Charles Sykes, author of DUMBING DOWN OUR KIDS, speaks frequently at high school and college graduations where he shares a list of things the graduates did not learn in school.
Rule 1: Life is not fair, get used to it.
Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3: You will not make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with a car phone until you earn both.
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they called it opportunity.
Rule 6: If you screw up, it's not your parents' fault so don't whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying bills, cleaning your room, and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. So before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
I want to focus on Rule 5 regarding flipping burgers. There was a time called the Great Depression back in the 1930’s, and those who had college or high school educations were lucky if they had a job, grateful for the pennies they earned. There were no “job snobs” during this time. People needed to feed themselves and their families and whatever job they could find they took. It was called survival.
Over the last 14 years as a career counselor I have continually found myself counseling individuals and coaching them in their job search for their “ideal” job. However, when times were tough and we found ourselves in a downward job market, recession, depression or whatever phrase of choice you like, those ideal jobs were hard to find. There were many people on unemployment (and still are) and many who were dipping into whatever savings or retirement savings they had, in order to put food on the table.
I understand that many of us want to start or maintain our “careers” however, when life brings us to a point where you cannot afford the basic necessities of life, and/or its been months or years of searching, it is time toss some more balls up in the air. You can still be looking for that ideal career-oriented job, but other jobs need to be considered. In other words, open that job search, toss some more balls in the air and consider what is called in many circles a “stop gap” job; a job that may not be ideal, a job that may not be related to your career plans, but a job that will help you afford the basic necessities of life and put food on the table.
Flipping burgers (or any other stop gap job) is not beneath you. Not only can it provide you a small salary, but it will get you out of the house, make you feel better about yourself, and may even allow you to develop skills like team work, customer service, and the ability to work in a fast-paced environment. Lastly, it will show any future employer that you have work ethic. Remember, this is not your last job and this may not be your career, but it is one of the balls you tossed in the air while still pursuing that first ball, the “ideal job”.