What do we teach our children in classrooms and at home? It’s not so much the content I’m referring to, but the message. Is everything in classrooms and at home all about being the best; achieving the most; making money? Or do we teach our children to be happy, kind, thoughtful individuals and productive members of communities and society in general?
The answers vary. I recently spoke to a group of about 30 high school students entering their senior year. I asked them what their parents advise them about when it comes to their future. All of the answers focused on achieving more and making money. Since the session with the students was about business communications as opposed to career goals, I forged forward.
The responses concerned me deeply. I encourage students of all ages to do what they love and love what they do. So many surveys today point to people being unhappy in the workplace. Whether you don’t enjoy your position, your boss, your co-workers, it takes a leap of faith to make changes. I certainly get that; I was pushed to make changes in my professional life. Though I loved what I was doing, changes in management led to personnel changes and layoffs. I was a victim. The forced change has led to a much happier and productive professional life. My second chapter.
Back to students of today. NBC Universal is being sued by two interns who allege they do jobs that they should be paid for. In the broadcast news/entertainment world, interns historically have never been paid. We were thrilled to be allowed into the inner-sanctum to learn from the pros, ask questions, even get a little experience up-close and personal. The internships I had were priceless. It never crossed my mind that I should be paid. Of course I was doing work that perhaps a paid professional could or should be doing; I accepted that the internship was temporary (for a school year or semester) and then I would move on.
Times have certainly changed. The word “entitlement” comes to mind. It seems that some students who are accepted into prestigious internship programs can and do receive compensation. Therefore, across the board many more interns believe they should be paid for getting coffee, looking over peoples’ shoulders, answering phones, doing research and other tasks. Because they were accepted into the program and show up, they deserve money.
What’s next? If and when these interns receive minimum wage will they then gripe they should be paid more? It takes years of life experience to understand that happiness is not tied to money. Sure, it’s great to be able to pay the bills and have a retirement plan, yearly vacation and no money worries. Toiling in an internship and struggling to pay the bills helps mold a person into someone who appreciates what they DO earn and achieve throughout their life. Just having that internship under your belt looks great on your resume. And if you show a great work ethic, ask the right questions and are able to work with the right people, you will be in a great position to earn a job if and when one becomes available. Suing to gain attention or money is NOT the way to impress management.
Encourage students to love what they do; to be humble and productive in the workplace; to ask intelligent questions and be excellent listeners. The money and the position will come once you prove yourself a valuable asset to the organization. Mistakes will be made; but isn’t that how we learn some of our best lessons? Money can’t buy experience, common sense or a good work ethic.