No Job Is Below You

Northland Foods '70s Interior
When I was a teen I worked at a supermarket (I actually worked there a loong time).  One day I ran into a friend’s dad woo had his own butcher business.  We chatted and he asked me if I worked.  I sheepishly told him I worked at a supermarket like maybe I was a little ashamed.  With all seriousness he no, it’s not what you do but how you do it!  As long as you put your all into your job then that’s all that mattered.  This took me back.  One, because I didn’t expect such a serious answer from a casual acquaintance; and two, because it really struck a note with me.  He was right.  So long as I knew I was doing my best and putting everything into my work then I had no reason to be ashamed of what I did and every reason to be proud of myself.  I would go on to get many promotions at that supermarket and became a jack of all trades in the store.  I worked as cashier, stock, unloading the truck, head cashier, bookkeeper for the store to bookkeeper for the chain writing out expenses and doing payroll (told ya I worked there a long time).  I learned a lot from that supermarket job!  From time to time I have to remind myself of that conversation but I still try to take the point to heart and do what I do to the best of my ability.

On the other hand, I’ve seen people look down on some jobs as though they aren’t good enough for them.  Granted, if you have the skills and knowledge to do one thing then do it.  But I’m talking about folks who are hurting financially and continually complain that they hate what they do and can’t make ends meet.  They don’t have overly technical jobs that require a specific specialization.  But they talk like doing something “common” is no good for them.

If you recall my wife has been working a few hours on the weekend doing test prep at a private school.  She doesn’t get paid nearly what her qualifications should demand but the reality is we can use any extra cash we can get and she’s good at test prep.  Some years ago I used to help out with a friend’s entertainment business where I learned to DJ.  Many days were fun but many weekends were full of work!  A four hour party could easily turn into 6-8 hours of work with travel and carrying and setting up the equipment.  It was very different from the desk job I have but it was good money for weekend work (I might even try to jump back into it).

Know what? Those jobs until the wee hours of the morning paid off over time as they helped me afford my first car.  My wife’s test prep work helps with some extra cash to pay for groceries and such.  Some weeks we don’t have to dip into the ATM.

Point is, if you need the money no job is beneath you.  Hard work is hard work no matter what you do.  If it helps you make ends meet or put some extra cash in the bank that’s great!  Sitting back and complaining about how hard things are will not help you.  You need to go out there and do something about it.  Life isn’t always ideal and sometimes you have to eat some humble pie and do something you don’t want to.

So if you need some extra dough go out and do something about it. Don’t worry about what others might say about you, just concern yourself with whether you are doing your best!

What do you think?

Creative Commons License photo credit: afiler

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Published or updated May 30, 2013.


  1. Money is money and a job is a job. The problem is though with the economy is more people are just taking any jobs for money which sucks. But if it pays the bills you don’t have much of a choice. I am lucky and enjoy what I am doing right now, but most college grads don’t have that luxury.

  2. I think your exactly right… if you’re diligent in the little things you’ll be rewarded. A job well done it nothing to be ashamed of… other are other lines I could throw out and they’re all true!

  3. I used to think I was above some jobs. But I met people who took pride in their work, who worked hard, and who were just awesome, responsible people. It impressed me to no end that they were dedicated to these jobs that seemed below them. But I agree with the guy in your post. What’s important is how much you put into your job. That’s what builds trust and relationships, opens doors, and makes you worth the money you make. In the end, you’ll have had a good experience if you put your all into it. Great post.

    frugalCPA’s last blog post..Waiting for My NTS

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more, but there is one thing that I believe with all my heart. If you are in a job in which you are miserable, no amount of money is going to make you happy in that job. For 4 years I worked hard in a job doing paralegal’s work, getting paid at a regular secretary’s rate, had a difficult boss, and was very miserable. I now have a job that is 22 hours a week, pays a little less than my full time job did, and I’m very happy. I pick up extra clerical jobs or whatever I can to make up some extra cash.

    JT Locke — The Frugal Housewife’s last blog post..Helpful Tip Saturday — Frugal “Did you know…”

  5. I agree completely. It always bothers me when people try to say that a job isn’t good enough for them. I was raised that money is money. And if you’re doing a job that’s less than desirable, well people could judge if they really had nothing better to do.

    If you need the money, you take what work is available. End of story. In better times, feel free to pick and choose. But for those who are worried what people will think, well they should just try picturing how much worse that paranoia will be when they’re on public assistance, when they have to admit they lost their house, etc.

    Abigail’s last blog post..Are we too optimistic?

  6. I agree that if you need the money and it’s the only job you can get, you shouldn’t complain. I’m sure there are many others who’ll take the job in a heart beat, so we should be glad for what jobs we can get in this economy.

    But if you do have other options, you shouldn’t sell yourself short. When my sister and I first moved to California, we had underestimated our moving expenses and used up all our savings to pay for the move. We went around the mall one day filling out job applications and took the first jobs we were offered – making sandwiches at Togo’s.

    Soon after starting at Togo’s, our manager told us that she was starting a new pizza restaurant with one of the partners and wanted us to go and manage for her. We enjoyed working at the pizza place and became shift managers not long after starting, but there was always something nagging at me that I wasn’t living up to my potential, because we had both graduated college with honors and could have been working for better money.

    It also bothered me how people treated us because they assumed food services was the only job we were qualified for. Most customers were okay, some were very nice, but there were quite a few who treated us like dirt.

    Of course they were the ones in the wrong for thinking they were better than us, but I couldn’t help be bothered when I knew I was smarter than they were, yet in the interest of “customer service,” had to let them treat me get away with talking to me as if I was beneath them because I was just a sandwich or pizza maker.

    OK, was that a really long tangent? Sorry if it got a little ranty. I obviously still have some issues with mean customers. :p

    Penelope @ Pecuniarities’s last blog post..Giveaway: TurboTax Premier Online (Free Federal, State Preparation & e-File – $85 value) to 2 Winners

  7. dawn @ iowahippiechick says:

    Excellent post-
    Because it truly takes ALL the spokes on the wheel to support the tire!
    (I also agree, it matters more doing our job well, than WHAT job we do!)

    dawn @ iowahippiechick’s last blog post..Freebies~

  8. You are right mate, people are around just to pass comments and not to help you with money if you need it. I feel no job is bad if it is within the laws of your place. Just don’t be embarrassed and work whenever you can after all at the end of the day you need money to survive and that can only be earned by working

  9. I should think that in this day and age the snobbery about certain jobs is fading – a lot. People know that it’s hard out there. Only in times of plenty can you afford to be so selective.

  10. It is about doing your best. There is something to be gained from any job if you approach it with the right attitude.

    Ken’s last blog post..Roth IRA: Great Retirement Option

  11. I have the utmost respect for anyone that works hard for a living.
    I would definitely take any job before taking any form of social assistance.

    TStrump’s last blog post..Executive Compensation

  12. Great inspirational post. I have to say I’m guilty myself of looking down on some jobs; but at the same time I’ve always worked hard at something, picking up what I did feel comfortable with. I can remember being in some jobs that so violently went against my own values that I felt sick being there and had to leave. So there are some jobs that aren’t good to do – not a good idea to do something just because it gives you money – but if it’s honest and a real service, and you don’t feel it goes against your principles, then hard work always feels good.

    MoneyEnergy’s last blog post..US Penny Worth More As Metal Than As Money

  13. Let’s see….my top jobs were McDonald’s (never made it to the cashier position, which was the envied position), pulling weeds for $1 per hour, and working as a laborer for Black Dog Construction (I was advised that I was on a rung below the two carpenters and their two black labs 🙂

    Steve’s last blog post..Do You Recognize these Early Warning Signs of Career Atrophy?

  14. @ Craig – Any job you don’t like sucks but sometimes you have to take your lumps for a bit at a new job. I think this is something a lot of new grads don’t understand. Most companies don’t give you the glorious jobs with the big expense accounts right out of school. That’s not to say you should stick with a job you really don’t like. And in this economy I’m finding that employees are being asked to do more with less.

    @ Do You Dave Ramsay – There are a lot of truths in cliches.

    @ frugalCPA – If we go about our jobs like robots then we’ll get treated like robots. Know what happens to robots? They get outsourced. Not to say that giving your all in a job will insure keeping it but it could be the difference maker.

    @ JT – If a job is so bad it affects your personal life then you have to look elsewhere (provided there’s elsewhere to look in the economy). In you example you found a job you like and do extra work to make do. That’s wonderful. Some people won’t go look for the extra work though.

    @ Abigail – I you worry about what other people think you have to wonder who these “other” people are that they would judge you so bad don’t you? Could it be this is just an extension of keeping up with the Joneses in that we all have to have that executive job with the corner office?

    @ Penelope – Definitely don’t sell yourself short! This is an area I could work on myself. After working in customer service, did you discover you learned a lot about people that transfers to what you do now? I learned sooo much working at the supermarket that I wouldn’t have learned at my current job and a lot of that has helped me get ahead here.

    @ Dawn – Great way of looking at it! If you see someone doing a job you woulnd’t do then you gotta respect them a bit because they help enable you to have the lifestyle you have. Don’t like processing trash? Thank the sanitation guys because they make it easier for you to not deal with it.

    @ Tony – Well put. There have been times I’ve been called cheap. Way I look at it though is I’ll be laughing about it later on when I’m sitting on my sailboat with the money I’ve saved and invested over the years. Money doesn’t care where it came from.

    @ Henry – You would think so but I think it’s an attitude that’s deeply ingrained in some people.

    @ Ken – There’s almost something spiritual about giving your all. It may be tough but it actually keeps a job from sucking the soul out of you. When you muddle by in a job then when it’s really bad. I love it when I see a bus driver happy and liking what he’s doing. Bot only does he get me where I have to go but he’s helped change my mood for the day which is in itself priceless!

    @ TStrump – I think the economy would be in better shape if everyone had your attitude! I’ve seen some people on public assistance who have an attitude that they have a right to what they are getting and are almost proud of the fact that they buck the system. (Not to knock any one who genuinely need public assistance).

    @ Money Energy – You don’t want a job that makes you sick inside though sometimes you have to suck it up for a bit until you can get something better. And for sure, something that goes against your principles would be a tough job to do. I wouldn’t want to work at something I thought of as “blood” money.

    @ Steve – Haha! But you know what? Those types of jobs teach you a lot!

  15. I’m sure it at least has some of the same roots as keeping up with the Joneses: insecurity. If you aren’t worried deep down that someone is better than you, you really don’t care if they make assumptions.

    I was out and about once in a suburb of Seattle and I was in line to get a shaved ice from a little vending cart. A little kid (maybe 6) asked the guy something that escapes me but essentially was verging on rude. Basically, the kid intuited that it was a menial job. But the kid was asking in all innocence. The mom, however, didn’t correct the kid or even apologize to the guy. As I stepped up, the guy apologized for the wait — it had taken a couple extra minutes — and I told him not to worry about it. His feathers were clearly a tad ruffled by the kid’s comment. He told me he actually really enjoyed his job. The cart-owner was a friend of his. It was easy work, he got some extra cash (this was a second job) and was allowed to read whenever a customer wasn’t around. Plus, he got to sit around in beautiful weather in this rather upscale little terraced mall.

    I could totally see the appeal in that and told him so. It reminded me of the days when I worked at a movie theater and served food (didn’t even wait on the tables, so no big bucks). One of the girls at the restaurant actually had a guy snap his fingers at her like a dog.

    All that said, Penelope is completely right: If you’re not in a crunch situation, by all means try and shoot for a job a little more in keeping with your education/aspirations. But if you have little to no money, then no job is beneath you.

    Abigail’s last blog post..Who will the recession favor?

    • @ Abigail – The way you make it sound, I want to be that shaved ice guy! Sounds wonderful. Who could say why some take the jobs they do? But isn’t it great when you see someone enjoy what they do?

      @ Penelope – I think a job like that is valuable for everyone. We all need to know how it feels on the other side of the register with customers screaming at you. But we also need to learn how to deal with these people the right way.

  16. I did learn a lot about people in working customer service – and still do customer service these days for my own company.

    At Togo’s, I used to play a game with myself. Whenever I saw my next customer, I would guess what sandwich, with what kind of bread and cheese, they would order. I must say, I was right a lot of the time.

    You can tell a lot about people’s taste in food by looking at their face, their clothes and their behavior. Not a vital life skill, but an interesting one.

    It was a little harder with pizza because they could order any topping combination, but there was also a distinction.

    Penelope @ Pecuniarities’s last blog post..A Second Life for Used Aluminmum Foil: Free Scouring Pads Found in Your Kitchen

  17. Good post — I enjoyed this.

  18. threadbndr says:

    My grandpa (who was a banker who lost everything in the Great Depression and then recreated his career as a rural mail carrier and then a land developer in the 1950s) used to say “Don’t care if you’re a ditch digger, but be a GOOD ditch digger – try to be the best one that ever lifted a shovel”.

    As long as it’s moral and legal, there’s no shame in any work.

    • @ threadbndr – There was definitely an admirable attitude in that generation that is lacking at times today!

  19. Nicki at Domestic Cents says:

    Great thoughts and I agree. Supermarket money pays bills the same as lawyer money 🙂

    Nicki at Domestic Cents’s last blog post..Frugality Builds Character

  20. When it comes to survival, nothing legal is beneath doing to make it. In addition to working hard, the more you work, the less time you have to spend that money that you’re making. Working brings pride.

    • Hey that’s a good point! I’ve noticed that when I’m working on my working “spree” (my job has blocks of days in which we work), I feel good because I’m not spending my money. It’s just being made and earned.

  21. Ok I have two cents to offer here:

    I’m 32 and have a Master’s degree.

    I was working in the Oil/Gas (Natural Gas) field doing office operations and lost my job.

    I picked up work at a staffing agency on site at a local manufacturing facility making $10.25 an hour and have been there for a year whilst I have been getting my life back in order after losing the Oil/Gas Job.

    I am now making $11 an hour (still well below what my qualifications suggest I “should” be making) and sometimes feel ashamed of my job. My job is not below me but I feel as if I have failed because of what I make vs. what my accreditations “say” I should be making, then compare myself to others my age who are making more than am I.

    However; for those who say they wont take a job because it’s below them, I have one message: screw off. When I catch myself feeling sorry for myself, I then remind myself that a job is better than no job and that giving your all to a job is worth it.

    To steal a quote (or paraphrase one!) from a country song; if you’re doing what you’re able and putting food on the table, that’s something to be proud of!

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