We’re failures if we don’t get qualifications.

Now we’re job snobs. We’re job snobs if:

  • We don’t want to work hard for long hours and little pay.
  • We don’t eagerly chase jobs with no training that would bore us senseless.
  • We don’t want jobs that offer few opportunities and little hope of a pay increase.
  • We want to earn more than minimum wage.
  • We want to be able to pay our bills and have enough money for a social life.
  • We think everyone has the right to decent pay and conditions.
  • We don’t want to work hard for long hours and no pay.

This is just more Tory rhetoric aimed at blaming us for the lack of work, a new narrative intended to hide the fact that the Tories consistently fail to provide jobs and create economic growth. They would willingly see us all shovelling shit for no pay.

The concern about Workfare isn’t about not wanting to be seen working in whichever organisation as failed to drop out (many have distanced themselves from or opted out of using slave labour): it’s about wanting a day’s pay for a day’s work.

Iain Duncan Smith continues, “Sadly, so much of this criticism, I fear, is intellectual snobbery.

“The implicit message behind these ill-considered attacks is that jobs in retail, such as those with supermarkets or on the High Street, are not real jobs that worthwhile people do. How insulting and demeaning of the many thousands of people who already work in such jobs up and down the country!”

We’re not saying such jobs are demeaning – WORKING FOR NO PAY IS DEMEANING.

In a capitalist system we sell our labour and we receive our wage. In a meritocracy we work hard to ensure we can have better pay and conditions through education. This is what the Tories tell us we have to do – but now it suits them to pretend we’re all being job snobs.

Now it suits them to dismiss our qualifications, our experience, our personal preferences because they want us to shut up and do what little work is available – or work for no pay – while they live by their “jobs for the boys” rules.

I am a job snob. I don’t want to work for nothing. I don’t want to work for unemployment benefits. I do want to work in the jobs I’m qualified for: it’s why I worked hard and it’s why I worked hard while paying for those qualifications.

The reality is it doesn’t matter what we do – when they mess up the economy we get the blame.


15 thoughts on “Why I’m A Job Snob …

  1. absolutely..it’s as total con..railroading people into sidetracking their own vision for their own lives..use your own intuition and compass,and not that of some politician that’ll be gone,and on the rubbishy talk/book circuit in little or no time at all….the wrong employment is the surest sign of empoverishment.

  2. Hello, Unemployedhack.

    Just started following your blog recently, and every word you’ve written has resonated with me; you see, I’m a graduate (with a 1st class honours degree and a masters), and I’m currently on JSA. I chose to retrain in 2006 as a disillusioned 26 year old, because I didn’t fancy breaking my body by labouring for the rest of my days; back then, I assumed that I would come out the other end of the academic machine as an object of desire for employers. I worked 25 hours per week on top of studying for my degree in an inoffensive but boring job in retail, constantly telling myself that I’d no longer be required to do work like this as soon as I could add ‘BA (hons)’ and ‘Mlitt’ to my CV.

    6 months after donning robes for a second time as a ‘Master of Letters’, (which, all in, cost me about 4 grand) I’m still paying my fortnightly visit to JobcentrePlus (Plus what, one is tempted to ask?). I’m constantly asked why I don’t want to be a shelf stacker or an hotel porter; your blog post here answers that question with grace. I didn’t live on the student bread line for half a decade only to return to the bottom rung of the employment market on a wage that is far less than the one I gave up to attend university in the first place.

    It seems that IDS and his Neocon cronies (yes, I said Neocon; a previously American perversion that has slunked across the Atlantic like an oil slick) have borrowed a pile of Ayn Rand novels from their local libraries (of course, the ones they haven’t closed yet) and are now going through this dreck with Thatcher’s old highlighter pen and are constructing policy from the nonsense they find therein.

    I’m voting YES on Scottish independence; the SNP aren’t perfect, but they are not objectivist, libertarian extremists. You can kip on my couch in 2014 if you like!

    Anyway, rant over. You’ve won yourself a fan.

    Stay sharp,


    • Thanks Sean. Your comment “I didn’t live on the student bread line for half a decade only to return to the bottom rung of the employment market on a wage that is far less than the one I gave up to attend university in the first place.” sums it up perfectly. It angers me that anyone would consider you a job snob when you’ve clearly worked hard for your qualifications expecting – quite rightly! – some sort of return.
      I genuinely can’t understand the subservient acceptance that we should all be willing to do anything for any pay: from people who wouldn’t call themselves working class, no doubt, but say we’re contributing to the plan to “get this once great nation back on its feet”. Keep Calm and Work At Tesco.
      Good luck with the job hunt and try to go against the grain and use your time on the dole to do something you enjoy (while of course jumping through their hoops).

      • Thank you. I have a website under development, through which I hope to rouse some rabbles. I’ll be looking for prosemongers to contribute, I may be in touch soon!

  3. Tough mate. I run a small business earning under 10 000 for me a year. To supplement this I have done cleaning and part-time caretaking. Surely it’s better to work and contribute something to society rather than sit on my arse because I’m too proud and snobby to work “below” my qualifications. So who does work in cleaning etc jobs then? Some kind of underclass that you, in your high minded way, wont join and mix with. A bit of a class thing here eh?

    • You’ve missed the point of what I wrote entirely. It’s not snobby to want to choose to use one’s skills, qualifications and experience. It is a right. I’ve done work for which I’m over-qualified and applied for jobs unrelated to my qualifications and experience – but why should anyone pay for an education – which is no longer free to us – and then not get the benefits of that educatio. Why should we – any of us – be willing to do anything “to contribute to society” when this is not what is expected of the whole of society. It’s not expected by IDS who coined the phrase “job snob” to work for low pay, for long hours in a job he doesn’t want. You also missed the point that until recently young people without an education were considered failures and lazy. Recently we’ve started being told that the unemployed should be entrepreneurial or willing to work for their benefits. This job snob nonsense is just a convenient way to avoid our anger at a lack of jobs. I say we demand more jobs – all types of jobs for all types of worker.

    • Aspiration is not just for the middle classes, David; as someone trying to cut it in business should know. It’s the people with qualifications but no connections who are being shafted above all. Also, it is the same economic system that unempoyedhack is lambasting that has precipitated an economic climate in which small businesses, like your own, find it impossible to find loans through which to expand. Look deeper.

  4. Hello unemployedhack,

    I agree with a lot of what you say and I share your frustrations. We were told throughout school, sixth form and University that if we study hard and get our qualifications then the world is our oyster. We do this only to find that the jobs we were promised aren’t there and we are supposed to be grateful for any job that comes along and even work for free in order to enhance our prospects of a minimum wage job.
    I achieved a 2:1 in Philosophy but soon found that the jobs I had anticipated weren’t there. I ended up doing a similar level of work to what I was doing before I went to University, a job which certainly doesn’t require a degree.

    I am over qualified for the job I do and if it was suggested to me when I was a University that I would be doing this kind of work after achieving a good degree then I would have been a ‘job snob’ about it. But there comes a point when you have to accept the reality of the situation. I have a partner, we have our own house, and there are bills to pay.

    Whilst it is not ideal to doing a job that you feel you are over qualified for and it can at times be frustrating, it is surely better to be earning a living then claiming benefits. Also, doesn’t it look better when you apply for jobs you actually want that you have been working and gaining some sort of experience in the meantime? You are a good writer and I am sure you could turn any bad experiences in the job market to good literary effect

    I suppose it depends on your individual situation. If you are a graduate who went straight from school to University you can return home and if you have reasonably well off parents live a relatively comfortable life on benefits. Similarly if you have assets from previous periods of employments. If not then the choice is either live on benefits waiting your big break in the job of your dreams or grit your teeth and get on with earning a living.

    • It’s still not about being a “job snob”. You’re working because you have to – in a job that is available to you. We all do jobs we have to do in order to survive. I’m now working part-time on confusing temporary contracts just to survive. My point is if there were jobs there would be no new dialogue around “job snobbery”. They’re blaming us for their mess. They’re making us change our entire way of living because they failed the economy. They’re happy for us to do any job for any pay because they’re not creating jobs suited to our qualifications. They’re judging us by standards they do not keep. I want a job in keeping with my qualifications! I earned it. Just as they claim they did. The only difference is I’m working class and so, according to them, should be grateful for anything slung my way. I’m not.

  5. This seems to be part of the gradual winding down of aspiration stretching right across the board. If fewer people see the point in going to University, education costs will be cut, and if more people agree to work for next to nothing we can only expect the wages of the full time employed to follow. Allied to rhetoric about everyone “being in the same boat” it’s a great way to sweep away rights, entitlements, principles etc that have taken decades to create and stifle opposition at the same time. Despite all their rhetoric about management of resources the Tories have been historically useless with people. I, for one, will not allow myself to be wasted – nor bother too greatly what names are slung at me by clever imbeciles.

  6. See, I’m with you, but then I have my doubts as well.

    I would definitely have been with you when I first graduated six years ago, because it’s horrible working so hard for the promised ‘career you have worked towards’ and then finding out you have no choice but to do the same work as people who have just passed their GCSEs. I had a first and I still ended up in data entry for three years before I got a chance at anything else, and that’s only because in a period of unemployment I volunteered to get work experience. This state of affairs is ridiculous and just divides the nation back into rich and poor (those that can afford free work experience, those that cannot). It also makes you think that every bit of higher education you achieved was utterly pointless (and needlessly expensive).

    But at the same time, sometimes it kind of depends what subject you have taken and what job you want. I mean, I wanted to be a writer. Ideally, I want to be a comedy writer, and I have no choice but to do that outside of work hours and take a job as well. That’s because an enormous number of people want to do the same thing and going on benefits while I tried to realise my dream could take years – or, it could never happen.

    Alternatively, I would take any writing work (and eventually did, after my volunteering). But again, you’ve got a choice between unpaid internships or very low pay SEO content writing. Rather than using your skills, you’re either churning for a very low wage or you’re getting nothing at all.

    While it’s undeniably unfair that those of us who have worked hard to get qualifications do not always benefit from this, there’s part of me that also thinks, well you can’t always get what you want right away. Sometimes you just have to work in Tesco while you’re looking for a job, and having been unemployed myself, I didn’t find that taking a terrible job took too much time away from my ‘proper job’ hunt.

    But this in itself causes problems. For every graduate that takes a Tesco job, a non-graduate loses out. I’m going to sound like a snob now, perhaps, but some jobs were designed for those without degrees and some jobs were designed for those with them. Shelf stacking is one of those unfortunately unpleasant jobs that people who did not take higher education often find they need to do. These people may work their way up to manager and gain money and stimulation that way. That’s not the track any graduate is going to take. If graduates who don’t care about the job are taking these positions, what the hell are non-graduates supposed to do? It occurs to me that it is the non-graduates, not the graduates (who could just temp and generally don’t find it as difficult to find ‘a job any job’) that are losing out the most here. I know people who haven’t been to university, and when they apply for jobs they find themselves up against people with tons of qualifications and degrees. The employer tends to go for the overqualified one (God knows why) and the person actually most suitable for the position loses out.

    In my opinion, this is a failure of government to regulate businesses and ensure they offer ‘real’ entry-level jobs (that one does not need over a year of experience in a similar position to take, and which are paid and permanent). That’s how you’re going to get grads into work.

    But then there’s always the problem that there are probably more journalism graduates than there are journalism jobs – maybe some need to take different paths (not shelf stacking, but communications or something)? I don’t know how to figure that one out.

    Of course I am probably speaking to a seasoned journalist in which case, of course it’s shit to not be able to get the job you are qualified for. That’s really, really disappointing. But there’s part of me thinking, what’s so bad about getting ‘a job, any job’ while you do your job applications? If it’s going to take a while to get a position in such a competitive industry – regardless of your experience and doubtless talent – doesn’t it make sense to work in the mean time?

    I should clarify that you are not a job snob for not wanting to do it though! I hate that terminology, it just shows the Tories have no human feeling.

    • The other problem -and the reality – of course is I am over-qualified for any job. It is a complete myth that supermarkets and small businesses will employ people with two degrees to clean or stack shelves – they won’t because they know we don’t want the job and will leave as soon as we can. Many writers have second jobs (I also teach Creative Writing when the opportunity arises) but it is part-time, temporary and their employer knows they’re not likely to stick around. If you go from unemployment to a job you’re over-qualified for, when you’re also no longer in the first flushes of youth, the employer does not welcome you with open arns. You don’t even get an interview. I was told once by Job Centre Plus to “play down” my qualifications and experience because they too are aware that employers don’t want qualified, experienced workers in jobs they are not suited to. I pointed out that lying on applications is unlawful …

  7. I recently attended the job centre after graduating with a first class honours degree in Geography. I got offered jobs in cleaning, and my favourite: Delivery Driver – must require own van or truck (which I clearly don’t have!), and have good GEOGRAPHICAL skills, which they thought would be a perfect job match!
    After 2 weeks of claiming, I have been forced to attend a rubbish graduate programme which was useless, and now will be attending a week long ‘get into work’ programme. It’s insulting, they talk to you like crap and it’s not worth driving an hour each way every day for £50 a week.

    Also, the first meeting, the ‘advisor’ told me to delete my degree off my CV as it will ‘rub it in an employers face’ and will ruin your chances for a job. Well, I wonder what kind of jobs they want to get me….

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