Minimum Rage: College Grads in the Service Industry

Facing a tough job market and a student debt crisis, many recent college grads are being forced back into service industry jobs.

| July/August 2012

  • New York Bartender
    We internalized the message that service jobs aren’t ‘real’ jobs. We wanted to be writers, therapists, lawyers. We didn’t want to spend our working lives reciting specials and making drinks.
  • Waitress
    To me, a pipe dream is becoming a bestselling author or an Oscar-winning actor or a jet-setting entrepreneur—not the chance to quit a minimum wage job. Not the chance to move out of your hometown.
  • Jimmy Johns Worker
    Jimmy John’s is a sandwich chain that, aesthetically, is the hipster’s answer to Subway—located across the street from college campuses, with edgy black-and-red decor and cheeky signs like “Tweet Your Taste Buds” and “Bread So French, It Must Be Liberated!”

  • New York Bartender
  • Waitress
  • Jimmy Johns Worker

Behind the bar of a fancy New York restaurant, a 27-year-old bartender tidies her olive-and-cherry box. She attempts to look distracted while a middle-aged financial analyst holds her captive with small talk.

“So what else do you do?” he slurs, four Manhattans deep.

“Nothing,” she says. “I just do this.”

“Oh!” he answers. “That’s cool. Did you go to college?”

“Yup. I went to NYU.”

The man makes no attempt to hide his confusion. She leans forward and wipes away a few whiskey drops in front of him.

Stephen Fairbanks
6/28/2012 3:15:25 PM

Spot on, Joe! These days, most of these professional schools and post-graduate degrees are a hustle. Who is writing the articles indicting the universities for peddling degrees that are utterly useless?

Stephen Fairbanks
6/28/2012 3:13:55 PM

Really not sure what the point of this article is. Union movements at Jimmy Johns and employment at independently owned restaurants are worlds apart. I have spent 20 years in this industry, with experience at 13 different establishments, working for generally kind and hard-working owners. None of them fit the greedy corporation stereotype peddled here, and none of them are wealthy. They all work hard, and while they aren't perfect, neither are my co-workers, many of whom take the "not a real job" approach and don't take the work seriously. Whether as a waiter, bartender, line cook, or chef, a life-long living can be made in the restaurant biz, and articles like this tend to reinforce the negative cultural stereotypes. It seems this article should have been focused solely on the minimum wage-paying chains, where the stereotypes ring truer. Still, a frustrating read that didn't quite hit the mark.

Joe Black
6/24/2012 3:58:17 AM

Has she read a newspaper in the last 2 school is a scam, according to the ABA only 55% of last years graduates got jobs as lawyers and most of those were from the top 14 schools, that number is even lower when you subtract the students who were hired by their own school temporarily to game the numbers, it drops to 35% if you don't count them. She really needs to check out the facebook page called Don't Go to Law School, or read the NY Times.

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