The Desk

January 11, 2013

Range of Opportunities

We’re told that job opportunities are increasing as we work our way out of the Bush Administration and continue into the second term of the Obama Administration. What’s unfortunate is the fact that many people think of jobs in terms of fast food establishments or entry-level office work and nothing else. Because it exposes us to employment settings other than those typicals, I really like the television show “Undercover Boss.”

In the show, either the owner of the business or a high-ranking executive in the company disguises theirself and works as an entry-level person in various capacities as they try to qualify for a position in the company. In addition to allowing the corporate side of the business to get an actual view of how things work and the conditions and standards that workers must meet, these undercover settings also allow the execs to see where the inefficiencies reside. There’s a means of seeing (and feeling) why X or Y doesn’t work. They gain a sense of what it may take to fix it. It’s no longer a situation of top dictating to the bottom[line] without an appreciation of what it takes to achieve those demands.

Okay, there’s more to the show than just the executives’ gaining a better insight into the real operations and the people who make the wheels turn. As the title of this indicates, the show allows viewers to start thinking about situations other than fast food and traditional office work. The show allows us to see the other parts of the company “inerds” and the range of job titles involved in that business.

Few of us have thought about working for a waste disposal company. But this show provides a view of various types of positions that are part of that type of business. Then there’s working for a moving company. The positions involve more than just the strong-man movers. There are also estimators and schedulers. Don’t forget the Claims Department! Then there’s working for a hotel as well as home care and assisted living support services.

What about a job in agriculture? Being a harvester or picker takes a lot. A conveyor belt is not forgiving. It runs at a certain speed and even though the belt is supposed to make the worker easier, the belt is also a task master. When it comes to making certain the job is done properly, those conveyor belts (whether for processing food or any other product) force the worker to be precise and deft. Not doing so means lost time, lost product, and lost profits.

It takes a special type of personality to do all of these types of jobs. Some of the workers have been with their employers for decades. It’s also refreshing that the employees are so willing to open their private lives to scrutiny and share some of their personal stories. It helps us realize that they definitely are struggling to make ends meet. In many instances, these people are working two jobs while supporting not just their nuclear family but generations of the family living under the same roof. This show allows viewers who are not too different from the ones who are employees of the companies to see what others are doing in order to survive. Viewers get to see how others are compensating in order to realize the American Dream.

There were two episodes that were particularly meaningful for me. One involved the 1-800-FLOWERS owners. We learned a lot about customer service and learning about customer traffic patterns and timing, serving customer needs unique to your location, innovation, and design.

The other episode that held a lot of meaning for me was about Hooters. Not only the viewing audience but the owner was appalled at one manager’s abuse of the servers. It’s difficult to even remember the things he subjected the women to so that they could be selected as the one to get time off due to over staffing for the day.

No doubt most people watch the show for the entertainment value and nothing more. However, there’s more to that show than mere entertainment. Obviously there’s editing so that we, the viewing public, don’t see the complete flow of what happened during the job. But we do get to do our research about that type of industry and what it would be like to work for that company in at least three different types of positions available there.

Sponsored Link: Exploring Future Options: A Career Development Curriculum for Middle School Students

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