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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 ​l​ow-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 struggle​s​ of others who often d​​on’t have the options​ or talents​ you ha​ve​. 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. ​Y​ou 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.​


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