Recognize the Value In What You Do
So let’s talk about value. The main point I want to get to is that there is value in most things we do as people, both work and non-work related, even for work that society as a whole often shuns or puts down. I want you to consider breaking out of this thought pattern, whether you work one of these jobs or don’t, or have a completely different way of bringing value to your life and the lives of others. I’m going to take a bit of a meandering path there though, so please bear with me.
There are a lot of jobs, especially in the service industry, but commonly among the trades as well, that get a bad rap as either not being valuable or not being desirable. Sometimes it’s both of these things. In the service industry especially, we as a society often either pay minimum wage or make workers “earn” their money through tips rather than be fairly compensated directly by their employer. This also sends a message about what we think of these jobs, especially when others jump on the bandwagon and talk about how these jobs aren’t intended to be careers, and people are supposed to start there and then find something better.
Why though? What if you feel called to a career in retail because you like brightening people’s days? Or you like being a server or cook in a restaurant because you see the joy of family and friends dining together with great (or even just ok) food in a fun atmosphere and want to be a part of that? Should you earn less? Just because you’re more replaceable or your job is seen as less important or “beneath” others? And should that job be seen as beneath others? My answer is of course not.
But let’s take money out of it. Let’s look at trades, where the money is good, often better than college graduates outside of a few select fields earn. Whose family and friends have encouraged them to get into plumbing or construction? The pay is reasonably good, especially when there’s no college education involved, and they serve an important societal need. But the goal for many people is still to get a cushy, well paying office job. Whether that’s what they would be happiest doing or not.
In short, we discourage people from taking jobs that serve necessary functions in our society, and then act like they aren’t as important or valuable as people if they choose to take these jobs.
So let’s talk about the value these jobs provide. Plumbing and construction are obvious; I like living in the modern age with a sturdy home with running water and electricity (and there’s electricians as well!). And then there’s roads, trains, planes, and other useful transport we have these days. And that’s just hitting the tip of the iceberg here.
And then there’s service workers. Whether it’s retail, dining, phone support, or any number of other professions, they make it easier for us to find things we want or need, help us solve problems with services we use, or just have a nice night out. And when things don’t go perfectly, they try to help us fix it. Even when we’re mean about it. Which we should really, as a society, stop doing, since the problem they’re trying to help us fix usually isn’t their fault to begin with.
Now, could we get by without any of these things? Absolutely. Does anyone living in the modern world want to imagine that though? Aside from the rare person looking into self sustaining farming and getting off the grid, no, nobody wants to imagine that world. And half of those off the grid people still admit to enjoying some of the conveniences provided by these various groups of people.
So what value do you provide? Well here’s a list for a few generic jobs, and after, some other aspects of life.
Help people find things they’re looking for, making their shopping trip easier.
Help people check out and pay. (If you’ve ever seen someone struggling with a self checkout, you know the value of this one.)
Brighten people’s day by being a friendly face, especially when the rest of their day hasn’t gone so well
Tons of other things I’m sure I’m leaving off this list (I haven’t done retail in a long time)
Helping people have a good night out on their own or with friends and family
Giving people a chance to take a break from their normal life
Sometimes giving people a chance to try new things they hadn’t thought of before
A lot more I’m sure I’m leaving out
Buildings of all kinds
Many other things that need building or repairing
Being a good friend:
Providing an outlet for someone who needs to talk or just have some company
Being a solid presence in someones life
Caring for someone (and being someone for them to care for)
So much more than can be written here right now
Being an artist/comic/entertainer/forum poster:
Tons more, again
Now, why this list to recognize some of the value different people bring to the world through the different things they do and roles they fill? One is to remind everyone that there’s lots of ways to bring value to the world, and we should avoid passing judgment on people who choose a path different than our own.
Another, more important reason, is for people who don’t feel like they’re bringing anything valuable to the table. Not recognizing that you bring value to people in some way can be hugely demoralizing. Even if the value you bring to people isn’t the value you want to be bringing, recognize it for what it is, and that you are doing something worth doing. Of course, if you want to be doing something different, it’s worth working toward that something else. But in the meantime, recognize your worth in all the different things you do, whether I’ve noted them here or not, and be confident in yourself that you can do the things you want to do as well, even if it may take some work to get there.