'Job or No Job': TV Review

Adam Taylor/ABC Family
Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to work they hope to go in this moderately compelling reality TV series. 

Twenty-somethings interview for their dream job in this new reality series from the executive producer of 'Undercover Boss.'

I vividly remember my first real job offer — that moment that takes you from working to setting forth on a career path. It’s a true landmark of adulthood.

The new ABC Family series Job or No Job follows young twenty-somethings on three job interviews in their chosen profession. After each interview, they meet with Jane Buckingham, a career and lifestyle expert (Modern Girl’s Guide to Life), who offers feedback on what they need to do to make employers want to hire them.

First up is Gabrielle McBay, who is hoping to leave her hometown of Dallas, Texas, for a job at a Chicago restaurant. She wants to own her own eatery within the next five years and is looking for a position that will help her achieve that goal. She interviews at Goddess & Grocer, Table Fifty-Two and Grace Restaurant. Future episodes include candidates trying to break into the Los Angeles fashion industry, online magazine writing in New York and event planning in Nashville. True to the network’s demographics, the first four candidates featured are women.

On her first interview at Goddess & Garden, McBay forgets to bring her resume. "Not bringing your resume is like showing up to your wedding naked," Buckingham tells her. It’s a nice reminder that, even in our overwhelmingly technological moment, sometimes having a piece of paper is very important. Debbie Sharpe, the founder of Goddess & Garden, worries that Gabrielle wants to advance in her career too quickly. "I just thought you might be a little impatient," she tells her. "I understand you wanting to have your own business in a couple of years. I think if you took it a little more slowly and absorbed a little more, it would be better."

Some of her interviewers are definitely enjoying their time in front of the camera. Michael Muser, co-owner of Grace Restaurant, tells McBay that her work product is "a complete representation of who you are as a human being." A spot on a glass is a spot on her.

I'm just glad the man has never seen my kitchen.

The show also briefly delves into the question of whether it’s even affordable to live in Chicago at the salaries being offered. The front-of-the-house host position at Table Fifty-Two pays $25,000 a year. "Could I afford to live in Chicago?" McBay wonders, saying she doesn’t want to have to call home asking for money. She looks at a studio apartment that is $1050 a month and the show calculates her monthly net income to be $1200 — which doesn’t leave a lot of room for food, clothing, transportation, health care or, you know, basically anything. Buckingham encourages her to live uncomfortably for her dream job. "At 23 there’s never going to be another time where you have fewer responsibilities, can live on nothing. Now’s the time. It’s only going to get harder," she tells McBay.

It’s the truth, but I see a lot of Ramen noodles and roommates in McBay’s future.

Buckingham talks tough. "People under 30 have some of the highest unemployment rates in the country," she tells viewers. "No one has ever told them what they don’t want to hear, but I will." She's actually pretty lenient, bringing the right mix of tough-ish love and reassurance. Some of her advice is obvious. "It’s very risky to curse in an interview," she tells McBay. Really? Who would have thought?

But, at times, her constructive criticism is insightful. She tells McBay that her energy was really low in an interview and that she doesn't realize the image she's projecting. Strangely, she never tells McBay to not talk about how she wants to own her own restaurant in five years. Many employers don’t want to hear that you’re already looking for your next big gig before you’ve even been hired.

McBay starts off as an excellent candidate who knows how to appropriately dress for and speak during an interview. She also has a strong resume that would be attractive to future employers. It will be interesting to see if, in future episodes, the series takes on candidates that are less ready-made.

Stephen Lambert, whose other series include Undercover Boss, is an executive producer. As with Boss, during which I often wondered if the employees really didn’t know the head of the company was right beside them, it’s hard to determine how much of the series is lightly scripted. Did McBay really forget her resume or does that just make for good TV?

It almost doesn’t matter, since Job or No Job offers compelling, believable drama as McBay searches for and awaits job offers and provides those just getting out of school and beyond with some great counsel on looking for a job.

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