Have you ever washed dishes before? I know I have. The first time my mother sat me down on a stool in front of the sink, shoved a wet sponge into my hands, and ordered me to wash my own dishes I almost threw a fit. A week later, I was washing dishes for my little brother and soon enough I had graduated to dishwasher au choix of the Zavriyev household. No one could scrub off greasy rigatoni from the edges of a skillet as well as I. No one could soak, scrape and swish with such skill.
So it came as a great surprise to me when in my first interview for a busboy position I was told I needed more relevant experience. My interviewer, a burly man of great width, suggested I try the coffee shop down the street for a job. Maybe they would have the time to train a “newbie” such as myself. I looked at him blankly.
Surely this was a joke. The upperclassmen in my dormitory, hardened veterans of the industry, had told me that the job of busboy entailed little to no skill, yet here I was being shoved out the door. I had gravely misinterpreted the job of “busboy” for that of a “dishwasher.” The former required “two years relevant experience” and I had none. Although I had been a dishwasher all my life, I had never been a busboy.
There’s a reason why minimum wage jobs are the very bottom of the pack. Unless it’s an internship, you don’t get paid 10 bucks an hour for your ability to solve complex theoretical problems or make important decisions. You get paid to shovel snow, cut grass, flip burgers, and carry loads of dishes from the dishwasher to the drying rack.
Your task is repetitive and mundane, and most of your time will be spent rethinking last year’s indulgent purchases. After two days of training you are no worse than last year’s employee of the month, and after two months, you decide that the job is not for you. It is, at most, a very barebones experience. What you do learn, however, is the value of money—Aloe Blacc style.
The main point here, is that every working relationship is one of benefits and costs. What will one employee bring to my company, and how much am I willing to spend on his wages. In the case of minimum wage employment, the cost is low enough for employers to take the hit.
Training is minimal and the tasks so simple that to ask for previous experience only limits an employer’s hiring base. What is more important is not how many hours one has previously worked at the same job, but the amount of energy one will bring to work. If the task is so simple that we can assume everyone has the same chance of mastering it, then it is more practical for the employer to assess a potential employee’s enthusiasm and willingness to work.
There are plenty of students who have no experience, but are so in need of a job that they will do anything to be the best. To me, this is the perfect employee: one that is motivated to work and appreciates the opportunity. This type of employee is the kind of investment employers need to make: an investment that pays off.