I’m a big fan of James Franco. I may have named my first car Franco in his honor. As a fan, I’m not saying I support or agree with all of his work, but I find him intriguing. I especially like his performance in Spider-Man 3 as Harry Osborne, but that’s a story for another day.
I’m also a big fan of people having jobs that bring them joy, but I realize that often we’re in jobs where we’re not satisfied. What do we do when this happens?
A few weeks ago, I was reading an article about when Franco worked in McDonald’s as he was beginning his career as an actor. In his op-ed Washington Post article, he states, “All I know is that when I needed McDonald’s, McDonald’s was there for me. When no one else was.” In the article, Franco talks about how working at McDonald’s in Los Angeles was a decent job for him as he was starting his career as an actor. Franco also talks about how he used different accents with customers, from Southern to Irish to Brooklynese. The accents were quite convincing, and helped him practice acting as he was trying to launch his career.
I’m not saying I recommend talking in fake accents to people or dropping out of college, as Franco dropped out of UCLA to pursue his career in acting. (He did later return to UCLA and graduated.) And there is valid criticism about Franco’s McDonald’s experience, which I’ll discuss. However, there are certain things Franco did during his time at McDonald’s which could be helpful for any student or recent graduate working a job that is not ideal for them.
- Developing strengths. We often talk with students about identifying their strengths and learning how to put them to use. Franco knew he had a knack for acting, and so he worked on developing how to speak with different accents during his time at McDonald’s. He identified a strength – acting – and worked to improve it, all in the context of McDonald’s. Even when working jobs we don’t like, we may be able to harness our strengths by thinking outside the box.
- Valuing current work. Often, it’s easy not to appreciate the work in which we’re currently employed, especially if we see a job only as a stepping stone. Of course, the job may be a stepping stone, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss the work as unimportant. Jobs like the ones Franco had at McDonald’s are so important. They help people develop time-management skills, communication skills, and problem-solving skills. Unfortunately, we often dismiss some jobs as being more important than others, when all jobs usually have a purpose. Perhaps write a list of what you do value at your current workplace, and see how you can live out those values.
- Using free time well. Even as Franco was working at McDonald’s, he tried to use his free time to look for acting gigs, and he talks about how he was able to get a gig. Not everyone has the privilege of having much free time outside of work, but when you do come across it, use it well. Try to network with people in careers you are interested in pursuing and look for hiring opportunities.
Whether you like McDonald’s or not, reflect on Franco’s experience, and critically analyze it as well. Times have changed since Franco worked for McDonald’s in 1996, including that the cost of college has risen. Tsedeye Gebreselassie from the National Employment Law Project stated in an article in CNN Money, “It’s a real privilege to do what [James Franco] did, just work a few months and leave when he wanted to.” Many people who work at McDonald’s are in much different situations than Franco, discussed in another op-ed by Lydia DePillis speaking to how McDonald’s workers should be paid better.
I’m not saying all of us will reach the same stardom as James Franco. However, we can try to find joy and satisfaction in our jobs by seeing the value in what we do and using our strengths during the course of the work day. Find the parts of the job you do like, and learn how you can do more of those things. Analyze what Franco did, and see what could apply to your current situation.