“I Do Not Dream of Labor”- The Difference Between Labor and Industry, and What It (Should) Mean to Work

I spend way too much time on social media. If it wasn’t the best engine for reaching out to my readers and sharing what I do with a global audience, I would have wiped my accounts ages ago for the sheer amount of half-assed “hot takes” people are encouraged to belch out about everything from Sudanese economics to Dr. Seuss. It really is the dark side of the democratization of knowledge that anyone with a keyboard thinks “I have an opinion and a way to express it, therefore it is just as valid and important as any expert.”

Yes, so says the pastry chef and food writer with a blog who is about to expound on the psychology and philosophy of labor, but stick with me for a minute.

As a guy who works for a living, is trying to create a work environment that his employees can thrive in, and is having difficulty finding qualified help, I think I have some insight into the whole “no one wants to work anymore,” “quiet-quitting/working to contract” kerfuffle fiasco mass whining discussionthat has been making the rounds lately.

This quote is actually tacked up over my desk at the bakery- just in case I ever forget why I do what I do.
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Don’t Work Toward What You Don’t Want

I try not to miss weeks in writing this blog. If I am an Actual Professional Writer©, then that means showing up when I agree I will, putting out the words I’ve decided I will, and not making excuses about it. I think it was Ursula K. LeGuin who said she knew was a professional writer the first time she sat down to write something without really feeling like it and having no ideas.

In my case, I missed last week because I literally had no energy to do anything after a 60-hour week in the bakery. I wanted to write, I had ideas of what to write about… but the tank was on “E” and I was running on fumes for the downtime I had.

It’s a fairly common situation for folks in my industry right now- the Covid Culinary Brain/Talent Drain has hit everyone, and people are flocking to jobs where the pay is better, benefits more secure, and pockets are deep enough to possibly take care of them through the next crisis. That means that applicants for small Portland pie shops are few and far between, and it’s up to the folks who are there to keep the wheels turning.

I don’t blame anyone for wanting to get out of a field that is effectively lying in the bed of intransigence it made and now dealing with its legendary well of desperate labor suddenly running dry. A lot of my older friends and colleagues are staring down this situation and realizing that “the free market,” capitalism, and truthfully any economic structure looks great until you find yourself on the underside of it.

So why am I not part of this grand exodus? With my skills and experience, I could march into nearly any job fair run by one of those hospitality giants, lay down my resume, and conduct a bidding war for my services. More money, more benefits, fewer responsibilities (at least to start), and a clear career trajectory for rising in their company. Sounds like a no-brainer, so why not go for it?

Because I refuse to waste time working toward what I don’t want.

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com
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What To Do (and NOT Do) At A Working Interview

The working interview is a hallmark of the culinary industry for no other reason than the fact that, simply put, people can say anything they like on a resume and BS their way through interview after interview- but they can’t fake practical skills.

A cook can claim to have worked for years and learned from the greatest cooks of a generation (and thus demand greater pay or authority,) but if that talk doesn’t translate to skills and elan in the kitchen, they will find themselves out with the green potatoes- and blackballed as a liar to boot.

That’s why after an interview or two, promising candidates for a kitchen job will be brought in to work a shift or just a couple of hours with the rest of the team. They might be given a timed challenge, a list of tasks to complete or just asked to help out and keep up while they are observed. This labor is usually unpaid or done in exchange for a shift meal (the ethics and legality of which are regularly disputed,) but ultimately it’s still an interview and thus a two-way street. The restaurant gets to assess the candidate’s demeanor and skills, and the cook gets to see how the kitchen works and decide if they are a good fit.

So short of not being a liar and not injuring yourself and others, what can you do to ace a working interview?

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Worth The Time- What To Consider When Picking A Job

Job hunting is exactly that- job hunting. When you are seeking a job, you are looking for one that’s the right fit for you as much as employers are looking for the right fit for their business.

Interviews are a two-way process. If you’ve been job hunting for a while, it’s easy to start letting desperation and panic creep into your search. Take a breath, and try to keep calm- desperation to find any job can land you somewhere miserable, and missing out on opportunities you might enjoy (and that might pay) better.

I’ve already written a list of the “red flags” to look for at bad jobs, so this post is a few of the “green” flags that earn a job a more considered look from job-seekers.

Remember, this list is not comprehensive and you should always go with your gut. Your goals and priorities are your own- make the moves that get you closer to them!

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How To Know When It’s Time To Go

Fun Fact: Winners quit all the time.

Just putting in the effort/ hustling/ grinding is not enough- that effort needs to be in the right direction for what you want to do, otherwise you will just burn yourself out for no reason. Part of that process means constantly reevaluating what you are doing, and dropping the jobs, habits, and directions that no longer serve you like a hot rock.

Sometimes quitting is the easiest thing in the world- usually once it’s become a matter of moving on to something better or personal survival. Unfortunately, our pack-bonding brains are great at giving us reasons to stick around, endure the unacceptable, and sabotage our own happiness for the sake of security.

If breaking up with your job is hard to do, it might really be for the best.

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