The stigma of working a ‘McJob’


Shaming the ‘lesser’ industries

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer

Writer Douglas Coupland popularized the term “McJob” in his groundbreaking novel from the ‘90s, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. He defined it as, “A low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice for people who have never held one.” Such McJobs are common and generally seen poorly.

We’ve all heard the cliché warnings growing up: “If you don’t go to university, you’ll be flipping burgers for the rest of your life.” Any type of job that involves cash registers, customer service, and/or preparing food seems designated for high school students or lowlife dropouts. This is despite the obvious fact that many, if not most workers with low-prestige jobs are adults—usually at a stage in their lives when they’ve been socialy designated to have a “better” job.

There are many reasons one might be working in the service, retail, or custodial industry. Many of the workers are students earning money to pay tuition and live. Many others are graduates who are unable to find work in their degree area. Such stereotypes are realistic and common, although many other reasons are also prominent. Believe it or not, some people actually enjoy working those jobs. They may find them low-stress, flexible, or even fun. Many service workers have been at the job for years and are comfortable in their positions.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a career being an important factor in your life. However, for many a job is simply a way through which they can accomplish other things. Many people work in industries with flexible hours because they pursue outside interests such as arts or sports.

Still others enjoy a particular aspect of their jobs and find a silver lining. Many sanitation workers enjoy the exercise they get out of hauling garbage, for example. Even if there is no enjoyable or concrete reason for somebody to be working at a McJob, why does it matter? A job is simply a way of making money. In a perfect world, we’d all be doing exactly what we wanted to do, and we’d all have unlimited cash. All our Big Macs would be prepared by robots and our classroom floors mopped by self-cleaning units.

All workers are people. They have their own interests, relationships, and lives outside of whatever McJob they may spend time at. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making coffee for a living, although some jobs are considered more “respectable” than others.

There are dozens of reasons why someone isn’t working the most desirable job on the planet, and none of them are more valid than another. Having a job and making a living should be the ideal, rather than having a dream occupation to earn as much money as possible. We’re all much more than whatever institution we spend time in to bring home that paycheque.