Desperate for a Job. Or Not.

I have two friends who both run businesses. Both have told me similar stories lately about how, in such a down economy, they cannot find people to work for them. The first friend runs a construction business that specializes in renovating restaurants. He routinely has people come to him, begging for work. They plead for jobs because they need to feed their families or they are about to lose their homes. Since my friend always needs employees, he takes many of them on. He even takes on the ones who are “overqualified” because they are out of work professionals.

My friends is upfront in the interviews about the amount of travel required (a lot, but company paid), the salary (which is very generous), the physical labor, and the hours (long, but with overtime pay). Despite the travel and the long hours, these people take the job. They claim to be so desperate for work that they will happily do anything, no matter how long the hours or how arduous the work. Despite their desperation, the average new hire quits after just two weeks. The travel is too much, the hours too long. They beg my friend to find them work closer to home but he reminds them that this was part of the deal. The jobs close to home go to those with seniority. They beg him to cut down the hours so they can spend more time with their families. My friend reminds them that the hours are long because the work needs to be completed by a specific date. When they can’t get easier hours or work closer to home, they quit.

“I don’t get it,” my friend says. “If I was so desperate for money and about to be thrown out of my house, I’d do anything and stick with it.” He told me that it makes him think twice about hiring people. He wants to hire those who really need to work, but having employees coming and going every day is disruptive and expensive. He admitted that he may just have to start hiring only those who are truly qualified and experienced in the field, even if that means he has to do with fewer employees and stop being “the nice guy.”

My other friend tells a similar story. She runs a manufacturing facility. She is always hiring employees because hers won’t stay, either, despite the fact that she provides full benefits and good salaries. They come in claiming to be desperate enough to take the third shift that no one else wants. They claim that the fact they have to work most holidays doesn’t bother them. They beg for the job because it has insurance. Yet within a couple of weeks they are complaining about the shift work and how it means they never see their kids. When she reminds them that this is what they were hired for and that they said it wouldn’t bother them, they beg for special consideration. When she can’t give them what they want, they quit.

It’s not that most of these people are leaving for other, more suitable jobs, either. Most willingly choose unemployment over hard work or inconvenient hours. They would rather be racking up debt, losing their homes, and going without insurance than working at a job that requires travel or odd hours.

I agree with my friends. I don’t understand this behavior. Jobs are hard to come by, let alone jobs that offer good salaries and benefits. If you are truly desperate for money, you have to be willing to take and work at anything, even if it’s not ideal. Maybe you don’t like all the travel. Maybe you don’t like shift work. But which is worse? Travel, or being foreclosed out of your house? When you are desperate for money and you have no job, you have to suck it up and do what you need to do. To do otherwise is to act irresponsibly. You can’t get everything you want in life and sometimes you have to suck it up and deal with unpleasantness until you can get into a better situation.

When someone offers you a helping hand in the form of a job, you should take it and be grateful for the opportunity. You should work at it as hard as you can until you can find something that suits you better. You shouldn’t just cut and run because the work is too hard, or the hours not ideal. You need to pay your bills and support your family more than you need to be home for dinner at 5:00 every night. And who knows? Working at this job that’s so awful may lead to other opportunities. Who knows who you might meet or what you might overhear. You might be able to find a lead on a better job through contacts you make at this job. And a good reference certainly won’t hurt you. If you can get an employer to tell another employer about how hard you worked and how loyal you were to the company, even though it wasn’t your ideal situation, a prospective employer might favor you over another applicant. That’s much better than a reference that says, “You know, Joe quit after two weeks because the work was too hard and he didn’t like the hours.” Even if nothing else happens, at least you can pay your bills, keep your house, and possibly have insurance in the meantime.

The more people who act like this, the harder jobs will be to come by for everyone. Employers like my first friend, who are willing to take on almost anyone who needs a job, will be harder to find because they can only be burned so often before they tighten their hiring policies and look only for those who have years of experience in the field and a proven ability to “hack it.” It’s expensive to hire a new employee. Employers will only take so much of this foolishness before they say, “Enough. I will not hire anyone who isn’t experienced or who isn’t willing to sign a contract for a year of work.” This hurts everyone because there are fewer employers to turn to when you really need a job.

If you really need a job and someone is kind enough to offer and you accept, you really need to commit to that job, at least until you find something that is more your ideal. Quitting because it’s hard or inconvenient isn’t just bad for you, it’s bad for the employer and bad for those who will come after you who could have really used that job.

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6 Responses to Desperate for a Job. Or Not.

  1. Jaime says:

    No offense to your friends, but if they have a continuous stream of new hires because people typically quit within 2 weeks, then there might be something else going on. There’s always another side of the story and maybe these jobs with their “generous” salaries/benefits are not really so generous, or maybe there are safety issues or whatever. Maybe it’s exactly as they say, difficult to know from only their viewpoint. But it reminds me of people who complain that they always date crazy men/women – if YOU are the common denominator then maybe it’s time to look at what you’re doing when you look for someone to date, or in this case, hire.

    With physically strenuous work as well, it can be difficult for someone who’s never held that type of job to realize just how tough they may find it until they actually do it for a few days. Even if your friends are truly representing the difficulty of the work, the reality can still be a punch in the face. Perhaps your construction friend should implement a mentor period – have new hire work under someone local for the first month or two to learn the ropes and then if it doesn’t suit them then he’s not out the travel expenses.

    Overall, I agree that if it were the difference between feeding me and my family and starving, then I’d work almost any job that I can physically perform. If the applicants didn’t exaggerate their circumstances (and their abilities) and your friends really do offer nice jobs, then I also couldn’t understand people’s flakiness.

  2. O Kapi says:

    You’re kidding right? Hook me up with either of your friends. I hear this same story all the time but frankly, I think it is leaning towards total B.S.

  3. Debbie M says:

    Yes, tell your friends to start a mentor program. It’s one thing to be told that hours are long and work is strenuous. Having a co-worker help them find strategies to deal with this could make all the difference.

  4. Gail says:

    I’ve seen this happen at many jobs over the years and it really doesn’t have anything to do with the boss, but people that have never learned how to do hard work. When I first graduated from college, I couldn’t find a job. I finally landed a part time one at Arby’s and worked my way up to assistant manager and full time. My boss several weeks after hiring told me he was scared to hire me as he figured I wouldn’t stay. I stayed until I found a better job a year later. When I quit with 2 weeks notice, I was the FIRST employee in two years who hadn’t walked off the job. It wasn’t the job or the boss. It was people who got themselves in a snit and quit or it interferred with time with the boyfriend or whatever. Granted that job isn’t like the ones described, but it is the same attitude. People talk about their great new job until the reality of working hits them and it is easier to quit than to work.

  5. Money Gal says:

    What %age of their employees wimp out on the job?
    Anecdotaly the article makes it sound like a lot, but maybe it is only 5 out of 50 & those 5 leaving causes lots of re-work so they are on the people’s minds.
    People are kind of wimps & maybe think they are ‘desperate’ when they are not. But I’d say it’s quite wimpy to bail out on a job just because it requires nights and weekends (the manufacturing job). The business owners probably need some basic criteria to figure out whether a candidate can be successful at the job & stick to that. For example someone that runs a production facility probably doesn’t actually have the skills to do production bench work successfully.

    I’d work 3rd shift so long as the business is in a safe area.
    I’d sell my house before I took a job where I was traveling all the time.
    But if I was down to not being able to afford food, you better believe I’d be taking any job I could get hired for!!

  6. Catherine says:

    If your friends reeally want employees, then they need to offer jobs people can take. Hours too long? If they are as desperate as they say for employees, then they should be capable of taking people part time, say 4 days instead of 5. For people to be turning work down in the current climate, something is desperately wrong at these companies.

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