Friday, October 9, 2009

Apparently I am an "Elitist"

This evening while I was having a drink or three at my favorite bar near work it was explained to me by someone I don't know that I'm an elitist. The context here is that we got started on a conversation related to the bartender, call him Brian. Brian was talking about what the situation is like when a recruited "shopper" comes into the restaurant and sits at the bar and evaluates how he does his job. If he does it well, he gets a $100 bonus. If he doesn't do it well, he doesn't get a bonus and may get heat from his boss. My point on this was that if I were Brian and some secret agent were evaluating me in my job and then turned around and started to rag on me, I'd tell my employer where they could stick it and find a job somewhere else.

My point to the guy sitting beside me was that Brian is a great bartender. If he doesn't get respect from where he's working now, so what; he can get a job at the bar down the street, all his customers will figure it out and go buy liquor from him down there and he'll make just as much money as he does here. What's $100 to a great bartender? A great bartender probably earns 3x that in tips each night. The guy sitting beside me's point was that, in this economy there won't be a job for Brian down the road, because they won't be looking for a bartender.

So here's where I become an "elitist". My whole thinking on this subject is that if you're good at what you do, you're passionate about it, and you have a drive to succeed you'll find a place for yourself. For example, sure the bar down the street might not be looking for a new bartender; however, once they gave Brian a chance they'd quickly discover that the guy paid for himself because he's so good at his job. Brian's talent and aptitude for his job would mean that people would buy more liquor from the new bar, Brian's customers from the previous bar would move to the new one, maybe the new bar would even discover that they could dump one of their existing bartenders and give Brian his job instead.

My over-riding philosophy in all of this that each of us has a talent. Whether we realize what our talent is and where we can apply it to our maximum benefit is another question. Personally, I've been in jobs that I absolutely sucked at. My time at Xerox was a good example. Yes, I had some big months, but I had to work like a dog in order to achieve those big months. I wasn't talented at sales. After being there for 6 months I saw that the people who really did well at the job were working 20 or 30 hours a week and making twice as much as I was. These guys would actually go watch movies during the day. On the other hand, I was working 50 hours a week and making half of what they were. The thinking of the guy sitting beside me at the bar was that I should have just stayed working at Xerox, worked 50 hours a week and earned way less that what felt like equal compensation to the effort I put in. I'm sorry, but I just don't get it.

These sorts of experiences should be a signal to people that they aren't in a position that is in alignment with their skills. Yes, it sucked when I realized that I wasn't cut out to be in sales. At the same time however, I was realistic with myself and realized that I needed to go in another direction. If I really loved sales:

1. I would have done better at it.
2. I would have felt like I was being paid a reasonable amount of money for the skin I put into the game. i.e. If you love to flip hamburgers (fyi - a job I did once and I'm not looking down on it) and you get paid $5/hr, maybe that's just fine. If you're doing something you love, what you get paid to do it, shouldn't be a deciding factor.

In my case, I went back to school, got a post grad degree in IT and never looked back. I look at myself just like I look at Brian. If my current employer were to treat me in a way I found inappropriate I'd quit and within a week or two be employed somewhere else, probably making even more money.

The guy sitting beside me at the bar however didn't see it that way. His thought was that if Brian left his current job he'd have to now slide in at the bottom of the totem pole at his new job. He'd be taking a cut in pay and it would take him years to recover. This kind of thinking I don't get. If Brian is good at his job (which he most definitely is), sure he might have to start at the bottom; but so what? Through his aptitude for tending bar, he'd quickly be back to where he was when he left his previous job.

In the words of Eric Cartman, "follow your dream, you too can reach your goals, Beefcake! Beefcake!!!"

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