My first job was at our small local library. I started on a Tuesday, the day before I turned fourteen. I worked Tuesdays and Thursdays through most of my high school career until we moved from the one room library at City Hall to our new building. Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:45 to 6:00 as I recall.
I was responsible for checking books out, checking them in, re-shelving books and whatever else the librarian asked me to do. When nothing else needed doing, it was my responsiblity to “read the shelves,” which meant I checked to make sure that all the books were in their correct spot. Later I even did some of the storytimes for the young ones during the Summer Reading Program.
I had been working there almost a year. My birthday was coming up. On a Thursday that year. I had already figured it out in my own mind that I would just switch up and work Tuesday and Wednesday so I could have my birthday off. Made sense, right? I happened to mention my game plan to my parents. Ahem. They were not so fond of my game plan. Their position was I had a job, I had a scheduled time to be there, I needed to be there. “You might as well learn now, folks don’t just have off on their birthday.” What?! Are you kidding me?
I remember feeling pretty frustrated with them over this. Actually I was downright mad. What difference did it make? When did I become a grownup and have to act accordingly? Maybe I had written a script that I was going to get my learner’s permit that afternoon. I don’t remember. But I do remember this lesson. It was perhaps one of the best lessons they taught me. The world does not revolve around me and my comings and goings, such as birthdays. Mama worked every one of her birthdays that I can remember. I mean, a house doesn’t shut down for someone’s birthday. Daddy worked every one that fell on a weekday. And when it fell on a weekend, he was not the type to kick back in the recliner and let everybody wait on him hand and foot. He did what needed to be done.
I was thinking about this today when I read some words of wisdom shared by Hugh Hollowell. In his post, “The Important People,” he shares his father’s advice about jobs and life. I got to thinking about that critical moment when my parents taught me what it meant to have a job. Integrity. Loyalty. Giving it your all the whole time you are there. Would my boss have let me off for my birthday? Maybe so. But I’m glad I didn’t even get to ask her. I’ve thought a lot about what I want my daughter to learn, as she has her first job, the first in a string of many as she enters the real world of working and building a life for herself. I want the world and especially those who work with her to see the fabulous person I think she is. Most of the time.
I want her to be loyal. When you work for someone or for a company, no words leave your lips that aren’t helpful or praising. If you have an issue about something, go through the proper channels. Complaining about it will not get you anything but a reputation as an unpleasant person.
When you are on the job, they OWN you. And it’s okay, it’s legal. They are PAYING you. So whatever you are asked to do, outside of something that would lead to your being handcuffed, you are good–just do it. With respect. Do it with the same amount of energy and dedication, whether you love it or hate it. I even dare you to do it with a smile.
Work when you are scheduled. With the exception of illness or death of a loved one, go to work. You might miss some stuff, but you know what? Dedication and applying yourself will pay off in the end.
And I want her to know a job is a privilege. It is a privilege, not a right, to have a job and get paid to do it. We see so many people each weekend who would love to have a paying job that it makes me angry to hear anyone whining about his or her job on a regular basis.
I’ve heard the saying that 30’s are the new 20’s. I’m cool with that, because that makes me…..well, much younger than I really am. However, if we continue with this math, we can get in trouble. Are the 20’s the new teens? If so, where does that leave our teens? Oh good gravy, where are we headed?
I loved the show Friends. I watched it as a young married person. I watched it as a new Mama. I watch reruns occasionally now as Mama of three children, one almost in college. It was entertaining. Funny. My sister uses Rachel’s line “You’re so pretty” on a regular basis, and I still crack up. But here’s the thing. It is not the real world. I don’t know if the show led us where we are or if it was a reflection of where we, as a society, were heading; regardless, we are living in a world of young adults, many of whom don’t want to live in the real world. They feel cheated because they don’t have the life of “hanging out with friends” that the entertainment industry has led them to believe can be had. And I guess it can. But not if they want to have clothes to wear and a roof over their heads and food to eat. And those cups of coffee the gang had at Central Perk all the time–AIN’T. NO. WAY.
I know some pretty awesome young adults. They are good people. Many of them have it together. But it is starting to worry me how many young adults today feel entitled to have their job working for them instead of the other way around–expecting the job to accommodate them and their schedule. Jobs that don’t let them study when things are slow are simply “being difficult.” I worked in a library, and reading a book was done only on my personal time. Jobs that don’t let them clock out early when things are slow–what is that about? I’ve even heard young people say that between working and going to school they are busy five days a week! *sigh* I don’t know what is happening, but I do know this.
My seventeen year old is watching.
She is watching television that makes her think her life should be much different than it is. AND she is watching the young adults in her life. And she is learning a lot. I’m just her Mama. What do I know? Daddy was right. Nobody’s going to help me raise these children. I’m trying hard to instill good work ethics and values in my young adult in the short time I have left with her, but I fear other voices might be louder.
So I am asking those of you who have graduated from high school or college and aren’t still in school, if you haven’t already, please join the real world. Get a job and take it seriously. You’ll make mistakes. I sure did. But what I found was that when I humbly apologized and asked how I could right my wrong, more times than not, it all turned out okay. So yes, find employment. It might not be your dream job or where you want to be in five years. We’ve all been there. (Well, except for maybe Donald Trump, but I digress.) But whatever job you accept, give it your all–all of your energy, all of your positive attitude, all of your very best effort, and respect those in charge. Because here’s some wisdom I learned from my parents thirty years ago and it still rings true today. It’s not all about you. And please, just as I expect my teenager to set a good example for our littles, PLEASE set a good example for those younger than you. Let them learn from you what a good employee looks like. Because maybe, just one day, they’ll be working for you, and you’ll be glad you did.