By Tara Bitzan, Director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
I recently viewed a segment on the CBS Evening News by Steve Hartman about Mike Mason, a 63-year-old Virginia retiree who was formerly a captain in the Marines, an FBI leader, and a Fortune 500 Company executive. According to Mason, because he was still able-bodied and able-minded, and because the school district where he lived was struggling with the worker shortage, he went back to work as a school bus driver. "I think this is important work I do,” Mason said. “I think in our society we need to get next to the idea that there are no unimportant jobs.” How easily we forget that.
There’s always been a hierarchy with jobs; we’ve long referred to “climbing the corporate ladder” and “getting to the top.” But so many times the people happiest in their jobs are those who simply strive to do the best they can at a job they love. You rarely hear stories about the best CEO, but you often hear people praise someone as being “the best” waitress, plumber, janitor, administrative assistant, construction worker, landscaper, nursing assistant, repair technician, mechanic… or bus driver. What good is it to work hard to climb the ladder just for a title and a larger paycheck if you are unhappy once you get there?
If your passion is being an auto mechanic and you enjoy the hands-on process of working on cars, then becoming the manager of an auto repair shop may not be the right fit for you. That may mean you are no longer in the shop working on cars, but rather sitting at a desk handling all the other tasks involved with running the business.
Yes, CEOS and managers are important, and thankfully, many people are passionate about those roles. However, if you are in that role and constantly find yourself missing the tasks you had when you were in a different position, then maybe you aren’t where you should be. It’s not often we hear about a CEO leaving that role to become an accounting clerk, salesmen or cashier, or a business owner who sells his business to work for someone else because he misses the work he no longer has time to do, but it does happen. There is nothing wrong with making a move to a different job that better aligns with your passion.
Some are fearful that making that move is a sign of failure, or they are concerned about the difference in income. I believe failure is staying in a job you are not passionate about and putting money before happiness. Life is short and we spend a lot of hours at work. Why not do something you love? Any good manager or CEO will admit they are nothing without the administrative assistants, sales team, graphic designers, truck drivers, accounting department, maintenance crew… so yes, every job is important.
No one can do it alone, and it’s time we stop referring to any job hierarchy in our society and start recognizing the important role everyone plays in making things work and in making companies profitable and successful. We question why today’s young people aren’t interested in many jobs. We are to blame for that. We’ve shaped them to believe that success means climbing to the top. It’s going to take some time to undo that stigma, but we can do it. Many of today’s workforce campaigns are spotlighting people at all levels and in all jobs talking about what they love to do.
Start talking about your job with pride and share the message with young people that they should follow their passion instead of a title or dollar signs.
Ultimately, it could lead to a much more fulfilling life.