This viral tweet about an actor working in a shop proves that some jobs still carry a stigma – but why?
Job shaming, or judging someone for the job they have, is something that, as a society, we’ve historically been pretty guilty of. However, a recent news story has proven that people are still, even in 2019, being called out simply for the doing paid work.
Last weekend, a tweet with a photo of a tabloid headline about a former EastEnders actor received over 12k likes. “EastEnder Star Works In B&M Shop,” it read in large, judgmental letters. The front page included a picture of the actor, Katie Jarvis, who left the soap earlier this year.
Alongside the photo of the headline, another actor, Danny Hatchard, wrote a powerful caption.
“I am sick and tired of seeing this happen. Tabloids have clearly not learnt a single thing from the Geoffrey Owens Story. As actors our job is hard enough as it is, not knowing when or where our next gig will be. So the VERY last thing that we need is this shit,” he wrote. “It’s malicious, pathetic and vile behaviour showing absolute disregard for the actor, and their mental health.”
These words have clearly struck a chord with thousands of people online.
Comedian Kathy Burke replied: “Person gets job so her kids don’t starve. Good for her.”
And former Coronation Street star Charlie Condou shared: “When I left Corrie I had a string of very nice TV and theatre jobs. Then I didn’t. So I got a job working in a restaurant to pay my bills and take care of my kids. That’s what responsible adults do.”
Why does this matter so much? Because we need to stop shaming people about their jobs.
The truth is that certain jobs still carry social stigmas in 2019: cleaners, shop assistants, bar tenders, call-centre workers and waiters, to name a few. I can say this because I can tick half of those roles off on my CV. And I have family members and friends who work in these roles.
No, I wasn’t rolling in dollar bills when I cleaned hotels. No, I didn’t get much job satisfaction when selling shoes to people who didn’t even look me in the eye. And no, I wouldn’t say I ever felt “appreciated” while waiting tables at a fancy golf club.
But it was all good, honest work. Without those jobs, I wouldn’t have learned the basic job skills that I still use today. I wouldn’t have been able to pay my rent while at university. And I wouldn’t have learned how to properly make a bed (actually, I’m still working on that one).
Ultimately, without those jobs, I probably wouldn’t have the role that I have today. So why is there still such snobbery towards them?
The answer, like most things, is probably down to money. The one factor these roles all have in common is that they are likely to have low income salaries.
In 2018, a survey by the National Office of Statistics found that the average UK salary was £29,009 (taking both full-time and part-time employees into consideration). In comparison, the average UK waitress earns £14,832, while the average retail assistant earns £14,665.
But, here’s the thing that society sometimes can’t seem to get its head around: you can work a low-income job and still be an aspirational and intelligent person. It’s great to have a degree and a certain level of ambition, but that’s not what pays the rent – cold, hard cash is.
While people work hard to try and persue a career they’re passionate about, they shouldn’t feel ashamed for taking on some evening hours to help with the bills. You’re not unsuccessful or a failure if you haven’t got your dream job yet – you’re just on your own unique trajectory and working hard to get there.
Also, we shouldn’t assume that everyone working these jobs is unhappy or unfulfilled. You don’t need to dream of being a CEO just because you got the right grades at school or because others consider it as the ultimate success. People can be whatever the hell they want to be.
Surely, everyone who gets out of bed to go to work and earn their keep deserves the same level of respect? It takes a certain kind of strong person to want to provide a positive customer service experience in a call centre. And the barrista who makes your morning coffee has the power to make or break your day.
The line between work life and personal life is more blurred than ever, thanks to a modern work culture of checking our emails outside of work hours and never leaving the office on time. This can make it hard to remember that the job we do isn’t necessarily what defines us.
And that’s what we need to remind ourselves if we’re in a role that didn’t ever appear in our careeer dreams: it isn’t representative of your character.
The only shameful thing about these jobs, is the way some media outlets and individuals dismiss them.