The Luxury of Working at Taco Bell

Photo: mikebaird

A few months ago, the Denver Post featured an article on the expiration of unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits were bolstered because nearly ten percent of Americans are still unemployed, with no prospects of that number declining significantly anytime soon.

One quote from the article was especially telling. Dianne, a 47-year old human resources professional, shared her own challenge in finding a job. She searched for a job for nine months without finding a position in human resources:

I’m nervous. It means that maybe I’ll have to go down to the local Taco Bell for a job. Maybe I can get food there too.

I understand her nervousness and recognize that it can be frustrating to not find a job directly in your professional sweet spot or educational training. But, Diane’s comment continues to hang with me and agitate me for the following reasons:

  1. The slap-in-the-face she gives to all employees at fast food restaurants, as if their work is “beneath” someone like Diane.

  2. The corrosive cultural shift in our country which neglects to acknowledge that job choice is a luxury.

Reading this comment, I think about my friends in “blue collar” positions, those working in restaurants, construction sites and factories. How would they feel when reading Dianne’s comments? I think about the history of our nation. It is only within the past fifty years that (many) Americans have had the luxury of choosing their career. In the early and mid 20th century, the vast majority of Americans worked wherever they could find a job. The concept of “vocational calling” would have been a reality for only the most elite. If your dad owned a farm — you farmed. If the factory had a job opening — you applied. Job choice in our country has always been a luxury, not a right.

From a global perspective, simply having a stable job, of any sort, is a luxury as well. I think about the hundreds of millions of people around the world who would sacrifice anything for the opportunity to work at Taco Bell. A consistent paycheck, well-lit working conditions, discounted food — that would be one of a highly-coveted job in many places around the world.

Dianne made a simple comment — and one similar to comments I have undoubtedly made in the past. I also recognize I am working in a “dream vocation” currently and I do not want to undermine the challenges job layoffs and unemployment present. It’s brutal. Unemployment is rough and it would be tough for me to leave my cushy office position to go back to working in the concrete business like I did in college. But, I hope that one of the silver linings of this recession is a reminder of what “normal” looks like in the scope of the world and our nation’s history.

[box_help]Sound Off: Were Diane’s comments off-putting? Do you agree with her? Let us know in the comments.[/box_help]

5 Tips For Being More Effective

1. Segment Yourself

As the founder of a flourishing men’s lifestyle website and the director of operations for a college lacrosse program, I typically don’t have the most free time. This can be a problem. In addition, when you add in a social life and multiple men’s groups/bible studies, life can get crazy. To counteract this, I will spend two hours maximum on any given project.

I pray and write; then I do some recruiting; then I do some business development and contract work; then I head to lacrosse practice; then I go to bible study. Et cetera. There is freedom in segmenting yourself.

This reminds me of some of the courses I took in business school. At the end of these courses, I would write a 20-page paper and it was like pulling teeth. Why? Because I waited. And waited. And waited. Before I knew it, it was crunch time, and that meant writing all twenty pages in one sitting. Ouch. Wouldn’t it have been nicer if I had segmented myself?


2. Identify Your Strengths

Know what you’re good at.

Are you a planner? Are you great with numbers? Is creativity your forte? Pinpoint your impact zone and hone in on how that area makes you successful. If you’re not completely focused on the areas that truly make you valuable, you might be missing out.

Your strengths are not everything. You can’t possibly be strong in every area. For example: Last year, I was pegged to lead a youth ministry band. Despite my ministry training, I didn’t know a thing about music; it was a disaster. Which leads me to the next point…


3. Know When You’re In Trouble

Know what you’re bad at.

As an intern in a church, we called this being “consciously incompetent.” It wasn’t a slight by any means, but rather an objective judgment that said, “I am admitting my faults in this area.” After witnessing the  youth ministry band experiment, we eventually found somebody much more musically-inclined. It relieved me of great stress and show me a new area of ministry to focus on.

Despite any and all self-depreciation, this technique allowed me to get better in areas that I was deficient. Also, it showed me that God’s strength is found in my weakness… so it helps to know where those weaknesses are.


4. Enlist The Help Of Others

If you’re having difficulties, find some help. For many, it’s an ego-breaker to ask others for help, but it’s crucial to becoming more effective.

Many times, we have issues relenting control and that control-issue stems from the idea that others can’t do it as well as we can. I’ll step to the front of the line on this one, but I think we’re incorrect. Hoarding power and duties only bogs us down as leaders.

When we let others take the reigns, we give them the opportunity to grow. Instead of half-heartedly completing a task that you’re too busy for, you might give somebody else an opportunity to flourish with new freedom. I often forget that my very opportunity to grow as a leader was founded by somebody giving me an opportunity to take the reigns. I would not be where I am today if I never had that chance, so I am working to give these opportunities as much as I can.

As a bonus, consider new ideas and chances to create a task or leadership position for others. Your faith in them as a growing leader could be enough to foster growth in them and in that new task.


5. Pray

Above all else, pray.

If you can realize, through prayer, that there is a GIGANTIC God out there… everything else seems… less significant. And that’s a good thing.

The Comparison Trap

So I was just on Facebook (the comparison trap) and saw a girl from high school who is kicking butt and taking names. She’s attended several Ivy League schools, only to pursue a career in medicine at the most prestigious school in the country–––plus, she’s beautiful. As I sit sipping on a skinny mocha at Starbucks in my normal life as an individual who does not have their MD and is not curing cancer, I feel inferior.

I’ve achieved some of my dreams, yet others are waiting for me to pick them back up to do what I was intended to do with them all along: go after them.

But if my driving force is comparison, then what am I trying to prove? If my issue is status, why am I so determined to impress others? If my goal is influence, why am I not focused on my own giftedness and abilities to contribute in a constructive way that can actually benefit those around me?

I remember coming to a conscious realization in college that I care about what other people think of me. In high school, I was too defensive and prideful to admit it. It’s funny because I speak to high school students regularly about college, and during my presentation I ask them whether or not they care about what people think of them. More often than not, they won’t admit it. It makes me chuckle to think about the pending realizations to come in their lives, and I smile. After admitting that disappointing truth in college, I thought that admitting it would somehow make it go away.

You know that saying, “admitting it is the first step”? Well, what’s after the first step? I guess I thought the next step was that it would magically go away. I would verbally admit it, but sort of also deny it, thinking that since I had the capacity to admit it, I was somehow negating it simultaneously.

Now at 25, I am very conscious of the considerable mental space that is currently being taken up by my wondering and worrying about other’s opinions are of me. It looks different than it did in college, but it’s still the same beast. It’s already hard enough to determine what to do in life without the pressure of expectation (projected and actual) from others. If you let it, the pressure can eat you alive. So what gives? How do you move forward when you feel like you’re being watched with a microscope?

Well, you could start by getting off Facebook so you aren’t voluntarily opening yourself up for critics, but that takes discipline (and we don’t like discipline). Perhaps much bigger than a decision to rid yourself of a cyber device for social connection is the decision to move forward without a roadmap. It’s the decision to consistently choose forward motion over a static standstill. Deciding to live in the fear-inducing option of making a mistake or taking a fall for the risk of gain. I have yet to master the art of stepping out in faith. Sadly, everyday that I choose to stay in my bubble of comfort is one day that I go unchallenged and unfulfilled. The comfortable comes at a cost. So something’s inevitably ‘gotta give’ if the desire to change becomes greater than the desire to stay the same.

Let’s collectively choose a magnificent adventure over the status quo, come what may.

Article: ‘Jobs Hard To Come By For Grads’

Below is an article from the Detroit News that highlights why jobs are hard to come by for graduates. Reading this, it makes me extremely blessed and very thankful to have my new career…

As thousands of Michigan college graduates pick up their diplomas in the aftermath of the worst downturn since the Depression, they’re finding that jobs remain scarce and the ones that are out there pay less, don’t offer a good career or don’t require a college education to begin with.

A survey released this week by the National Association of Colleges and Employers finds employment picking up for the first time since 2007 for new graduates, with employers planning to hire 19.3 percent more graduates in 2010-11 than they did in 2009-10. Continue reading “Article: ‘Jobs Hard To Come By For Grads’”

The Wait Is Over…

[Editor’s Note: Prepare to be confused. This post was ported over from It no longer makes any sense, as I have left Catalfumo to launch Quarterlife Man, but the principles still remain the same.]

The wait is officially over–––I am employed.

There are formalities to complete (signing the offer sheet, drug testing, etc.), but for all intents and purposes, I now have a career. And it is a greattttttt feeling.

From the outset, this blog was created to document my final semester of college and everything thereafter. With college completed and degree in hand, another milestone has been reached. Continue reading “The Wait Is Over…”

The Manifesto

Someone once wrote, “failure to plan is planning to fail.”  (In light of that…)

I bring forth… The Manifesto.  The Manifesto is a guide for graduation––a compendium of probable circumstances that will guide my actions over the next several months.  Call me crazy, but I would much rather have a defined plan of action than to “wing it.”

[College Quandary #1: Students that graduate without a plan are choosing to risk their futures.  We’ve all seen it––students receive their diplomas and enjoy a week or two of post-college life before uttering a, “now what?” THIS IS VERY BAD. By waiting until after graduation to get going, students then stumble through the job searching process because there is no plan of action.  We’ve all seen this happen too––after Jane Graduate decides that post-grad life and a job at Applebee’s aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, she moves back home with her parents––further crippling her chances of using her youth and degree to get a quick start into the professional world.] Continue reading “The Manifesto”