Cashier as Career Path? – A Rant

Posted on: June 2, 2015

I have three boys, one in high school, one in junior high, and one in elementary school. Yeah, parent-teacher conferences are loads of fun, as is scheduling the different extra-curricular activities, field trips, and all that fun stuff. Anyway, my middle son took a career assessment test at school yesterday. It wasn’t very in depth, of course, just 40 or so questions like, “Do you like to work with people?” and “Would you want to work outdoors?” Once the test is complete, the computer spits out a list of about 20 suggested careers based upon the answers given.

My son’s recommendations ran the gamut from computer programmer to set designer for TV and movies to video game developer. Many of the suggestions made perfect sense to us. This boy is very much into computers and loves things like math and science. He is frighteningly intelligent and is years ahead of many of his classmates academically. That’s not just a proud Dad talking, either. We have the test scores to prove it.

One of the career paths, though, gave me pause – cashier. Seriously, I thought, cashier is one of the options? Now, before I get all sorts of angry emails, let me elaborate on this. I’m not saying my son, or anyone else for that matter, is somehow too good to be a cashier. That’s not it at all. The problem is that cashier shouldn’t be considered any sort of “career path.” Being a cashier, like working in the kitchen of a fast food joint or waiting tables or any of the other hundreds of similar jobs, is a means to an end. It is either what you do while you’re working on something else, such as going to school, or it is doing what’s needed to bring in money. It is a job, not a career.

Why would cashier, assembly line worker, carpet cleaner, or customer service employee (yes, those were all on the list) even be options for a career assessment test? I mean, if you have students at the middle school level whose aptitude tests would indicate those as strong career options, something in that education system has almost certainly gone awry. If you have students who enter the real world and the job options for which they are best suited consist of nothing more than ringing up a sale or inserting 3 screws into a piece of sheet metal 787 times a day on an assembly line, something is seriously wrong.

Back in the day, a guy or gal with no desire to move on academically beyond high school could strive for a job working in a local factory, planning to get hired on and staying there until retirement. Those jobs paid well, had great benefits, and were solid as a rock. Today, not so much. I worked in a factory for a couple of summers while I was in college. This was back in the early 90s and starting wage where I worked was $15.00/hour, full benefits after 90 days. Today, you’re lucky if you can find a factory job that pays more than $8.50/hour to start and it’ll be a full year before you qualify for health insurance. The health insurance coverage is also likely to be abysmal at best, nothing at all like what Blue Cross Blue Shield offered 20+ years ago.

Look, the point is this. We need to get back to teaching our children that the sky is the limit when it comes to setting goals and achieving them. If you tell a kid that the best they will ever be able to do for a job is work as a cashier, odds are they are going to believe you and they’ll shy away from any opportunities to do otherwise. Instead of allowing them to be complacent with mediocrity, challenge them to do better.

1 thought on “Cashier as Career Path? – A Rant

  1. WELL SAID!! I love how you always just call it like it is. Thank you for this excellent post!

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