Working for Money

I recently read a book called Excellence, By John Gardner. In the book, Gardner discusses the contrasting American ideals of Equality and Excellence. There are lots of great ideas in the book, and I’d recommend it to everyone. In particular, here’s one passage that provokes this post:

[J]obs themselves are a form of education. In hard times, of course, young people take what jobs they can get. In better times, they should look at the array of jobs available not simply from the standpoint of money and convenience but from the standpoint of their own further growth. If young people are willing to think hard about their own abilities and interests, and then to look at available jobs as opportunities for self-development, they can look forward to years of learning and growth as rewarding as anything a college student might experience. (p. 104, Excellence).

This statement resounded with me. I think that the mentality of the typical American is that jobs are sources of income, not forms of education. I find this unfortunate. I prefer Gardner’s standpoint (shared by other notable people including Robert Kiyosaki and Jim Rohn). I’ve tried to select the work I do on the basis of what I will learn. Of course, you can’t completely disregard the paycheck…but within reasonable limits, I think you’re better off taking a lower-paying job that improves you than taking a high-paying job that doesn’t.

For example, I would take an internship that pays $10/hr in an interesting field over a job that requires and provides no training but pays $20/hr. I believe that the training and learning can easily be worth more than the difference in pay. I no longer consider the hourly rate the most important factor in evaluating employment opportunities. Instead, I consider the skills I will learn and the experience I will gain as a result of my time invested.