Essential Learnings from Menial Work
In this post, I’m going to suggest what no teacher, counselor, or mentor has ever advised me to do: get a menial job. Or at least engage with and listen very openly to people who have menial jobs.
What kinds of jobs am I referring to? I’m talking about a low-paying job that has poor benefits, is not knowledge-based, has inconvenient hours, and is often looked down upon by others. I’m talking about washing dishes, mopping floors, cashiering, working low-end retail, flipping burgers, and so on.
I think a lot of high-earning professionals who never held one of these jobs as a primary source of income have missed some essential lessons…
You Won’t Have Entitlement Syndrome
Far, too many people I’ve worked with act like they deserve everything they want. Whether it’s a six- or seven-figure salary, flexible hours, or just an assistant to be at their beck and call, some professionals seem to think that their level of education or years of work mean it’s unfair to not get what they want, when they want it. Talking to someone who works a menial job or even taking on a menial job offers fresh perspective and an end to “entitlement syndrome.”
Am I saying you shouldn’t make a lot of money and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle? Absolutely not! Just remember that you aren’t necessarily a better person than the bus boy who cleared the tables at your business lunch. If you’ve had a menial job at some time in your life, you’ve been in the bus boy or waitresses shoes and can appreciate your current status as a blessing rather than an entitlement. Which brings me to Lesson number 2.
You’ll Be Grateful
When you’ve experienced the demands of a menial job, you are in a great position to count your blessings and complain much less. Grateful people are happier people.
You’ll Gain Empathy
By regularly engaging with the people you encounter in menial jobs, you come to understand the struggles of others who often don’t have the options or talents you have. You will come to respect those who are not at your level professionally and both will benefit from the relationship.
You’ll Be Better to Work With
The perspective gained from menial jobs will help you be a better manager and/or coworker. You can use what you’ve learned to be a great person to work with and for. You’ll be more respectful and less condescending. If you’ve been fortunate enough to skate from internship to entry-level with benefits, get to know the often-invisible minimum wage workers around you.
Volunteer with organizations that serve the underprivileged (and don’t just stay on the board of directors!). Don’t live in a professional fishbowl. Be open to those who work menial jobs and you will gain perspective, empathy and an attitude of gratitude. You’ll be happier and so will your co-workers.