The idea of work ethic has been on my mind a lot lately.
Of course, I looked it up and include the definition I favor for its simplicity:
a belief in the moral benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character.
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
The qualities I equate with a person with work ethic include integrity, thoughtfulness, a sense of responsibility, stick-to-it-iveness, and the ability to collaborate with others.
If you want something you must work for it.
Certainly there have been times in my life that I’ve looked at others who seem to have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth and thought, “Gee, wouldn’t it be great to have whatever you want without having to work for it?”
But I know from experience that often what you think the ideal to be, is not always reality. For example, to be given everything without ever having to work for it may, on the surface, seem like the good life, but if you never have to work for anything how do you come to appreciate what you have? How does a person develop the qualities of responsibility without ever practicing responsibility? In my 40 something years as a member of the work force I have seen many who lack that sense of responsibility. Most jobs don’t last long if you don’t show up on time and don’t do the work you’re expected to do.
Likewise, if you don’t practice integrity, with yourself and others, how do you come to live as a person with integrity? When I was growing up I had parents who expected me to be honest and have a sense of morality. When I was dishonest there were consequences – the greatest one being a feeling of having disappointed someone who expected better of me. I knew they expected the highest levels of integrity in me because I grew up with generations of family who lived their lives with honesty and morality. When you live this way it is easier to go into the work force and convince others they should employ you. If you work with integrity others will know this and not hesitate to recommend you for new, and sometimes better, positions.
If you don’t go out and sell yourself – take responsibility for who you are and the work you do, why would you expect to get any job handed to you?
Growing up in a middle class world, I wonder how those of the same world get to a place where they expect something without honestly working for it. While I didn’t have a lot handed to me growing up, I rarely felt that I suffered from lack. Oh, sure, there were plenty of times when I wanted something and got upset when I couldn’t have it (that’s called being an adolescent ) but in truth I knew if I wanted it, the best way to get it was to work for it.
Whenever I applied for a job, I never thought, ‘well, I’m so and so’s daughter so I’ll get the job.’ I had to rely on myself to either sell me, or not.
I learned a lot over the years from the many mediocre jobs I had. I only say mediocre because these weren’t jobs I expected to make a career of, yet I learned a lot along the way.
My first job was babysitting for a family with three children. I was 12 going on 13. When I arrived I was given instructions to feed the children dinner (usually it was already prepared, but not always), clean up the dishes, do a load of laundry, run a vacuum through the downstairs, and get the kids to bed by 8:00PM. I don’t recall how long I was there – probably only a few hours – say 5:00 to 9:00 PM, and I don’t recall where the parents went, but I well remember that list of things to do. And the pay. 75 cents an hour. Yes, that’s right. $3.00 for four hours. Even for 1969 that seems like pretty low numbers. For all that work. But I went home with $3.00 more than I had when I got there, so I was happy and I knew if I wanted to keep that job I would get through the list of chores so I’d be asked back again.
My second job was as a counter girl at the Blue Moon Drive-In Theater. I began this job the summer I went from 14 to 15. I thought it was GREAT! I worked with a bunch of other teenage girls and lots of friends came in, so it was a great social opportunity for me. I still only earned 75 cents an hour, and I had to work for it, but it was so worth it. I wanted to buy myself things, so I needed money. It was getting old begging my mother and hearing her say “NO!” And this was a steady weekly income, at least for the drive-in movie season, so I could plan for and purchase my own things. While I only earned a few dollars a week, these were the days when I could get pants on sale for $4.00-5.00 a pair. So, hey. Life was good. I could even afford to go out on my own for an occasional burger and fries. Oh, such independence!
I began to realize that if you did your job well, you might get invited back and sometimes you would even get a raise. By the time I was college age I discovered the perfect job – waiting tables. Again, the work was hard, but if you liked people it was rewarding. Again it was social because most of the other wait staff were my age so there were inherent rewards.
In all of these jobs I observed, and learned quickly, that it wasn’t hard to keep a job. It amounted to some very basic rules:
1. show up when you’re supposed to,
2. do what you’re asked to do,
3. be nice.
Don’t get me wrong – there were a lot of times in work situations when things don’t seem fair, or reasonable, or comfortable. At those times you have choices to make – put up with it, approach your boss with your concerns (and hope you don’t get fired), become bitter and mean (and probably get fired). I didn’t always make the right choices, but I did always live with the choices I made, and I like to think I learned from them.
Sometimes I’ve been in jobs that don’t seem to keep me busy enough and I’ve learned to get busy. Find something to do, because truthfully, there is always something that can be done.
Sometimes I’ve had jobs that I just didn’t like, so I quit. Sometimes I’ve had jobs I just didn’t like, but really needed, so I developed some stick-to-it-iveness and did it anyway.
I can say with all kinds of surety that all the jobs I’ve had, when added to my upbringing, have strengthened my character. I know from experience that hard work pays off.
What it all boils down to is that we make our own choices and whether to have a strong work ethic or not is a choice. In this country of out-sourcing and a competitive job market for skilled workers it seems like the best choice one could make to ensure attainment of any job sought after.
Bottom line. Who wouldn’t be in favor of strengthening their character?